Following a series of fire incidents involving personal mobility devices (PMDs) that occurred in Singapore, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is now thinking of whether to bring forward its end-2020 deadline to ban all PMDs that fail to secure a safety certification from public paths.

As of now, users of non-UL2272 certified PMDs are permitted to ride their PMDs on public paths until 31 December 2020, although a ban on the sale of such devices started in the beginning of this month.

LTA told The Straits Times, “In view of recent fire incidents related to the charging of non-UL2272-certified devices, LTA is reviewing if the deadline for user device compliance should be brought forward.”

Two days ago, two brothers ran out of their fourth-storey Ang Mo Kio flat after their electric scooter exploded while being charged. The fire destroyed their flat and two neighbouring units were damaged as well.

If that is not all, on 18 July (Thursday), 40-year-old Goh Keng Soon was pulled out of his burning flat in an unconscious state; the fire reportedly connected to the three burnt e-scooters in his living room. He died two days later. Mr Goh, a private hire driver, may possibly be the first person who died in a fire accident linked to a PMD.

Better safety standards

Complying with the UL2272 standard would require a PMD to pass a series of tests which would drastically improve safety against fire and electrical hazards.

Therefore, LTA mentioned that it had adopted the standard in September 2018 to boost public safety and reduce fire accidents. It decided to set the deadline of end-2020 after listening to the feedback given by the public, including users and retailers.

“We strongly encourage owners to switch out early for their own safety as well as those around them. When purchasing PMDs, consumers should try to buy from reputable sources and look out for their UL2272 certification. Consumers should also avoid overcharging batteries, modifying their PMDs or tampering with the electrical components of their devices,” said LTA.

In recent times, the number of PMD-related fires has been on the rise as more and more people are riding e-scooters and electric bikes, commonly used by deliverymen.

According to statistics by the Singapore Civil Defence Force, in 2018, 74 PMD-related fires were recorded – a 51% increase from 2017.

National University of Singapore transport infrastructure expert Dr Raymond Ong told ST that a review of the deadline was needed due to safety reasons. He also opined that riders should be given lead time in order for them to make the conversion to a certified device.

“The UL2272 certification covers electrical components and mechanical components, it should at least reduce the probability of fire hazards. Most importantly, we need the certification to provide consumers a peace of mind and provide confidence,” explained Dr Ong, who is also a member of the Institution of Engineers Singapore.

On ST’s Facebook page, netizens expressed their disappointment towards LTA for taking an action only after multiple fire incidents had occurred, one of which even causing a loss of life. Some of them slammed LTA for still being in the “considering” stage to bring forward its deadline because they are moving too slow, given the seriousness of the problem.

On the other hand, a large group of online users are calling LTA to ban PMDs altogether, and not just consider to bring forward its deadline for riders to get their safety certificate. They said that even if the models meet the safety standards, there’s no guarantee that the device will not explode while charging. As such, no one should take such chances and banning the device is the best option.

     

Others questioned why PMDs with no UL2272 certification were brought into the Singapore market in the first place. They added that the authority and the person who allowed this to happen should have thought of the consequences before agreeing to bring in these non-certified PMDs into the city-state.