Who Is Responsible When Electronic Heating Appliances Are A Bigger Hazard Than They Seem?

Most consumers are well aware that hot plates, warming trays, and other electronic heating devices can pose a burn and fire hazard when used without caution. However, after a recent tragedy involving a Brooklyn home fire and the deaths of seven children, New York fire officials and local leaders have issued new safety recommendations regarding home heating and cooking appliances, as well as the devices we use to detect dangers around the house.

While it never hurts to get reacquainted with such procedures and devices, some consumer groups are questioning how malfunctioning electronic appliances may be a more common danger than many people realize. As the deadly fire in Brooklyn was reportedly due to a malfunctioning hot plate, some groups warn that new fire dangers are related to how consumers are using the devices, but also with faults found within the devices themselves.

Who Tests The Products We Use?
The Good Housekeeping Institute (GHI) is warning consumers to read into the certification of heating and cooking electronics they purchase online—specifically Underwriter Laboratories’ UL emblem, Canadian Standards Association’s CAS-US emblem, and Europe-based Intek’s ETL-US mark.  The problem, GHI warns, is that some hot plates and warming tray sold online are not specified as UL listed or approved by any of the other third-party safety testers listed above.


Rethinking How Consumers Shop Online
If you’ve ever purchased a necessary household item online, you probably know how product specifications and details can vary from one website to another or one product listing to another. You may also be one of the many buyers who shop according to price and product features with certifications as an afterthought.

Many consumers may not even know to look for a safety emblem on certain products. Without this knowledge, is there any way for consumers to really assure safety when they use potentially dangerous products? After all, you may be using a hotplate or warming tray with the utmost precaution, following all instructions indicated by the manufacturer, but if the product itself is faulty, you could still be in danger.


Are All Of Us Responsible When Tragedy Strikes?
So who should bear the brunt of the responsibility for faulty products? Should manufacturers be held fully accountable when their products malfunction?

Should consumers buy and use appliances at their own risk? Should watchdog groups and third-party safety regulators be doing more to inform consumers of which products they should buy and which should be avoided? When it comes to preventing another tragedy like the one we saw last week and many others before it, perhaps we should all take responsibility for our own safety and the safety of others, whether we manufacture products, test them, sell them online, or use them.


Do you think there should be a standard for indicating whether or not a potentially hazardous electronic device has been fully tested for safety, and by whom?

Do you think it’s possible to really guarantee the safety of a product when consumers use them at their own discretion and for a variety of purposes?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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James Spader

Comes from a long line of American manufacturers and small business owners. His passions have always been journalism and World War II history. When not working, he enjoys cooking and competing in amateur chess tournaments.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments

I had no idea that these logos even existed. To tell you the truth, I never look for any seals on the packages of any electronic devices. Maybe I should do so in the future. I think the biggest danger does indeed have more to do with the purchase of online appliances. That is because many people look to save money by ordering from sites like ebay which are loaded with products made in China, and obviously they don’t adhere to any standards.


I think it is a two way street. Both manufacturers and consumers are each responsible for observing safety guidelines. The product makers have the obligation (I hope they are required by law to post safety seals and instructions) of providing safety guidelines and consumers should be responsible enough to read the guidelines. Maybe that’s just unrealistic, but if you care about your family, and especially if you have young children, it’s your obligation as a parent to educate your children.


I’m with Ruth. I must plead guilty to not being aware of both these safety labels and the potential (or inherent) danger of heating appliances. I’ve seen in the news tragic incidents of homes burning and people and pets dying, but I just attributed that to ignorance and gross, irresponsibility. But isn’t that what these safety standards and labels are for? It’s to protect the careless from themselves.


Often times, it is the severe weather of the winter season that leads to increased fire deaths, injuries and dollar losses associated with heating appliances. That is why officials urge local residents to take precautions before the weather turns severe, to avoid home heating tragedies. I think it is a good idea to be mindful of the season so you can start doing your own early home inspection.


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