Mobile phones, battery banks, other small devices accounted for 9% of fires involving electronic items since 2016

(Getty Images file photo)

SINGAPORE — Nearly 10 per cent of fires related to electronic items in the past three years had involved smaller devices, such as power banks, mobile phones, laptops and tablets.

Out of the 230 fires involving electronic items since 2016, an overwhelming majority (91 per cent) involved personal mobility devices (PMDs), power assisted bicycles (PABs) and personal mobility aids (PMAs), said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in a written response on Monday (5 August).

In terms of locations, 67 per cent of such fires related to mobility devices occurred at HDB residential units, while 6 per cent happened at private residential units and the remaining at non-residential premises, such as industrial and commercial buildings.

Shanmugam was responding to a parliamentary question filed by Bukit Batok SMC Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai on whether the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) would consider issuing regulations for the safe charging of such batteries at residences and work places, given the prevalence of the use of more powerful batteries in electronic devices.

The minister noted that imposing such regulations will be “difficult” given the widespread use and the wide range of such devices.

“Consumers should be aware, however, that the charging of electronic devices carries some inherent risks,” he urged. “We strongly encourage consumers to exercise vigilance when purchasing and charging electronic devices. They should buy from reputable sources and adhere to the safety advice on the charging of the devices.”

In particular, users should be especially careful when using and charging PMDs, PABs and PMAs, given their larger batteries.

“They should regularly inspect the batteries for signs of damage and corrosion, and avoid leaving the devices being charged unattended for an extended period of time. I urge all users to refer to the SCDF’s website for best practice,” said Shanmugam.

He also reiterated Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min’s call on Monday for all PMD users to switch to UL-2272 compliant devices as soon as possible.

“The SCDF will further step up its efforts to educate users to adopt good fire safety habits, in partnership with the Land Transport Authority (LTA),” he concluded.

Lam on Monday announced that the deadline for PMD owners to ensure their devices comply with the UL2272 standard will be brought forward by six months to 1 July next year, in light of the recent spate of PMD-related fires.

He also noted that all PMD-related fire incidents thus far have involved non-UL2272 certified devices, and may have been due to inappropriate charging practices.

The standard improves safety against fire and electrical hazards significantly, by requiring the devices pass a stringent set of tests conducted by accredited testing centres under extreme physical conditions.

Last month, the SCDF said that fires involving PMDs and PABs more than doubled in the first half of this year from the same period a year earlier.

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