More ‘fire risk’ appliances listed

More ‘fire risk’ appliances listed

CONSUMER GROUP Which? has named another 250 fridges and freezers that it describes as ‘potentially unsafe’.

The Guardian reported on the data from Which? that saw it describe 250 of the ‘most popular’ fridge and freezer models on sale in the UK as ‘potentially unsafe’, and they ‘could be putting lives at risk’. It demanded that UK retailers ‘immediately stop’ selling the specific models, with an investigation it undertook finding that the backing material ‘on almost half of all’ the appliances tested ‘was made of an unsafe plastic that posed a fire risk’.

Models named in the list include appliances from ‘most if not all’ leading manufacturers, including: AEG; Kenwood; Hotpoint; Smeg; Candy; Hotpoint; Zanussi; Indesit; Whirlpool; Hoover; Bush; and Ikea. This comes on the back of London Fire Brigade (LFB) stating that ‘even though there was on average one fridge or freezer fire a week’ in London, it believed that most manufacturers ‘were still dragging their heels on making fire safety improvements’.

The industry wide investigation was the ‘largest of its kind in the UK’, and looked at over 500 of the market’s most popular products, with the data released due to what Which? called a ‘lack of government action’. While it accepted that refrigeration fault fires were rare, with only 8% of fires caused by faulty appliances, it noted that the plastic backing material ‘did not in itself’ cause fires but ‘accelerated them’.

As such, it was not demanding a product recall but for retailers to ‘immediately stop selling these products’, though it pointed out that the public was ‘not to panic – the risk is low’ in regards to those owning the at risk appliances. The tests found that no plastic backing sample could withstand a flame for 30 seconds, so in the event of a fire they would ‘not sufficiently prevent the flame from reaching the flammable insulation inside’, while no metal or aluminium samples caught alight.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: ‘Manufacturers selling white goods in the UK must meet some of the strictest safety laws in the world and we are working with Which? and other parties to see whether standards can be made even more stringent.’

A new code of practice for product safety recalls, which aims to help retailers ‘improve the success’ of recalls, was the ‘first major announcement’ from the Office for Product Safety and Standards, launched in January. The office will ‘manage responses to large-scale product recalls’, as well as identify risks from products, aims to ‘manage recalls’ and is ‘strengthening the UK’s product safety regime’, and offer businesses ‘hit by unfair competition from rogue firms’ with assistance.

This comes after news earlier this year 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 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. In turn, 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 Llanrwst, 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. These could be a fire risk ‘following reports of fires started by excess fluff catching the heating element in the machines’. The committee wrote to Whirlpool asking why it had ‘chosen to end the scheme’, and criticised the government for being too slow to overhaul a ‘flawed and poorly resourced’ safety regime for white goods.

It also urged Whirlpool to repair faulty machines ‘within two weeks of being contacted’ by owners, or explain action it plans to take, calling its previous response ‘inadequate’. In its view, the government must give ‘serious consideration’ to establishing a ‘single national product safety agency’, which the Office for Product Safety and Standards has been revealed to be.