Ban them here, says fire safety expert

A fire safety expert, who likened improperly maintained portable gas cookers to potential time bombs, wants them banned in Singapore.

Greencross Safety Fire and Equipment chief executive William Lee, 70, told The New Paper that without regular maintenance, the cookers could become rusty and prone to gas leaks.

"It's like a bomb, because a gas leak can cause an explosion if there is an open flame from the cooker or other cookers around," said Mr Lee.

Mr Lee, who has been a fire safety consultant for more than 40 years, said the cookers pose a danger if restaurants use them for long periods and without proper maintenance.

He suggested safety measures such as flashback arrestors being built into the cookers as these would stop flames from travelling back into the canisters and causing them to explode.

Another option is to use electric cookers.

Users can check for gas leaks by applying soapy water and looking out for bubbles.

However, the best way to prevent an accident is to exercise proper usage and maintenance, he said.

In a TNP poll online, as of 9.30pm yesterday, 243 of the 287 respondents - almost 85 per cent - favoured a ban on portable gas cookers for safety reasons.

Mr James Foo wrote on the TNP Facebook page: "We do not need more injuries to justify its ban unless high safety measures are introduced (for) this equipment."

Mr Nick Tan wrote: "For the sake of all diners... I sincerely wish there will be a regulation to make it mandatory for restaurants to use electric-operated grills instead."

Portable cookers were banned last month in the Australian states of New South Wales and Western Australia, where they are commonly used for camping, reported The West Australian.

The ban came after many cases of injury caused by exploding portable cookers.

In one case, a 33-year-old man died after his cooker exploded and the blast ripped through his caravan.

An estimate suggests that half a million such cookers do not meet Australian standards, while thousands are at an unacceptable risk of exploding.

Most of the banned models were Asian-made from countries like China and Vietnam.