Government to issue compulsory recall of fire risk heaters

by Peter Newport - May 09, 2024

A Crux investigation

The government has this afternoon said that it will issue a compulsory recall notice to the manufacturer of the fire risk Serene bathroom heaters, Serene Industries Ltd. 

The announcement also indicates that it will be the electrical re-sellers and retailers who will have to carry the cost of the recall and supplying replacement units in spite of evidence that Worksafe ignored detailed warnings about the Serene heaters for seven years. The recall is focussed on the popular S2068 model heater but WorkSafe has also advised that S2069s and S207Ts models may also be unsafe.

Andrew Bayly - Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs

Following the Crux investigation the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Andrew Bayly issued the following statement:

"MBIE has advised me that they are working closely with WorkSafe on this issue. I am advised that all 19 known suppliers of S2068 heaters imported, sold or installed since 16 June 2018 have issued a recall for these units. MBIE has published these voluntary recalls.

"Where a supplier has supplied unsafe goods, that supplier is liable for the costs of recalling those goods.

"I will be issuing a compulsory product recall notice to Serene Industries.

"If people have information on suppliers of these units which have not been identified, I encourage them to make contact with MBIE Consumer Services immediately.”

Crux has approached the Master Electricians organisation for comment.

The heaters are currently the subject of a voluntary recall with uncertainty still unresolved over the number of affected appliances. Different sources estimate the number from more than 50,000 to one million, with replacements and associated electrical work costs running into tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

Serene Industries announced late 2023 that it was to cease trading in New Zealand but the company is still shown as active on the companies register.

The two directors of Serene Industries Ltd - New Zealanders Christopher Woodward and his son Alexander, currently believed to be based in Hong Kong.

Electrical re-sellers are understood to be mounting multiple Official Information Act requests to WorkSafe in order to discover why the agency did not respond to multiple safety warnings going back to 2017.

WorkSafe has told Crux that the safety warnings from businessman Justin Sollitt, owner of Genco Energy, only related to the risk of electric shock and not fire risk. Documents supplied to Crux by Mr Sollitt clearly show that his warnings were actually focussed on fire risk, including examples that he has characterised as "near fatalities".

Plumbing World is just one supplier currently issuing recalls

Mr Sollitt told Crux today (May 9), "The heater fires have always been at the very top of every Genco safety discussion and submission raised with WorkSafe since 2017 to 2021. Never once have I not mentioned the fires, especially because having worked inside the Serene NZ business – two of these fires were near fatalities."

Mr Sollitt has supplied Crux with a detailed timeline of his warnings via his company Genco to WorkSafe staff.

  • October 9, 2017: Genco enquiry to WorkSafe, concerning reports of five fires in New Zealand - no reply
  • October 20, 2017: Genco follow up to WorkSafe, concerning the fires – no reply
  • October 24, 2017: Genco follow up to WorkSafe, concerning fires – no reply
  • October 25, 2017: Genco files safety report into EnergySafe online portal concerning fires, receipt acknowledged
  • October 30, 2017: Genco follows up with the help desk
  • December 5, 2017: Genco follow up, additional information supplied
  • December 9, 2017: Genco follow up with WorkSafe
  • February 12, 2018: Genco information submitted to WorkSafe concerning expired compliance for the S2088 heater
  • December 10, 2019: Genco technical report to WorkSafe for Serene products still being sold in New Zealand, report copied to Minister Lees-Galloway
  • Dec 20, 2019: Lees Galloway responds
  • October 14, 2020: Genco follow up with WorkSafe
  • October 20, 2020: Genco supplied info of numerous expired compliances including the 2088 now expired three years
  • October 21, 2020: Genco follow up with WorkSafe
  • December 5, 2020: Genco follow up with WorkSafe
  • December 10, 2020: Genco follow up with WorkSafe
  • December 22, 2020: Genco follow up with WorkSafe
  • February 2, 2021: Unannounced. Genco dispatch the disassembled Serene products to WorkSafe in Christchurch 
  • February 12, 2021: Genco follows up, WorkSafe acknowledged product received
  • March 2, 2021: Genco follow up with WorkSafe - WorkSafe requests that these Serene items are collected no later than the end of the week
  • March 15, 2021: Genco follow up with WorkSafe
  • May 25, 2021: WorkSafe report released and follow up phone call to Mr Sollitt
  • May 25, 2021: Genco final submission to WorkSafe
  • May 31, 2021: WorkSafe replied to Genco 

Read our previous coverage:

Serene Heater Recall Suppliers

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