Faulty appliances cause over 60 house fires a week
CONSUMER GROUP Which? has stated that the government’s moves to prevent such fires fall ‘woefully short’.
The Guardian reported on an investigation by Which? that found faulty appliance fires – including those begun by washing machines, tumble dryers and fridge freezers – are ‘causing more than 60 house fires a week in the UK’, a figure it says has stayed ‘stubbornly high’ in recent years. The government’s response and actions on removing such ‘potentially dangerous’ white goods is said to be falling ‘woefully short’, Which? added.
The organisation has challenged ministers to explain how the new Office for Product Safety and Standards ‘will tackle the problem’. The office will manage responses to large scale product recalls, as well as identify risks from products, strengthen the UK’s product safety regime, and offer assistance to businesses hit by unfair competition from rogue firms.
This came after recent news that the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee had criticised the government for not yet overhauling a ‘flawed and poorly resourced’ safety regime for electrical white goods. In August last year, London Fire Brigade (LFB), Electrical Safety First and other organisations and individuals sent a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May urging action on white goods fires.
In particular, the aforementioned committee was scathing of the previous revelation that one million faulty Whirlpool tumble dryers are being used in the UK. Whirlpool has faced criticism for its failure to recall the up to one million dryers that pose a fire risk, and its range of appliances caused ‘three times more’ fires in London than any other manufacturer, according to LFB data.
Last year a Welsh coroner said the company’s ‘reluctance to digest inquest lessons’ was an ‘obstacle to preventing further deaths’, after two men died in a fire in their flat in Llanrwist, North Wales in October 2014. MPs were also angered by Whirlpool’s decision to close its replacement scheme for two types of dryers, launched in 2015, under its Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline and Swan brands.
The Which? analysis, obtained from freedom of information requests, also revealed that the number of such appliance fires ‘has stayed at a similar level for five years’, while kitchen appliances caused nearly 16,000 UK fires since 1 April 2012. Washing machines and dryers were the ‘most high-risk’, causing 35% of fires between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2016, while cookers and ovens caused 11% of fires, dishwashers 10% and fridges, freezers and fridge freezers 8%.
As part of the investigation, Which? has written to ministers and given them three months to ‘publish an action plan’ for the new office, as well as set out the ‘true scale’ of product safety risks in the UK alongside ‘immediate steps’ the body will take to prevent further fires. This forms part of its new End Dangerous Products campaign, which calls for a ‘shake-up’ of the UK’s ‘antiquated’ product safety regime.
Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, commented: ‘It’s shocking that there are more than 60 house fires every week in the UK because of faulty appliances. The government must now publish an action plan for the Office of Product Safety and Standards, setting out what it will do to keep dangerous products out of consumers’ homes and tackle Britain’s broken product safety regime.’
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy responded: ‘The government’s top priority is to keep people safe, which is why last month we set out our approach to further strengthen the UK’s already tough product safety system.’