Call for ac­tion to rid homes of dan­ger­ous white goods

Western Mail - - NEWS - Josie Clarke news­desk@waleson­

GOV­ERN­MENT ac­tion to get faulty and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous white goods out of homes is fall­ing “woe­fully short”, a con­sumer group has claimed.

Faulty white goods such as wash­ing­ma­chines, tum­ble-dry­ers and fridge­freez­ers are caus­ing more than 60 house fires a week, a fig­ure that has re­mained “stub­bornly high” for at least five years, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Which? found.

Fire data ob­tained by the watch­dog through Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests shows faulty wash­ing­ma­chines and tum­ble-dry­ers to be the most high-risk ap­pli­ances, caus­ing 35% of fires be­tween April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2016.

Other high-risk ap­pli­ances for the same pe­riod in­clude cook­ers and ovens, which caused 11% of fires, dish­wash­ers (10%) and fridges, freez­ers and fridge-freez­ers (8%).

This week, Which? wrote to min­is­ters giv­ing them 90 days to pub­lish an ac­tion plan for the new Of­fice for Prod­uct Safety and Stan­dards, launched last month. Which? wants the ac­tion plan to set out the “true scale” of prod­uct safety risks in the UK and the “im­me­di­ate steps” that the of­fice will take to pre­vent fur­ther fires, in­clud­ing the ac­tion it will take to re­move an es­ti­mated one mil­lion faulty Whirlpool-made tum­ble-dry­ers that re­main in peo­ple’s homes.

Last month a House of Com­mons com­mit­tee urged Whirlpool to take “ur­gent ac­tion” to re­solve the prob­lem that has led to at least 750 fires since 2004.

The in­quiry into risks from faulty elec­tri­cal items was trig­gered by last year’s Gren­fell Tower tragedy, when 71 peo­ple died in a fire be­lieved to have been started by a faulty Hot­point fridge-freezer.

A sec­ond de­fect in the door mech­a­nism of some Whirlpool prod­ucts was blamed for a fire in Llan­r­wst, north Wales, which killed two men in Oc­to­ber 2014.

Bernard Hen­der, 19, and Doug McTav­ish, 39, died fol­low­ing the blaze.

As­sis­tant coroner for north Wales, David Lewis recorded a nar­ra­tive ver­dict on their deaths fol­low­ing an in­quest held over five days in April and Au­gust 2017. In a re­port in the wake of the in­quest he said that “...on the bal­ance of prob­a­bil­i­ties the fire could be at­trib­uted to a prob­lem with the tum­ble-dryer, more specif­i­cally an elec­tri­cal fault as­so­ci­ated with the door switch assem­bly”.

He said the door switch assem­bly is used in “lit­er­ally hun­dreds of thou­sands of ap­pli­ances man­u­fac­tured by Whirlpool”.

The Which? let­ter to min­is­ters is part of a new cam­paign by the group call­ing for “fun­da­men­tal re­form of the UK’s an­ti­quated prod­uct safety regime to keep dan­ger­ous prod­ucts out of our homes”, and in­cludes the de­mand that man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­tail­ers im­me­di­ately re­move un­safe prod­ucts from the mar­ket and house­holds.

> Doug McTav­ish, left, and Bernard Hen­der died in a flat fire in Llan­r­wst in 2014. The coroner blamed a faulty tum­ble-dryer

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