Research data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission data, shows that during a 10 years period more than 2,000 children 5 years of age or younger suffered burns from contact with unprotected fireplace glass doors on gas fireplaces. This data has resulted in increased awareness by safety professionals, fireplace manufactures and regulators.
There are an estimated 11 million direct vent gas fireplaces in use where the front glass reaches dangerously high temperatures. The temperature of the glass from direct vent gas fireplace units has been measured at greater than 400F, after a short time of use. Hospital emergency room reports show that serious burns 2nd and 3rd Degree burns can result from even very brief contact, with the glass.
Young children and toddlers are most vulnerable as they are attracted to the flame but fail to recognize the hazard. Un-protected glass that can remain hot for a considerable time, even after the unit is turned off. The hazards of burns from hot fireplace glass was the subject of a recent KSTP Channel 5 documentary citing actual injuries involving installations in Minnesota.
Gas direct vent fireplaces and stoves have become popular in recent years, with installations often found in homes, apartments, condominiums living areas, common areas such as lobby, community rooms, and other amenity spaces. In common areas, direct vent gas fire places that are readily accessible by residents including children. In most cases the hazards associated with this units are unrecognized by users particularly parents of young children.
Safety barrier screens can help prevent burns but were often not always provided with new units so many fireplaces are unprotected. Recently fireplace and stove manufactures have announced voluntary safety standards for new units. Providing protective screens will be standard for all new gas fireplaces manufactured after January, 2015. Recognizing the safety implications some manufactures have started providing safety screens with all new units. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is also considering proposals for mandatory labeling and safety barrier screens.
Fireplace manufacturers are also now responding by gearing up to offer consumers original equipment and retro-fit screens and labeling for older units. One leading Minnesota based manufacturer of gas fireplaces; Hearth and Home - Lake City offers assistance to customers by providing original equipment safety screens for fireplaces or generically styled retro-fit screens. Another manufacturer, Lennox Hearth and Products, offers free guards and warning labels for older units.
Actions For Taken by Homeowners, HOA's & Property Managers
- Identify gas direct vent fireplaces in common areas and install protective screens and warning labels. Contact the manufacturer for assistance.
- Notify residents and homeowners about the burn hazard of direct vent gas fireplaces in their units.
- Offer educational materials. The Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association (NPBA) offer safety and consumer information that can be distributed to owners and residents.
- To protect residents, Safety screens need to be installed for existing fireplaces in residential units.