Warning: Steamboat may cause glass table to shatter

Experts advise using thermal insulators under steamboat equipment on table

Ms Stephanie Chu and her husband hosted a hotpot meal at their house on Sunday, only to have the tempered glass table they were eating at shattering 30 minutes into the meal. The couple said they were not informed that the table could not withstand t
Ms Stephanie Chu and her husband hosted a hotpot meal at their house on Sunday, only to have the tempered glass table they were eating at shattering 30 minutes into the meal. The couple said they were not informed that the table could not withstand the heat of hotpot equipment.PHOTO: STEPHANIE CHU

With Chinese New Year just days away, those planning on having steamboat might want to take some precautions if they want to have hot meals on their glass tables.

Following an incident where a tempered glass table shattered during a steamboat meal on Sunday, experts warned that it is not safe to use steamboat equipment directly on glass tables.

Consumers are advised to use thermal insulators underneath the steamboat equipment while making sure that glass surfaces do not overheat, even as experts noted that imperfections in the glass that are overlooked during manufacturing could also make such tables more likely to shatter.

On Monday, Facebook user Stephanie Chu said a dinner with friends was ruined after a glass table in her home shattered 30 minutes into their steamboat meal. She wrote that some of her guests had "cuts bigger than the size of an eye" as a result, and that she was taken to hospital for second-degree burns.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Tuesday, Ms Chu, 28, said the accident happened in a "split second".

She and her husband had placed the steamboat equipment directly on the table, as they were not warned against doing so by furniture retailer Comfort Design.

The couple bought the table from the retailer last June and had previously hosted at least three other hotpot meals using the table.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said the accident led to one person being taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital at about 7.50pm on Sunday.

One possible reason for the table shattering is that glass is a poor conductor of heat, said Associate Professor Dong Zhili from Nanyang Technological University's School of Materials Science and Engineering. "The surface in contact with the hotpot (could have been) heated to higher temperatures than the internal (parts) of the glass... causing stress (and) the glass to crack," he said.

Microcracks that could already be in or on the surface of the glass would also have led to it cracking under less pressure, he added.

Tempered glass is about four times stronger than untreated glass, experts have said previously.


Facebook user Stephanie Chu said a dinner with friends was ruined after her home's glass table shattered 30 minutes into their steamboat meal. PHOTO: STEPHANIE CHU/FACEBOOK

While spontaneous shattering occurs only in tempered glass, such cases are uncommon.

Retailer Comfort Design does not believe the accident was caused by its glass table, and said it shattered "as it was not used within its intended scope of use".

It said tempered glass is considered safe because it is designed to break into "granular chunks instead of sharp pieces which may cause cuts", and said the cuts suffered by Ms Chu's friends were likely to have been caused by broken cutlery.

Even so, Ms Grace Shen, the company's sales and marketing director, said the company is empathetic to the couple's situation and would like to "assist them during this time of inconvenience".

The incident was the first time the company faced glass-shattering issues with regard to hotpot equipment in its 40 years of experience, she added.

 
 
 

There have been other recent cases of tempered glass shattering even without contact with direct heat.

Housewife Veron Tan, 39, said the glass panel of a cabinet she bought from Ikea three years ago started cracking on Tuesday last week at 2.45pm.

In the incident, reported on citizen journalism site Stomp, pieces of glass began falling onto the ground in her dining room when she heard a sound "like a charger exploding or heavy items being dropped", she told ST. She refused Ikea's offer to give her a new glass cabinet.

Ikea said it understood that the situation was alarming, and said the glass could have been compromised by "nicks and scratches" sustained any time from assembly to transport to regular use. The retailer will report the incident to its product developers.

Mr Loy York Jiun, Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) executive director, said that from Jan 1, 2017, to Dec 31 last year, Case received at least four consumer complaints of tempered glass doors and tables cracking or shattering.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2020, with the headline 'Warning: Steamboat may cause glass table to shatter'. Print Edition | Subscribe