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Fire chiefs demand faulty white goods recall

01 November 2017

GIVING EVIDENCE at the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS) session focused on the safety of electrical goods, fire chiefs called for a UK product recalls register for white goods that pose fire risks.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) highlighted long called for changes to improve product recalls and manufacturing standards. Charlie Pugsley, the NFCC’s lead for Electrical Safety and London Fire Brigade’s head of Fire Investigation was one of several witnesses to give evidence, emphasising that fires involving white goods continue to be a serious concern for fire services nationally.

UK-wide statistics show there were 15,416 accidental fires in 2016/16 caused by white goods. Figures include faulty appliances, leads and misuse of equipment. Mr Pugsley expressed disappointment at the lack of progress made following reviews after the death of Santosh Muthiah, who lost his life in 2010 while saving his wife and two young children when his fridge freezer caught fire. 

When asked if more action on electrical safety could have prevented fires, Mr Pugsley was said: “Yes, we could have fewer fires and we could see a difference, and that’s certainly the fire service point of view; the frustration is ‘how many times do we have to see this?’ because every time you have one of these events, you don’t know how big or how small it will be.”

Following the session, the an NFCC spokesperson said: "The Committee raised several important issues in relation to white goods and the current product recall system. The NFCC has made it clear that we want to see changes made to make it easier for the public to register appliances and find out about product recalls.

"We are also concerned that manufacturing standards for white goods have not been addressed. All fridges and freezers should be constructed to keep flammable insulation material protected from the components which could cause a fire, and appliances should be marked so they can be identified after a fire.

"There needs to be improvements in the way that producers and distributors undertake assessments of how safe white goods are. It is important that people have an escape plan and continue to test their smoke alarms regularly.

"We would also urge people not to keep domestic appliances on escape routes. People should register appliances online, so they can be the first to know about appliance safety issues or recalls.”

The NFCC’s calls are in line with the London Fire Brigade’s Total Recalls campaign which fire and rescue services across the country have given their support to, along with the NFCC. Recommendations include better publicising of recall notices, greater regulation over the sale of secondhand appliances, and inclusion of international recalls on the UK register.