Time for a recharge
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Time for a recharge

A power bank explosion on board a domestic flight that caused a fire in midair has raised concerns over safety measures regarding the widely used electrical device.

The explosion was reported on Air Asia flight FD3188 from Bangkok to Nakhon Si Thammarat with 186 passengers on Feb 24. Fortunately, flight attendants followed the safety guidelines and put the blaze out in minutes. Without any further disruption, the plane landed safely at its intended destination.

By sheer coincidence, Industry Minister Pimpatra Wichaikul was on board. While not directly addressing the power bank problem, she urged members of the public to take precautions when buying the popular device, recommending high-quality products with certifications from the ministry's Thai Industrial Standards Institute for safety reasons.

The authorities have still not conducted a probe into the incident despite it potentially being a matter of life or death. The public wants to know if the power bank had SITI standard certification or if it was a cheap and unsafe product similar to those flooding local markets.

The likelihood of a power bank exploding if it is not being charged at the time is slim, to say the least -- unless it has been placed in an extremely hot or cold place or has been recharged for too long.

In principle, the possible causes of the midair explosion are likely to either be a short circuit, contamination during the manufacturing process, or the lack of a proper protection circuit.

It has been discovered that some smaller factories opt for low-quality batteries to cut costs at the expense of users' safety. There are reports that testers even found sand in one charger they were examining.

Without a thorough investigation, there are grounds for concern over flight safety with regard to power banks that air passengers take with them while they are travelling.

It's widely believed the exploded power bank could be of low quality. That should be a matter of great concern given the large amount of substandard, often made-in-China electrical devices for sale in Thailand nowadays.

While the Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI) under the industry ministry is confident about the standardisation process, as the agency has strict rules regarding electrical devices, including power banks, it's the smuggled products that conveniently enter the Thai market that pose the biggest risk, and those that are only available online. This is a big safety loophole.

While the authorities tasked with providing standards for electrical devices sit on their hands, there are reports of fake safety certifications for cheap electrical devices.

Customers who put price before quality have shared many reports online of substandard power banks exploding while being recharged.

Kerati Kijmanawat, chairman of Airports of Thailand (AOT), conceded that the agency and airlines have no measures for how to deal with substandard portable chargers, as they merely follow international guidelines that require passengers to keep portable chargers in their carry-on bags.

Also, the device must not exceed the 30,000mAh limit.

The authorities should take the issue more seriously in order to fix these safety loopholes regarding portable chargers. Thailand must adopt strict and proactive measures.

Without an investigation and preventive measures, this is a disaster waiting to happen.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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