Product liability lawyer Jill Paterson has welcomed the launch of a new fire safety campaign by the London Fire Brigade (LFB), saying ‘It is time the UK had a recall system in place that is fit for purpose and easy for consumers to use’.
The LFB campaign, Total Recalls, is launched as LFB figures show that nearly one fire every day in London involves white goods. The LFB wants it to be easier for people to keep themselves safe from potentially lethal household appliances.
Faulty white goods can be extremely dangerous because they are made of flammable material that can combust easily when parts overheat.
However the current recall system makes it very difficult for consumers to check if their white goods are the subject of a recall.
Problems with the UK recall system were highlighted with the death of Santosh Benjamin. Mr Benjamin died as he rescued his children from a house fire that was caused by a Beko fridge freezer.
The Coroner at the inquest into Mr Benjamin’s death made a number of recommendations about the recall of faulty white goods. These included:
- Compelling manufacturers to include a fire-proof embossed stamp on appliances with model details
- Forcing manufacturers to list all their recalled products in one place
- Increasing the sanctions that manufacturers and retailers face for failing to notify consumers about their unsafe products
- Introducing point of sale registers for goods with a potential fire risk
- Compelling all fire brigades to report appliance fires to Trading Standards to help identify trends
- The implementation of a code of practice dealing with the way in which product recalls are handled by UK manufacturers.
At the Government’s request, consumer champion Lynn Faulds Wood, produced an independent recall review report earlier this year making similar suggestions to improve the recall system.
Her recommendations included:
- The need for the creation of an official national product safety agency
- The creation of an official trusted product safety website
- A need to improve funding, training, resources and procedures for market surveillance
- Looking at alternative funding solutions to improve the recall system
- Introducing a ‘mapping’ of organisations involved in product recall and better data and information sharing to prevent injury, damage and death
- The re-introduction of a national injury database
- Improving consumer interest and involvement in the recall process
- Using the resources of the UK’s universities to inform and improve product safety.
Despite the recommendations of Coroner Walker and Lynn Faulds Wood to make a number of improvements to the current recall system the Government chose only to set up a steering group to monitor progress on each of the recommendations.
The LFB has now expressed its own concern about failings in the system with the launch of its new campaign.
Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Dan Daly said: "One of the worst London house fires in recent memory, where six people were killed, was caused by a chest freezer.
"Fridge Freezers are normally perfectly safe but if they develop a serious fault, they could catch fire which could then lead to a lethal blaze.
"We believe that there is a serious lack of awareness about the potential dangers posed by faulty white goods.
"Checking whether your kitchen appliances are on the recall list is so important that it should be simple, but it's not.
"Different manufacturers have different systems and our survey found many people don't know how to make this simple safety check that could save their life.
"White goods manufacturers are lagging behind when it comes to prioritising fire resistance in their designs.
"In recent years, fires in the home have decreased by 13 percent but the number of blazes involving white goods in the capital dropped just five per cent."
Jill Paterson added:
“Thousands of UK consumers are potentially at risk of a serious fire from appliances in their homes that are the subject of a recall notice.
“House fires are happening in London and across the UK on a daily basis. No doubt some of these could have been avoided if the UK had a product recall system that was fit for purpose. It is time for the manufacturers of these goods to take responsibility and start to apply the recommendations made by numerous individuals and organisations.
“Consumers must be better protected from potentially lethal appliance and I fully support the work the London Fire Brigade is doing to raise awareness on this subject.”