Safer paraffin stove designs win recognition

1st June 2005

National Paraffin Day held yesterday saw top entrants in a competition to design a safer paraffin stove win R220 000.

The awards followed a day of testing the stoves.

The stoves underwent stringent testing by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and were scrutinised by an independent panel of judges.

It is hoped the event will provide a boost for local designers and lead to improved quality of life for the poor by reducing the risks associated with paraffin use. The competition yielded no completely safe stove solution, but eight entries were awarded prizes and the organisers believe millions will ultimately benefit from the competition's resulting entries and the efforts of the entrants.

The Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa launched the competition at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria in August 2004, after tests they had commissioned the CSIR to do showed that all the paraffin stoves on the market were unsafe in at least six ways.

Teri Kruger, who organised the competition, says the panel of judges' decision to not award all the top prizes was a responsible but difficult one: “It wasn't something we took lightly, as none of the entries that were laboratory tested met all the criteria stipulated on the entry form.

“However, six of the entries showed features that were worthy of recognition and two entries were acknowledged for their input.”

Instead, the independent panel of judges named six winners of R35 000 each, as permitted in the competition's terms and conditions.

The balance of the amount allocated will be used to highlight the issue of paraffin stove safety and further the quest for a stove that meets all the basic safety design criteria through a tender process at a later stage.

Kruger says: “There are around 20-million paraffin users in South Africa who have no choice but to use sub-standard appliances for cooking and heating.

“When things go wrong, you can have a blaze like the one at Joe Slovo informal settlement in Cape Town earlier this year, which left 12 000 people homeless.”

Safer paraffin stoves could save South Africa up to billions of rands, as well as prevent misery and pain for thousands of the country's poorest citizens.

The original 85 entries to the competition were whittled down to 12, which underwent rigorous independent testing at Sasol's Technology Fuels Research in Sasolburg.

Judges included a forensic fire investigator from the CSIR, scientists, government officials, industrial designers, engineers, staff from the SABS, and a health worker.

Among those whose stoves each merited a prize of R35 000 was Phil Oosthuizen and A Campbell from Wits Technikon, whose entry separated the flame and the cooking tripod.

Other winners included Ludrick Barnard from Bloemfontein, whose entry boiled water quickly and was easily extinguished; Chris Bradnum of Wits Technikon, whose entry used low tech materials such as concrete that demonstrated a flair for community involvement through job creation; Gary Diamond and Paul Eksteen of Florida, Johannesburg, whose entry addressed safety aspects well, including a ball-valve system to cut off fuel flow, gravity-feed systems and a self-righting configuration; P Mukandan from Channai, India, whose entry proved the most fuel-efficient during comparative testing; Derick Botha of Midrand, whose entry was noted for the technical innovation of its wick/burner mechanism.

The entry by Kirsty Smith and Nyradzo Sayika won the two 14-year-old learners from St Andrew's in Bedfordview R10 000 to put toward their school fees.

Jim Tembo, a miner from Rustenberg, was awarded R10 000 for his enthusiastic, multiple entries and to cover his costs.