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Decorative alcohol fuelled devices 

New safety standard 

From 17 March 2017, the Commonwealth imposed an interim ban on the sale of certain decorative alcohol fuelled devices (burners) nationally. The national interim ban comes to an end on 14 July 2017, and will be replaced by a safety standard from 15 July 2017. The new safety standard:

  • prevents the supply of table top devices (devices which weigh less than 8 kilograms or have a footprint less than 900 square centimetres); and
  • requires freestanding and fixed devices to meet a stability test, come with a fuel container with a flame arrester (or an automatic fuel pump system) and display warnings on the device about refuelling hazards.

Further details about the new standard can be found on the Product Safety Australia website.

Alcohol fuelled device     Alcohol fuelled device    Alcohol fuelled device
Examples of decorative alcohol fuelled devices are shown above.

The devices are primarily decorative but are also sold for heating and display purposes. The fuel is typically ethanol in liquid or (less commonly) gel form. The most common form is methylated spirits (ethanol and around 10 per cent methanol) which may also be marketed as bio-ethanol or eco-fuel.

These devices are especially dangerous when they are being refuelled. When the fuel is low, the flame can appear blue or clear, making it difficult to see. Refuelling when a flame is present or the device is still warm can lead to an explosion. There is also a risk of the device being knocked over by children or pets and causing serious burns to people nearby as well as damage to property.

Information for traders 

The new mandatory safety standard includes a transitional provision where suppliers have the option of complying with the specifications in the national interim ban from 15 July to 14 October 2017. From 15 October 2017, suppliers must comply with the mandatory standard. Retailers and suppliers can go to the ACCC’s product safety website to get further information on the new safety standard.

If you have supplied devices that are unsafe for consumers, you are expected to take action to minimise the risk of serious injury or death, by undertaking a voluntary recall of unsafe devices previously supplied. Guidance for how to conduct a recall is provided by the ACCC at Conducting a recall.

There are tough penalties for selling products which do not comply with a safety standard. Individuals can face a maximum fine of $220,000 and corporations face a maximum fine of $1.1 million.

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Information for consumers 

Consumers seeking to purchase decorative alcohol-fuelled devices should check with suppliers that the device complies with the safety standard.

Consumers who have purchased a decorative alcohol-fuelled device before the interim ban, which now does not meet the new standard, should return the item to the seller with their proof of purchase to obtain a refund. Consumers concerned about products they have previously purchased are advised to visit the Product Safety Australia website for information about the safety standard and consumer rights.

Watch the Don’t fuel the fire – ethanol burner safety awareness film here.

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