Call for action to rid homes of dangerous white goods
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