Winter safety guidelines: Ensuring your safety and comfort

05 Jul 2023

Staying safe and warm: Essential winter safety tips

As winter arrives in South Africa, it’s crucial to prioritise safety and comfort. This article provides important guidelines for choosing the right heating options, such as paraffin and liquid petroleum gas, while emphasising the need to adhere to safety regulations. It also offers tips for safely using paraffin and handling liquid petroleum gas cylinders. Additionally, the article discusses responsible practices for open fires, including selecting appropriate materials and maintaining a safe distance from flammable objects. By following these guidelines, readers can ensure their well-being during the colder months.

As winter sets in and South Africans face colder temperatures and prolonged darkness, it’s important to adopt safe practices for heating and lighting our homes. By following these guidelines, we can protect ourselves and our loved ones effectively.

Choosing the right heating options

While solar power may seem appealing, it can be expensive. The most commonly used and affordable alternatives throughout the country are paraffin and liquid petroleum gas. However, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential dangers associated with these options and strictly adhere to safety regulations outlined by organisations like the South African Bureau of Standards.

Paraffin safety

Paraffin remains a popular choice for approximately two million South Africans due to its affordability and versatility. However, its use has been phased out over the past two decades due to its involvement in destructive shack fires. Although electricity was introduced as an alternative, its availability has diminished, leading many to revert to paraffin usage. Unfortunately, the education initiatives for safe paraffin use have also declined, leaving a significant number of people uninformed.

To use paraffin safely, remember these essential steps:
  1. Ensure the stove or lamp you’re using is clean and in good working condition.
    • Check for rust, damage or instability.
    • Remove dust and spiderwebs from the equipment.
    • Avoid using paraffin lamps in enclosed spaces.
  2. Never leave the lamp or stove burning unattended.
    • Extinguish the flame before going to sleep.

Liquid petroleum gas safety

Liquid petroleum gas is a safer alternative to paraffin when handled correctly. However, it still demands respect and caution, as damaged liquid petroleum gas cylinders can quickly become dangerous. Always remember that pressurised canisters pose a significant risk, particularly when cracked or rusted. Leaks from damaged cylinders can lead to symptoms like dizziness, nausea and even loss of consciousness, especially in confined spaces.

To ensure your safety with liquid petroleum gas:
  1. Take excellent care of your liquid petroleum gas cylinders.
    • Monitor the condition of the cylinders regularly.
    • Replace damaged or rusted cylinders promptly.
  2. Be aware of the maximum allowed liquid petroleum gas cylinders based on your living situation.
    • In apartments, one 9kg cylinder is the maximum allowed.
    • In freestanding houses (not exceeding two storeys), a total maximum of 19kg is permitted.
  3. If you’re using gas for purposes beyond small gas heaters or camping stoves, seek professional installation.
    • Professional installations include safety features that reduce the risk of significant damage.

Remember to consult specific rules and regulations pertaining to your living situation to ensure proper handling of gas cylinders.

Open fires

Open fires offer an inexpensive way to warm oneself and cook food. However, they can also pose severe dangers if not handled responsibly. Desperation during winter may lead some South Africans to resort to open fires for warmth. As temperatures drop and the need for heat intensifies, caution should be exercised when selecting materials to burn.

When building an open fire:
  1. Choose a suitable location and pay close attention to surroundings.
    • Ensure that the fire is a safe distance away from flammable materials, such as rubbish or dry leaves.
    • Be mindful of wind direction, as embers can spread and ignite neighbouring fields.
  2. Avoid burning hazardous materials.
    • Use dry paper and wood items like newspaper and garden refuse.
    • Refrain from burning plastic containers, as they can release toxic fumes, even when outdoors.
  3. If using an undercover area, utilise a designated fireplace with a clear chimney and fireproof boundaries.
    • Employ a grate and fire break.

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Article sourced from Legal & Tax.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Michael Visser

Michael Visser is a legal advisor at Legal&Tax. He has a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) Law and LLB from The University of Pretoria. Read more about Michael Visser


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