Fire danger from faulty white goods
THE LONDON Fire Brigade (LFB) last week called on the Government to take urgent action regarding the dangers from electrical household goods such as refrigerators and washing machines.
The LFB was particularly critical of the Government’s failure to implement any of its recommendations a year after a faulty Indesit tumble drier caused a serious fire in a tower block in Shepherd’s Bush, which was attended by 20 fire engines and 110 firefighters.
No one was killed in this incident but more than 100 families had to be evacuated.
A faulty Hotpoint fridge-freezer is thought to have been the original source of the fire on 14th June this year in Grenfell towers, which cost at least 88 lives, though the inquiry into that fire has yet to begin and the rapid spread of that fire across the insulation cladding tiles on the outside of that building will also feature in that inquiry.
The LFB is demanding a Government-backed single register for all product recalls in Britain to be readily accessible to consumers online and better regulation of second-hand appliances.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, along with other campaigners, has added his name to the demand sent by the LFB to Theresa May to demand action to stop further fires.
Although nobody was killed in the Shepherd’s Bush blaze, more than 100 families were evacuated, with 26 being found temporary accommodation in hotels owing to the extent of the damage.
The brigade says that nearly one fire per day in London involves white goods. Between 2010 and 2016 there have been nine fatalities and 298 injuries as a result of fires involving white goods in London.
The figures do not include those who died in the Grenfell fire because the causes of these fatalities are subject to an inquest.
Hotpoint urged owners of its fridge-freezers to check their model numbers for safety reasons immediately after the fire.
Last week an inquest resumed into a fatal fire in north Wales, which may have started in or around a tumble dryer. Bernard Hender, 19, and Doug McTavish, 39, died after a blaze at a flat in Llanrwst in October 2014. At an earlier hearing, experts disagreed over what caused the blaze.
The LFB has made a series of urgent calls for action to make white goods safer as part of its Total Recalls campaign, which calls for a single, publicly accessible register of product recalls and better publicity to reduce consumer confusion.
Dany Cotton, the LFB commissioner, said: “How many more devastating white goods fires do there have to be before the Government makes it easier for consumers to check whether their fridges and freezers are on the recall list?
“Worse still, the second-hand market is under-regulated and there is little to stop people buying kitchen appliances which pose a serious fire risk.”
The LFB is also calling on manufacturers to use less flammable materials in machines. Cotton said: “All new refrigeration and freezing appliances should have a non-combustible backing as standard. Many models still use a flammable plastic backing, which offers very little protection against the foam inside catching alight if a fire starts.”
The coroner at the inquest into the death of Santosh Benjamin Muthiah, who died after saving his wife and two children from a fire that was caused by a faulty Beko fridge-freezer, recommended a series of measures to improve product recalls in 2014.
The Government announced a review of the UK product recall system in November that same year. A working group published its recommendations this year and the Government response is due in the autumn.
The Government did set up a product Recall website to inform the public which goods are safe to use at home, but it is an interim measure that gives links to significant sources of information on product recalls and corrective action but it does not deliver the information itself.
The fault in the Indesit tumble dryer model that had caused the Shepherd’s Bush fire emerged before the incident, with numerous but less severe fires reported. The parent company Whirlpool had been replacing or repairing an estimated 3.8-million potentially faulty dryers across Britain after identifying a fire risk safety defect in November 2015, caused when excess fluff touches the heating element.
It did not issue a product recall, telling customers that they could continue to use their tumble dryer whilst waiting for the modification, provided it was not left unattended. That advice was changed in February after pressure from consumer groups, with owners advised to unplug the appliances and stop using them until they were repaired.