The data, obtained via a Freedom of Information request by law firm Leigh Day, suggests that the most dangerous domestic appliances are washing machines, tumble dryers and refrigerators.
The Guardian has reported that the figures show that “brands under the Whirlpool umbrella” including Hotpoint, Indesit, ProLine, Creda and Swan “caused three times more blazes in the capital over eight years than the next worst offender Bosch”.
It reported that “the second highest number of fires involved Bosch with 276 incidents (203 Bosch, 55 Neff and 18 Seimens), followed by Hoover/Candy with 209, Beko with 191 and AEG/Electrolux/Zanussi with 157”.
Whirlpool have disputed the figures and told the Guardian that the data “should not be relied upon and that it could be misleading and unreliable”. Whirlpool also said that the data “should be seen in the context of their strong market share in all the appliance categories”.
In the case of 668 fires in the data set the make or model was not recorded. This could be for a number of reasons, including that the fire was so severe that the manufacturer’s brand burnt off. This an important issue as it can lead to difficulties in identifying trends in problems with particular models, lots or brands. Fire-proof identification is something that consumer groups and campaigners have been calling for to assist fire brigades across the country to record the cause of fires.
Fires in refrigeration appliances are the subject of considerable concern because the highly flammable polyurethane foam material burns easily, producing intense heat and toxic smoke. The dangers of refrigeration appliances have been highlighted for over five years and the London Fire Brigade has been calling for all refrigeration appliances to have a fully fire-resistant backing as standard.
Jill Paterson, solicitor in Leigh Day’s product safety and consumer law team, who represents a number of people affected by the Shepherd’s Bush fire and the families of two men who died in an appliance fire in north Wales in 2014, said:
“The deaths and injuries caused by fires in white goods are unacceptable and the devastating psychological effects are often not acknowledged, considered or understood.
“The most dangerous white goods in our homes are washing machines, tumble dryers and refrigerators. No one expects them to catch fire, let alone kill or injure them.
“In relation to refrigeration appliances in particular, the dangers have been highlighted for a number of years but change has been agonisingly slow in coming and potentially dangerous appliances are still on the market.
“An effective recall system is needed to ensure that manufacturers recall dangerous white goods in a timely and effective fashion."