LFB presses Prime Minister on ‘white goods’ fires

LFB presses Prime Minister on ‘white goods’ fires

LONDON FIRE Brigade (LFB), alongside trade organisations and the Mayor of London, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May urging action on ‘white goods’ fires.

The letter comes ‘one year on’ from a fire in a Shepherd’s Bush tower block, caused by a faulty Indesit tumble dryer, and six years after the death of Santosh Benjamin Muthiah in a fire ‘caused by a Beko fridge’. The LFB noted ‘many people will die in fires caused by faulty white goods […] unless the government takes urgent action’.After the second fire, the government ‘has yet to implement any safety recommendations made’, the letter demanding ‘action before more people lose their lives’.

Since Mr Muthiah’s death, the LFB has been ‘calling for more to be done about potentially dangerous white goods’, and since 2010 it has attended 2,170 fires involving the products, including fridges, freezers, tumble dryers and washing machines’, with nine deaths and 298 injuries. Signatories include: Danny Cotton, London fire commissioner; Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London; Fiona Twycross chair of the LFEPA (London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority); Gareth Bacon, lead Conservative member; Paul Emberry, Executive Council member (London), Fire Brigades Union (FBU); Stewart Edgar, lead for prevention, National Fire Chiefs Council (NFFC); and Phil Buckle, chief executive of Electrical Safety First.

The letter pointed out the Shepherd’s Bush investigation ‘showed that the fire was caused by a faulty Indesit tumble dryer which was subject to the correct action/safety notice’ by its manufacturer, and that many white goods are ‘still being produced with a flammable plastic backing, which offers very little protection against the insulation foam inside catching alight if a fire starts’. Many white goods ‘pose a serious fire risk and are subject to recall or corrective action’.

Each of the signatories were ‘deeply concerned’ that ‘decisive action is still needed to improve product recalls and manufacturing standards for white goods’, and added that ‘the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower started in a fridge freezer’. After Mr Muthiah’s death, the coroner ‘recommended a series of measures to improve product recalls, but these changes have still not been made’.

With over three years of reports and recommendations, ‘as yet no action from government’ has been taken, though the signatories ‘appreciate that the government has been looking into these issues and commend the work that Margot James at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has undertaken’.

With a UK product recall system fire announced three years ago and launched in 2015, and with a review reported in February 2016 with a series of recommendations, a steering group was set up to ‘take these forward’, with a government response awaited ‘in the autumn’. The group said that ‘what is needed now is action’, after three years with ‘no substantial changes’, recommending that a government website be set up for the public to check appliance safety.

Manufacturing standards were also not addressed, with appliances recommended to be marked with serial numbers ‘so they can be identified after a fire’, while assessments should be made by producers and distributors, the letter added, with the LFB’s Total Recalls campaign set up to raise awareness a few years ago.

Dany Cotton commented: ‘What the government needs to do to save lives is clear. London’s fire crews go to around one fire a day involving white goods, and it’s only a matter of time before there is another tragedy. How many more devastating white goods fires does 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 white goods market is under regulated and there is little to stop people buying kitchen appliances which pose a serious fire risk. We also want business to step up and change how some fridges and freezers are manufactured. 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. This is not the time for further reports and recommendations, it’s time to take action.’