A Hertfordshire woman was recently rushed to hospital with severe burn injuries covering 28% of her body from a gel burner in her back garden. With similar incidents across the world (including one in Texas under similar circumstances) we ask “are gel burning fires a dangerous ornament to possess?”
— Elexonic (@Elexonic) September 5, 2016
How they work
Gel burners are a popular outdoor/garden ornament often in the shape of a pot containing stones with an open flame burning at the centre. They use an alcohol gel which itself comes as a tin with a wick protruding. Place the can underneath the stones, light the wick and you have a decorative flame for the garden.
The fuel itself has been available for many years used mainly for outdoor activities like camping and keeping outdoor tables warm at restaurants. However, as a garden ornament, the designs (as pictured above) are only just becoming more popular in everyday home use in the UK.
Gel pots have a number of safety risks which could harm users from the cans holding the fuel exploding under pressure, to users topping up the fuel and causing a surge of flame; possibly catching their clothing, all pose dangers to home users.
Due to the number of incidents involving burners, in 2011 the United States National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) joined forces to educate people on the safety procedures needed to use them safely but still warned against gel fuel if possible.
Unfortunately for Mrs Suzanne Hughes from Hertfordshire, the damage has already been done as she experienced a gel burner exploding and falling into her lap, pouring burning hot liquid over her belly and legs.
The incident left horrific scars (pictured above) including permanent marks down both legs and across her stomach. The damage has “ruined her self confidence” and even limits her enjoyment of sunny days as the skin cannot be exposed to sunlight.
Her life choices have now been forced to change as even what she wears has gone from dresses and skirts to wearing baggy, loose pants to cover her scars and avoid rubbing.
Is there liability?
Using a product like a gel burner does have its risks. If however a user follows instructions for refilling the gel and places the burner in safe environment, any injuries caused by the burner are liable.
Every product sold to the public should endure rigorous testing and must safely work. The product exploding due to pressure or poor manufacturing can present (as evidenced) horrific results. Any product which is intended to be set alight or be near fire needs to be made perfectly; otherwise it can be life changing.
If you, a family member or friend have suffered a burn or any other injury from a product which has broken or been poorly designed, you are entitled to compensation. To discuss available options for making a claim, call us on 01695 722 222 for free, impartial advice (lines are open 9am to 7pm weekdays). You can also begin a claim immediately by filling out our online form here.