Fire chief calls on PM for urgent action over white goods safety

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has written to PM Theresa May, calling for “urgent action” on white-goods safety.

The letter was sent on August 18 and was signed by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Electrical Safety First (ESF) chief executive Phil Buckle among others.

In it, London Fire Commissioner Danny Cotton pointed out that there had been more than three years of reports and recommendations, but no action from Government. He urged the Prime Minister to take action before more lives are lost.

The letter included a call for a single register for UK product recalls, set up centrally on gov.uk, and a call for the Government to put its “full weight” behind bringing about changes to international standards on how white goods are manufactured.

A review of the UK product recall system was first announced in November 2014, but no action has been taken by the Government, the LFB argued.

Since 2010, LFB has attended 2,170 fires involving faulty white goods such as fridges, freezers, tumble-dryers and washing machines.

Between 2010 and 2016, there were nine fire deaths and 298 injuries as a result of fires involving white goods in London.

A number of recent high-profile fires, such as the Shepherd’s Bush tower blaze last year and the Grenfell Tower fire in July this year, which killed more than 80 people, has brought appliance safety into the media spotlight more recently.

“What the Government needs to do to save lives is clear,” said Mr Cotton. “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 that 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.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan added: “The Government’s delay in implementing these recommendations is simply inexcusable. With on average one white-goods fire every single day in London, if an item is on the official ‘recall’ list, this information must be easily accessible so these fires can be prevented.

“The terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower in June is a stark reminder of just how devastating a fire caused by faulty white goods can be. Now, a year since the tragic fire in Shepherd’s Bush, which led to these important recommendations, the Government and manufacturers must urgently act to help prevent any further tragedies and keep Londoners safe.”

Electrical Safety First chief executive Phil Buckle has added his support to the call for action, claiming that the Government needed to address these issues urgently and stop putting more lives at risk.

“One year on from the Shepherd’s Court fire, we fully support London Fire Brigade’s call to Government to urgently address the issue of ‘white goods’ fires, he said.” In England alone over five fires a day are caused by white goods. These fires can have devastating effects as we have seen at Shepherd’s Court, Lakanal House and of course Grenfell Tower.

“As members of the Government’s working group on product recalls and safety, we have offered our recommendations on an improved product safety system, including the introduction of a centralised recall database. Now we, along with the London Fire Brigade, the Mayor of London and other safety campaigners would like to see these recommendations put into action. Otherwise, every day white good fires put more lives at risk.”

Following the review of UK product recalls in 2014, a steering group was set up in autumn 2016 with its recommendations published in July 2017. The Government is due to issue a response this autumn.