In the five months since her husband died from burns after he tried to light up an aromatherapy diffuser, the biggest question that has been plaguing Madam Nurul Asyikin Norman is:
"Why was I not given a safety briefing about the dangers of using a diffuser when I bought it?"
Mr Mohammad Rizalludin Hassan, 34, died last Oct 22 from extensive burns to more than 80 per cent of his body after a flash fire in the couple's Jurong East home.
At a coroner's inquiry yesterday into Mr Rizalludin's death, Madam Nurul asked a police investigating officer if safety briefings were given to customers who bought the Avita Aromatherapy Diffuser.
The officer, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Alex Neo, said customers are usually given a safety briefing and demonstration by employees at the company showroom in Commonwealth Drive
ASP Neo said this was based on his interview with Mr Chok Wai Chen, operations manager of Shiang's International, which sells the diffuser.
Madam Nurul, 34, who has four children with her late husband, said in court that she "did not go through a safety briefing" and she did not get any safety demonstration when she first bought the product in 2014 because of the haze.
"I was verbally told how to light the diffuser," said the primary school teacher.
After seeing an online promotion last year, Madam Nurul went back to the shop alone, and paid a promotional price of $692 for another diffuser and 12 litres of aromatic oils.
Mr Chok had said in his statement: "We cannot be sure if individual members perform the said steps before selling Avita Aromatherapy Diffuser range of products, even if we tell them to do so.
"The reason why we go through the necessary safety procedures before we sell is because we understand that the aromatherapy oils is (sic) flammable and thus potentially dangerous to the consumers of the said products."
ASP Neo also informed the court about a safety video on the company's website.
Madam Nurul then asked when the video was uploaded - before or after her husband's accident.
ASP Neo said Mr Chok "did not specify the timeline" when the video was uploaded.
Madam Nurul asked ASP Neo if there were similar accidents in the past.
There had been none involving customers who bought the diffuser but Mr Chok told him that there had been one involving an employee on the company premises in 2014, said ASP Neo.
Mr Chok had said: "A staff (sic) sustained minor burns when he used the company's aromatherapy oil to light up an already ignited catalytic burner, as against safety procedures."
Mr Chok stated there have not been any reported incidents involving Avita Aromatherapy Diffuser products since they were released in 2007. When contacted by The New Paper yesterday, he declined to comment.
Madam Nurul told The New Paper yesterday how her family had been coping with their loss.
She said: "Emotionally, it's still quite raw, especially when my mother and I had witnessed what happened to my husband."
Her mother, Madam Juraidah Nabi, 53, who also saw Mr Rizalludin in flames during the incident, was visibly affected when she read the first few pages of the investigation report.
She started crying quietly and later placed it on the table in front of her.
Referring to the coroner's inquiry, Madam Nurul said: "The feeling is like reliving the night of the incident."
The inquiry will convene again on April 4.
TRAPPED VAPOURS FROM OILS FLAMMABLE
A Singapore Civil Defence Force investigator told the court yesterday that the flash fire was an accident likely to have been caused by the combination of trapped vapours from essential oils and a lighter.
Major Samuel Koh said: "During the pouring of the essential oil into the diffusers, flammable essential oil vapours would have come off and accumulated in the confined bathroom space.
"The naked light from the gas lighter is a competent ignition source which could have ignited the flammable vapours in the bathroom."
The origin of the fire was traced to the vanity top in the bathroom of the master bedroom.
He said in his report: "The scorch marks observed on the various items in the bathroom suggest that a flash fire had occurred within the bathroom."
Among the items found there were two sets of aromatherapy diffusers that had sustained heat damage, two disposable lighters and a burnt bottle of essential oil re-fill.
One of the diffusers was partially filled with oil and its catalytic burner was not fully screwed to the diffuser.
Essential oil fluid from both diffusers and a 5-litre essential oil refill tub kept by the family were analysed.
The temperature at which the liquid gives off sufficient vapour to ignite was determined to be about 16 deg C.
Last Oct 13, Madam Nurul Asyikin Norman had asked her husband, Mr Mohammad Rizalludin Hassan, to help her light up the diffuser.
Mr Rizalludin, an engineer, went into the bathroom and Madam Nurul later said she heard a "loud sound".
She and her mother then saw him coming out of the bathroom, engulfed in flames. The flames were put out with blankets.
Mr Rizalludin died nine days later in hospital.
An autopsy revealed he had died of extensive burns to the front and back of his torso, entire face, neck and legs.
HOW TO USE A DIFFUSER SAFELY
After filling the diffuser with oil from the essential oil container, wipe off any spilt oil from the diffuser and your hands.
Close the oil container immediately.
Before lighting up the diffuser, remove the oil container from the immediate vicinity.
After lighting up, blow out the open flame after two minutes. Position the burner head away from the reach of children and pets.
Keep the oil container away from open flames.
Do not have a lit diffuser next to you when filling up additional diffusers.
Do not leave the flame unattended.
Blow out the flame instead of using an object to snuff it.
Do not try to light a diffuser with the flame of another diffuser.
- Adapted from video at www.myavita.com
This article was first published on April 1, 2016.
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