On December 2nd, 2008, CSA International issued an alert to warn consumers about a severe fire hazard posed by 240 volt 3,000 watt (or greater) corded electric heaters.
The aforementioned heaters are more commonly referred to as 'construction heaters' and can be purchased at essentially any hardware store for about $60 - $100 CAD. If you use these types of heaters at work or at home, or if you know anyone who might use these heaters please follow the link provided below to read what you need to do to use the heaters safely.
The original alert can be viewed at the following CSA International web page:
Many individuals believe that these heaters should be recalled and one can only assume that a recall has not been issued because, when 'used properly' the risk of a fire loss is minimal. It is rare, however, that anyone follows (or will follow) all of the necessary safety precautions (for instance, being in constant attendance while the heater is in operation).
These heaters typically fail when the mineral insulation located in the coil loses its insulative properties and allows arcing between the heating element contained within the heating coil. The arcing between the element and coil will not trip the circuit breaker and will typically result in melting the mineral insulation into a molten material which melts the coil allowing the molten material to escape and spatter out of the front of the heater.
This condition will continue until no molten material is left and can last for several minutes.
If combustible materials are located near the heater (plastic, wood, paper, cloth, etc) they can be ignited by the molten material, resulting in a fire.
Although the alert is regarding specific electric heaters, the safety tips can (and should be) applied to all portable electric heaters.