Take care before charging at jobs

Tom ChapmanThe Kimberley Echo
A DIY disaster; man trying to do electrical repairs and causing an explosion.
Camera IconA DIY disaster; man trying to do electrical repairs and causing an explosion. Credit: sturti/Getty Images, sturti

Life in lockdown during COVID-19 might seem like the perfect opportunity to spend more time working from home, tackling a DIY project, or sprucing up the garden, but it’s vital to ensure the equipment you’re using is safe and fit for purpose.

There’s a good chance some of this equipment — like whipper snippers, drills, mobile phones and computers — contains lithium-ion batteries, which can cause fires when damaged or used incorrectly.

In fact, lithium-ion batteries have caused 11 fires this financial year, up from seven in 2018-19. Because many of these devices are recharged in areas such as garages, sheds and patios that typically aren’t fitted with smoke alarms, a resulting fire might go undetected for some time, causing significant damage.

Given the use of lithium-powered devices is expected to soar as more people stay at home, our colleagues at Building and Energy have teamed-up with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to warn everyone to take a few simple steps to protect their homes and themselves from potential harm.

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They’re reminding us to never use batteries showing signs of swelling, overheating or damage, and to avoid over-charging batteries by removing them from the charger as soon as ready.

Batteries from reputable manufacturers are designed for use in a range of climates, but it is advisable to check the specified temperature limits and conditions, particularly on hot or humid days. While sealed inside protective units, under certain conditions moisture could affect some exterior components and cause failure or reduced battery life.

The charger and battery must be correctly matched electrically and comply with Australian standards, so it is vital to only use the charging equipment supplied with the device or purchased from a reputable retailer. All battery chargers are required to undergo rigorous testing to meet Australian standards so you should also be cautious about purchasing any electrical equipment from overseas.

They also recommend consumers look for a regulatory compliance mark, such as a tick inside a triangle, or go to eess.gov.au to check whether the charger is approved for use in Australia.

Tom Chapman is the senior regional manager for Consumer Protection in the Kimberley.

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