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“White goods should be recorded in tower blocks to prevent fires” urges Electrical Safety First

02 October 2020

WHITE GOODS including washing machines, tumble dryers and fridge freezers should be documented in tower blocks in a bid to prevent potentially devastating electrical fires. That’s the view of Electrical Safety First, the UK consumer charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity.

The Fire Safety Bill introduced by the Home Office is designed to ensure people feel safe in their homes and prevent a tragedy like Grenfell Tower from ever happening again. An amendment has been tabled that would aim to protect tower block residents from the dangers of white goods-related fires and dangerous electrical installations following historical catastrophic incidents.

The amendment, tabled by Conservative MP Sir David Amess and campaigned for by Electrical Safety First, would see a nominated ‘Responsible Person’ record the presence of white goods to minimise the risk faulty goods can pose in densely populated buildings. Keeping a record of the appliances in use would mean faulty recalled appliances could be removed or repaired.

Mandatory five-yearly electrical safety checks in tower blocks, regardless of tenure, are also included in the tabled amendment.

Current regulations mean that privately rented flats are required to have electrical safety checks, but other tenures are not, which in turn has created something of a ‘tenure lottery’ in buildings, which often include owner-occupied, privately rented and social housing properties. Unless every unit in a high-rise building is subject to the same safety regime, Electrical Safety First believes everyone in the building can be placed at risk by a single flat.

Analysis of Government data

New analysis of Government data issued by the Home Office and conducted by Electrical Safety First reveals that nearly a quarter of accidental electrical fires that have occurred in high-rise buildings over the last five years in England were a result of faulty appliances and leads as well as faulty fuel supplies, which can include electrical wiring in a property.

The Home Office’s Dwelling Fire Dataset outlines those fires with an electrical source at their heart that were deemed to be accidental and occurring in high-rise, purpose built-flats of ten storeys or more whereby the cause was either “faulty appliances and leads” or “faulty fuel supplies”. No less than 391 such fires occurred between 2014-2015 and 2018-2019. During the same time period, the number of all accidental electrical fires in high-rise, purpose-built flats consisting of ten or more storeys between 2014-2015 and 2018-2019 was 1,620.

More worrying is the fact that, over the past three years, accidental electrical fires in high-rise buildings have risen consistently year-on-year. 301 electrical fires were recorded during 2016-2017, 309 during 2017-2018 and 355 across 2018-2019.

In days gone by, high-profile tower block fires have been linked to electrical sources, including the tragic blaze at Lakanal House (pictured) where an electrical fault with a television claimed the lives of six people and that at Shepherd’s Court when a faulty tumble dryer led to the extensive damage of an 18-story building. It’s also believed that the Grenfell Tower fire itself was started by an electrical fault in a fridge freezer.

Tackling the causes of fire

Lesley Rudd, CEO of Electrical Safety First, commented: “Much of the conversation surrounding high-rise buildings has centred on unsafe cladding, but it’s imperative we don’t miss the opportunity to tackle the causes of these fires. Electricity causes more than half of all accidental fires in England and it’s time the issue was given the focus it deserves. We must do more to protect those living in tower blocks, which are some of the most densely populated housing stock in the country. We urge MPs to help protect their constituents by supporting the amendment.”