October 15. 2012 - Under pressure from federal regulators, fireplace manufacturers agreed to add screens to the glass doors of gas fireplaces to prevent serious burns to an estimated 200 children a year 5 and younger.
The new voluntary rule takes effect in January 2015, but companies are stepping up production of screens that can be purchased separately long before then.
About 11 million U.S. homes have gas fireplaces, says Leslie Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. Despite a 2007 education campaign, the association found in a survey this year that about 6 million of those homeowners were unaware of the doors' burn risks. The doors can stay hot long after the fireplace is turned off.
The fireplace industry effort is a great example of how companies can address safety issues outside of the federal rulemaking process.
Safety consultant Carol Pollack-Nelson notes the industry didn't move to adopt a voluntary rule until she filed a petition in May 2011 asking CPSC to require the industry to protect consumers from the glass. She says she sent the industry rulemaking committee a letter a year earlier summarizing injury data.
Recommendations to consumers should contact their gas-fireplace manufacturer to see if it sells a screen that fits their fireplace or have one it can recommend from an aftermarket manufacturer. Fireplace retailers can also recommend screens or guards that fit different brands of gas fireplaces. Even screens designed to block sparks from wood fireplaces can work.
Safety tips around gas fireplaces:
1) Supervise children, the elderly, disabled and pets near a gas fireplace, stove or inset that is in use or was recently turned off.
2) Keep any remote controls out of the reach of children.
3) Install a switch lock to prevent children from turning on the appliance.
4) Make sure family members and guests are aware the glass panel of a gas fireplace, stove or insert can be very hot.
5) Wait for the appliance and glass panel to cool down before allowing anyone near it. Cool down can take an hour or more. Some appliances turn on and off automatically with a thermostat, so it may not be clear when a fire is turned off.
6) Be aware that metal surfaces, such as door frames and grilles, can also get hot.
7) Read the owner's manual and follow instructions.
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