/ Home & Energy, Technology

We want manufacturers to stop making fire-risk fridge freezers

fridge freezer

We’ve written to fridge-freezer manufacturers urging them to stop using non-flame retardant plastic backing in their appliances. We believe this material could pose a safety risk in people’s homes. Do you back our call?

We’ve reviewed cold-appliance safety and have significant concerns about the safety of some models of fridges, freezers and fridge freezers on the UK market.

Fridge freezers

Some fridge, freezer and fridge-freezer models use non-flame retardant plastic backing material, which we believe poses a fire-risk. While this material isn’t the cause of the fire itself, there’s a growing body of evidence that indicates the risk of a fire spreading is greater with non-flame retardant plastic-backed models.

People who already have one of these models in their homes shouldn’t be alarmed as refrigerator fires are extremely rare. However, our advice is that no one should purchase a new fridge freezer with a non-flame retardant plastic backing.

To help with the purchasing of a new fridge, freezer or fridge freezer, we’re now highlighting information about the type of backing material type on our website and noting those we have concerns about.

Check the flame-retardant models here:

Fridge reviews

Freezer reviews

Fridge-freezer reviews

Safety regime

In light of our concerns, we believe the current British Standard on cold appliances is inadequate. And following our review of cold appliances, we’ve written to manufacturers asking them to do the right thing and voluntarily end the production of these appliances.

We’re also asking them to help us bring in a tougher safety standard on fridges and freezers that will no longer allow potentially flammable backing material to be used.

It’s important that standards evolve to reflect new evidence and companies must act swiftly in the best interests of consumers.

This once again shows that the UK’s product safety regime is simply not fit for purpose and the government can no longer continue to allow it to fail. We want the government to urgently set up a new national body to take responsibility for ensuring manufacturers keep households safe.

Do you want manufacturers to stop producing cold appliances with non-flame retardant plastic backing?


Comments
Profile photo of Beryl
Member

It is encouraging to see some progress being made to stop the continuous production of dangerous non-flame retardant plastic materials on the back of cold white goods and that Which? are bringing this more into the public domain. I sincerely hope that we don’t have to experience another Grenfell before similar precautions are extended to non-flame retardant materials in tumble dryers also.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Beryl, I have looked at safety standards back to 1990 (BS 3456) and these have the same requirements – non metallic materials are required to be resistant to ignition and the spread of fire. So I do not know where the statement about “dangerous non-flame retardent plastic materials” comes from. I would like to know if such materials are permitted in household electrical appliances, and where the standard allow this.

Perhaps Which? would explain.

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
23 September 2017

As malcolm is quoting existing regulations requiring backs to be flame retardent it would seem that this article/movement is ill-founded. What it should be about is enforcement of the standards.

It seems to me that we should be looking at Which? to take a legal action against those who enforce the rules, or those companies that sell fridges that breach the standard.

I would be very happy to sign a petition that dealt with this effective and potentially speedy legal hammer as a reinforcement of existing standards. Please Which? explain where we humble subscribers appear to have erred and let us have an answer before the AGM November 15th.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Patrick, I am not saying whether or not backs of fridges are required to be “resistant to heat and the spread of fire” as the international standard requires of non-metallic materials. I have simply quoted from the relevant standard and it seems to me they should be required to comply with this. But I have asked Which? to explain what the situation is and whether the appliances they blacklist meet the existing standard or not. This so I can understand the fact of the situation.

Although there are (proportionally) very few fires in fridges et al. I am in favour, of course, of amending a standard to effect a worthwhile and sensible improvement.

You want enforcement of standards, and so do I. Hence bring back an effective trading standards organisation. Impose severe penalties on the cheats who distribute sub-standard (literally) products.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

If non-metallic components of fridges etc. are required to be resistant to heat and the spread of fire, does that not suggest an expectation that they should be able to contain fire, which could start for a variety of reasons.

Of course it is necessary to check for compliance but I am far from convinced that the present standard is fit for purpose in this respect. (That is not a criticism of standards in general.)

Profile photo of malcolm r
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The issue of fire containment is separate and is being, no doubt, investigated at the moment by those working groups in the UK and internationally dealing with fires in domestic appliances, as I have reported.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Maybe that could have been done many years ago. How many people have lost their homes or even their lives. Why are we not ahead of the game?

Profile photo of malcolm r
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You tell us wavechange. It may be that “fire containment” is not the simple answer you think. I’d like to hear from the experts who have, and are, investigating fire in household electrical appliances so I can consider their views. Perhaps Which? could look into this?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I don’t recall reading any evidence that it would be difficult to achieve fire containment. Some products should be easier to deal with than others and my view is that fridges and freezers would be easiest to tackle. The hermetically sealed compressor circuit in a basic machine is a very good start.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Then maybe the standards bodies will see it the same way.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hi @dieseltaylor (Patrick), thanks for asking that question about enforcement.

I’ve had a chat with others here, including a member of our Consumer Research and Science team who has been investigating this issue. They’ve shared that this isn’t an issue of enforcement – the standard is deficient and needs updating. That’s why we felt the need to come out with our advice last week, but also why we’re feeding our investigations into BSI in order to improve the safety standards.

We are honestly working very hard to improve safety standards for products and wanted to make people aware that that was happening. Our goals are the same – to make change happen and make products safe, so I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I’m very pleased to see this Conversation and I hope that Which? is liaising with the Product Safety Group set up by the previous government: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/product-safety-working-group and with BSI.

I have posted numerous photos of burned appliances showing that plastics in the casings can burn and/or melt, allowing the fire to spread. In washing machines and most tumble dryers, a glass door can break in a fire, again allowing fire to spread. Here is a photo from the London Fire Brigade’s website that illustrates these points:

Fire can start for a variety of reasons in electrical appliances and Iwould like to see all white goods designed to be able to contain fire. One way of achieving this would be to replace plastic and glass parts with metal. I do hope that Which? will recognise that plastic backs on fridges and freezers are only part of the problem.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I could post an emotive picture of a car crash – far more common than domestic appliance fires. Perhaps we could recommend ways to prevent those?

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

1 fire a day – that’s an incidence of around 0.003% then, for a variety of causes including, lack of maintenance, misuse and abuse. How many more from cooking appliances alone?

If fire is such a problem I would suggest we tackle the overall problem of all fires, however caused, by installing sprinkler systems.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Good design of appliances should be able to prevent fire spreading even if appliances have not been maintained correctly.

If you want to campaign for installation of sprinklers and other measures to prevent spread of fire, I will support that. It’s unlikely to happen in existing housing other than multi-occupancy buildings in the near future.

Profile photo of Beryl
Member

Malcolm, it may be more convincing if you posted a picture of a burning car due to a fault in its electrical system. A car crash is not really a fair comparison here, since individual owner/drivers are responsible for (a) driving it and (b) maintenance of it, and also for its annual MOT after 3 years.

The emphasis on this issue however is not so much on the actual cause of the fire but the speed and extent of the fire spreading beyond the machine casing, due to the non-flame retardant materials exposed by Which? as a result of extensive tests carried out by them.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Good design of appliances has resulted in 99.995% of appliances performing perfectly safely – partly thanks to international safety standards. Many of those that do not have been abuse, misused, incorrectly maintained.

In Wales, “requiring all new ‘domestic premises’ to have a fire suppression system installed.”
“Where and when
The requirements apply throughout Wales from 1st January 2016 and apply to new build and change of use applications forming:

New houses and flats
Care homes
Rooms for residential purposes (other than in a hotel, hospital, prison or short stay leisure hostel)
Registered group homes and sheltered housing

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

Dramatic, headline grabbing but ultimately utterly meaningless and pointless as it give no indication as to a problem.

It also does not show that this is a cause of fire spreading.

It’s jut a burnt out husk is all.

K.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

You are welcome to take that up with the London Fire Brigade, Kenneth.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Crashes happen partly because cars on two-way road have closing speed of up to 120 mph, passing (or in some cases not) just a very few feet apart. The point I was suggesting was would you – the “authorities” – have introduced and imposed such a system if you were devising a safety standard? It seem a very hazardous approach. Would you have reduced the risk by having one-way travel only, or median barriers everywhere?

I have asked Which? to explain the “non-flame retardent” comment when the Standard specifically requires non-metallic materials to be resistant to heat and the spread of flame. I have also asked BSI to comment. I believe we need some explanations before jumping on the bandwagon.

You say “non-flame retardant materials exposed by Which? as a result of extensive tests carried out by them.” I have missed the testing bit. Where are the extensive tests explained? I’ve only looked quickly at this link, so may have missed the relevant bit. http://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/09/stop-making-fire-risk-fridges-freezers-and-fridge-freezers-says-which/

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

I already did.

K.

Profile photo of Ian
Member

<b?Malcolm said "Good design of appliances has resulted in 99.995% of appliances performing perfectly safely – partly thanks to international safety standards.".

We’ve actually have two instances recently where a potential fire was averted through our being able to detect the smoke from an electrical appliance as it was starting to melt down. Where do you get your percentage figures from?

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I looked at the failures in electrical household appliances and the total number installed, simply to try to illustrate the extent of the risk. The figure can be modified by assessing the likely replacement cycle for appliances, and by the failure of appliances due to misuse, improper maintenance and abuse (I don’t recall the exact figure, but 64% was attributed to this if I remember correctly). We have, on the whole, safe appliances but if anyone can find other statistics I, for one, would be interested to see them.

In contrast, I’ve never had an electrical appliance fail due to burning.

If we are all concerned about fire safety I wonder how many have their electrical distribution systems checked. Nearly 3000 fires were caused by these.

It may be, if concern were sufficient, that the buildings insurer could require regular checks to ensure the risks were covered. Your claim for a problem due to a gas boiler failure can be rejected if it is not regularly checked.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

In relation to electrical distribution systems, the requirements for distribution units (often referred to as fuseboxes) have changed. As a result of fires the cases of new and replacement units must be of ‘non-combustible’ material, and steel is given as an example: http://electrical.theiet.org/wiring-matters/55/consumer-units/index.cfm Cable entries and ducting must be sealed to contain fire. Alternatively, consumer units can be encased in non-combustible material, such as steel.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I am thinking more about wiring, sockets, switches, lampholder wires………

Profile photo of Beryl
Member

Malcolm I agree, everyone should be responsible for the maintenance and the prevention of fire in their own dwellings and exercise care when cooking and in particular frying food in oil on their hobs. But the figures quoted for these fires demonstrate someone or something can be held responsible for it. Insurance companies are constantly dealing with hundreds of fire related claims on a daily basis.

The issue here is clearly a design fault whereby entirely innocent people can be sold, unbeknown to them an appliance which to all intents and purposes was safe to use and complied with all the required safety standards. If the required standards were insufficient and failed to protect the safety interests of consumers then it makes perfect sense to take positive steps to modify the standards in order to prevent any further disaster(s)

Once the mindset becomes conflicting, perceptions can become extremely selective as well as distorted and you will see only what you want to see and then misinterpret it. That is a fundamental and essential general truth, and I emphasise, is in no way intended to be taken personally.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

Transformers left on for charging up stuff. 😉

Basically, if it can carry mains electricity then it can go on fire, it’s possible given the right circumstances and conditions.

You can’t change that, you can’t stop that, you can only do your best to minimise it but in line with other safety considerations at the same time, these are set by standards agreed by the various bodies such as BSI. After that it’s cost and all the rest.

If companies flout those standards, go get ’em, they deserve all they get.

If they meet the standards and you’re not happy then, you need to change the standards.

In order to do so you must present your case and have **EVIDENCE** to demonstrate the need to do so.

No evidence, no change.

No reason, no change.

Sounding off that this is not good enough, that’s terrible and so on is utterly pointless unless you’re prepared to get your hands dirty and fight your corner with the evidence and reasoning to do so.

K.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

Beryl,

They’re really not.

Appliance fires are actually very rare and especially so in the severity that is often touted in photos for media glorification.

I’ve attended a number and some where the fire brigade have dragged a machine outside, doused it effectively destroying it for a burnt capacitor. A £3 part that gave off a puff of smoke but the owner just panicked.

You get the same for belts burning a they’ve gone loose, switches burnt, stuff trapped in washers and a whole host of other silly faults that are logged as “fire incidents” when they really aren’t.

This is the point I repeatedly make, the numbers only tell you so much. They do not offer much in the way of actual insight at all.

And on standards, see previous post.

K.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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The issue is not, for me, a design or a standard’s fault until someone proves otherwise. I want Which? to explain, and BSI to comment, on what is being said. That is why I have written to them. When I am satisfied that “flammable plastics” are being used, and allowed by standards, then I see how to move forward. I wish I had more confidence in Which?’s expertise to take what they say as gospel, but in view of a number of instances, I cannot.

However, Beryl, that is of course only my personal view and I am not presenting it to be attacked or defended by anyone. I, personally, simply want some more facts.

Profile photo of Ian
Member

I had a glance at the fire stats for England only. Apparently, more than 17,000 house fires were sufficiently serious to warrant the fire brigade being called. The majority were cooker involved, but more than 1630 involved Fridge Freezers over a six year period. Tumble driers and Washing machines accounted for more than 6000 call outs.

I think what interests me is that the stats only reflect instances where the fire brigade were called out. It’s probably safe to assume there were twice as many incidents as callouts.

But over the period in England alone there were more than 105,000 house fires attributable directly to electrical appliances.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

You can’t change the safety of transformers Kenneth –oh yes you can ! Spent all my life changing them , opening them up etc PLUS rewinding some . Lets gets some basic history and physics . In the old days (BM -before Maggie ) this country had industries that made top quality transformers those transformers had heavy gauge copper winding lasted forever I still have many working valve radios and only cheap makes had transformer faults and even there it was a small percentage . Then came the rise in copper prices -down came the wire gauge to such an extent that safety fuses (thermal /current ) were either internal to the winding or external. But big safe COOL running transformers cost money ( profit ) so SMPS were introduced but here again it was a case of quality -V- profit guess which won ? It left dicey electrical safety ( lower safety spec. ) in every home in the country unless you were well enough off to buy to quality . I lived through the era of seeing big bulky but cool running transformers become small-hot ones -reliability collapsed till the “innovation ” of SMPS entered the fray. IT saved manufacturers “bacon ” till they got too greedy so I blame the profit makers and importers of Land of Built to a Price components , they certainly ARE “built to a price ” having taken them down to bits and seen the non-stamped solid -state components and low quality of the passive ones.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

I didn’t say they could or couldn’t be, I merely mentioned them.

But it’s not companies that won’t pay for it Duncan, people have the option to buy better quality and if they don’t, it’s no use whining at manufacturers that build to a cost as is desired.

If all consumers demanded high quality, that’s all that’d get made.

K.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

duncan, you say these transformers are to a ” lower safety spec. “. What safety specification are you referring to that has been “lowered”?

I wonder how many power supplies are imported that do not meet the EN safety requirements, either by individuals or disreputable traders? It is illegal to market products in the EU unless they meet the required EN standards. Anyone doing so should be heavily penalised.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

How are the public to know which appliances are safer, Kenneth? Car manufacturers try to gain high NCAP ratings for safety. Perhaps the white goods industry should do the same.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

Lobby to change the standard to make them do so then.

K.

Profile photo of Ashf
Member

So will we have to change twin and earth cable as its PVC. Why not go the whole hog.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

Yeah, make it metal and fire proof, we’ll not worry about electrocution. 😉

K.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Standards set requirements for safety that all relevant products must meet. Whatever they cost, whoever makes them, if they are marketed in the EU.

When Which? test products they can always give additional information that is relevant to enhanced safety – whatever that might be. Perhaps we could draw up a list of what we would like them to include.

I also hope economic repairability and durability would be included.

Member
Jennifer hayman says:
22 September 2017

Stop making dangerous goods

Profile photo of VernonTaylor
Member

I too remember the days when both electronic and electrical gear was engineered and produced in factories that would manufacture a table radio to the same engineering tolerances as a car, a truck, a lathe and use superior materials – remember the flywheel tuning of the pre-AGC days; one quick twist and the pointer would run silently for the whole length of the dial.

A colleague either copied or coined a phrase that modern stuff isn’t manufactured but is “stamped out in a Far Eastern handbag factory”. The cause is of course consumerism that deliberately produces products cheaply but with a very limited life that are expected not to be repaired – in the rare cases where spare parts are theoretically available they are mostly “priced not to sell”.

Modern appliances and devices are sophisticated but in engineering terms sophistication is only required to offset imperfections of design and quality. Designing and building stuff to be cheap and deliberately have a limited life means many components will be highly stressed and if something happens to destabilise things, will be too highly stressed.

A few years ago I visited Currys looking for a large larder fridge. The sales chappie directed me to a super Bosch model costing a fortune. He assured me it would be good for about six years. At the time I was thinking about replacing an American Electrolux that had been giving good trouble free service for 50 years but had been recently showing signs of failing insulation…

My opinion is modernisation does not equal progress but does equal retrogression.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Vernon -if that doesn’t deserve a “thumbs up ” I don’t know what does . You have put concisely what I get upset about – modern commercial engineering philosophy is – get rich quick on the backs of the public. Morally bereft / City slick.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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When I was growing up,. we could not afford a fridge, let alone a freezer. Now we have three…….. and not because we are rich 🙁 Fewer people had cars, televisions, washing machines, dryers ,….would we rather these had been left as the preserve of the more affluent, or would we rather manufacturers had embraced design and production methods that brought them within reach of a much larger market?

Profile photo of AlgernonThePug
Member

Really disappointing that Which? have only now removed recommendations on these appliances , five years after the London Fire Brigade started to campaign for action on this very issue. I notice that the majority of the named-and-shamed fridges are Whirlpool Group products, the same company that have had previous problems with tumble dryers catching fire (still not resolved), and with their dishwashers. Meanwhile Which? even today continues to recommend a whole range of Whirlpool group products as best buys. In my view, the problem here is not specific appliances, it is the company, its culture, behaviour and processes. Which? appear to have their heads in the sand about that distinction. It really is about time that Which? took a stand, and stopped testing all Whirlpool products until the company provides compelling evidence that:

1) All of its products are safe,
2) that it has class-leading recall and rectification processes, and
3) it can prove that it has done everything possible to trace and fix the faulty products that it has happily sold for years.

Even with this latest and very modest action by Which?, it is recommended that current owners don’t take action. Given that the cause of the Grenfell fire is already known to be a specific Hotpoint model, is telling people not to be alarmed, and to do nothing really an acceptable or responsible recommendation?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The fridges and freezers with plastic backs are not confined to brands owned by Whirlpool, as far as I know.

The fridge-freezer that has been identified as the cause of the Grenfell Tower fire is an older model that has never been recalled. We don’t yet know if there is any more risk than with other appliances.

I don’t know if Which? looks at fire safety in its appliance testing, but I agree that this would be a very good idea.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Presumably the Fr/Fr in question has not been recalled because there has not been an identified safety problem. Unless the investigation shows otherwise. Nor, as far as we know, do we understand why it caught fire. Do you have this information?

“Fire safety” in household appliances is covered by international standards with very tightly specified testing. I hope that if Which? do these tests, they do them in accordance with these standards in properly equipped and staffed laboratories. If Which? discover an area they think could be improved, that is dealt with in a standard, then they can do investigative work and testing, discuss the results with the experts in the various disciplines, talk with BSI and hopefully publish the results on their website – if not in their magazine where they usually publicise their concerns.

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
Member

Our advice to those who already own one of these models is that refrigerator fires are rare and as such we’re not calling for a full product recall. Our July 2015 research into government fire data found that only 7% of fires caused by faulty appliances were caused by fridge-freezers, fridges or freezers.

Based on the evidence, we believe that non-flame retardant plastic backing material presents a safety risk due to its potential to allow an existing fire to spread – it isn’t the cause of fire itself – and future models should not be made in this way.

Our cold-appliance reviews now include additional information to state whether the product is flame retardant.

On Whirlpool, we made all fire-risk dryers manufactured before October 2015 Don’t Buys. Because we have concerns about how Whirlpool has handled the product safety issues surrounding its dryers, we’ve removed our Best Buy logos from all products made by Whirlpool-owned brands.

More info on our product safety work can be found here: http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/product-safety/article/which-action-on-product-safety-alerts

Profile photo of malcolm r
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@ldeitz, what tests have Which? actually done, and to what standard, to decide that there is non-flame retardant plastic backing material used, and have they discussed this with the relevant committee at BSI to see whether or not this meets the relevant standard (that requires plastics to be heat resistant and withstand the spread of fire)? If so, it would be useful if Which? published the response from BSI. I, for one, would sim[ply like the facts to be able to see what should be done.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks Lauren – Is Which? able to share any more information with us?

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

A very fair point Malcolm as if these products are effectively being branded as “unsafe” when they meet or exceed the standards then surely this is or could be viewed as discriminatory in a way. And, all the more so if it’s not been fully verified.

I’d like to know how this was all verified.

Is it just a case of asking the manufacturer and trusting what they said or, was it actually checked on all these models?

K.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Alex @aneill – Do you have any advice for those of us who may have fridges and freezers that have plastic backs that may or may not be non-combustible?

Profile photo of terfar
Member

I was considering one of these smoke/heat detector alarms to place by the fridge. But I cannot find any reliability information on it.
It would be good if Which? could give us some advice.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I’m not aware that Which? has tested heat alarms, which are generally recommended for use in kitchens. Unlike smoke alarms, they should not be set off by cooking.

Considering that Which? has found unsatisfactory carbon monoxide alarms on sale and, more recently, raised concern about a smoke alarm, I agree that advice on heat alarms would be useful. Here is the current advice about smoke alarms: http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/smoke-alarms/article/guides

Member
Kevin Watson says:
21 September 2017

Grenfell – Need I say more.

Profile photo of terfar
Member

I agree with Wavechange, it is an important question, “is the plastic back of my fridge, f/f or freezer made of combustible or non-combustible plastic?”

I’m not suggesting that we all throw out our serviceable products, but knowing means we can take appropriate steps, such as positioning a smoke/heat detector in the immediate vicinity of the product for a faster alert.

Our LEC larder fridge was purchased in 2012, model TL55142W. The back of the fridge is covered in a soft grey, lightly corrugated plastic. The only label on it says Pentane which I believe is the French name for Penthene, a main constituent of the refrigerant!

So I have no idea if the back is fire retardant or not.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
Member

No idea, that model looks to be a cheap Chinese made machine with a LEC badge slapped on it so I’d doubt safety was right up there on the list of requirements.

Price first no doubt.

K.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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None the less, for it to be legally sold anywhere in the EU it must comply with the EN 60335-1 safety standard that, as I have said before, requires plastics to resist heat and the spread of fire – and to pass all the tests given in the standard to demonstrate compliance.

If Which? have tested, and found non-compliance, I hope they will publish their results online.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Terfar – I believe that the pentane label indicates that the refrigerant is pentane, refrigerant code R601.

I have a heat alarm in my kitchen. I keep a smoke alarm on a picture hook so that it can be relocated to the dining room if cooking sets it off. It’s worrying that many don’t have any alarm in their kitchen or utility room.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
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Absolutely and there’s no way that GDHA, who own LEC, would knowingly bring one to market that did not do so.

K.

Member

Would Which like to explain why they are recommending plastic backed fridge freezers in their fire retardant category if they recommend a metal back? I. E the beko ccfm it seems which need to study their appliances a bit better.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Fridges a largely made of plastic, not just the backs of some (many?). Doors, body, internal fitments, lamp cover, insulation……… These materials must pass tests given in the international (and EN) standards to check their resistance to heat and spread of fire.I hope Which? will tell us what tests, if any, they have carried out on the fridges/freezers they are saying have “non-flame retardant plastic backs” to explain in detail.

I want fire-prevention in any household product to be as good as is sensibly possible. I will support appropriate proposals to improve this, including relevant standards. I simply want to see the evidence, the facts, and involvement of the experts responsible for constructing standards so a rational evaluation of better solutions can be examined and appropriate ones implemented.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I suspect that the doors of fridges is the only part that is almost certainly steel – so that children can stick fridge magnets on them. Mine has steel sides too.

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
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Hi Ash, some plastic backed models have been treated with flame-retardant. So, we are still recommending any model that has either a metal back, an aluminium laminate back or a flame-retardant plastic back. But we are no longer recommending models with a non-flame-retardant plastic back – does that clarify it for you?

Profile photo of Ashf
Member

its a shame which didn’t do their safety check when they where recommending these products before the incidents.

Member
karen lewis says:
21 September 2017

for the sake of a simple plate at the back of these appliances. how can you produce goods you know can kill people. I will be byimg appliances with this safe guard in future. A life is worth more than your profits!!!!

Member

I think it is a good idea to get manufacturers to stop making these dangerous appliances but I don’t think they will. So a better idea would be to stop all the stores that sell these items from selling faulty goods. Put a ban on the sale of all whirlpool, hotpoint and any other manufacturers that produces dangerous items. Thanks

Member
Martha Parry says:
21 September 2017

What alternatives to plastic are their, flame-retardant or not? NO MORE PLASTIC PLEASE; why not metal backs??? How much of white goods replacement is re-cycled for re-manufacture?

Profile photo of antrich
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It is not the system’s fault, but that of those whom we elected. They are supposed to oversee such failings and have not done so. They are the ones who need changing

Member

Good luck to you on this one we cant expect uk gov to do anything without a little push.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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It isn’t in the government’s hands (fortunately). It is in the hands of the international standards organisation – in this case the International Electrotechnical Commission.

Member
elaine says:
21 September 2017

I think all makers of white goods should be held accountable at factory level. Tested tested to an inch of there lives as they will be used by the purchaser, with all components tested the same way. Whatever they are doing now is clearly not good enough. maybe a government department should have all new components in white goods checked before going on sale

Member

Also remember the workers at these factories are also consumers! How about them standing up and being counted!

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Manufacturers must not only provide products to be tested completely to the relevant standards (which are detailed to ensure they are all tested in the same way) but they must also have quality control systems in place that meet international standards, that are routinely audited.

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If it’s ever possible to reduce this type of risk, it must be adhered to. You cannot put the minimal extra cost above lives!

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All very basic stuff and just common sense really you do not need a high paid exectutive with a mindset to positive corporate image to work this one through. What really gets to me is that these tight fisted numb brain manufacturers instead of just accepting they have made manuacturing and procurement risk management mistakes then take it upon themselves to go over the head of the experts and get their PR goblins to lobby gullible ministers and civil servants to leave things as they are and just let the body bags keep building up. I am sure this same type of blatant lobbying (probably calling in some party donation credit favours) was behind the Tower fire spread using cheaper unsuitable deadly materials despite expert and fire safety advice.

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Jon Chapman says:
21 September 2017

Most fridges and freezers sold in the UK are made in Europe to EU regulations (ISO) and CE marked to be safe to purchase and use. Perhaps when we get BRITISH STANDARDS back and the kite mark we can ensure that what we purchase, like diesel cars and tumble dryers, are fit for purpose again.

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British Standards have, for many years, reflected international standards. They are, in the main, simply an implementation of those and will continue to be so. The Kite Mark shows compliance when tested and issued by BSI. Other countries have similar certification marks against the same standards. If we did not continue this way then that would severely hamper our international trade – harmonisation of standards enable cross-border trading.

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Malcolm – Do you think appliances with plastic backs (other than the fire-retardant types) are safe, even though they comply with the relevant standards? The video produced by London Fire Brigade suggests not, at least to me.

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I am asking for information and whether or not products comply with safety standards. Then I can seen my personal view, what progress needs to be made. That needs to be done through BSI if standards require amendment. I hope Which? and BSI will reply to what they have been asked.

London Fire Brigade are listed as a member of the relevant BSI committee so, if they are doing their job, I am sure they will be making any necessary evidence known directly. Which? are not, but hopefully will soon begin to take part in what I regard as important work.

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Yes and that’s all fine and dandy but what they do not show is how they got those examples to be set alight and that is desperately important and as you are of scientific mind surely you of all would appreciate that half an experiment showing only the end result is of little real value.

What the LFB demonstrates there is merely that one type burns more dramatically than another and little else really.

The actual value of this is questionable if you ask me and the relevance to real work circumstances even more so.

Got some press though and fired people up, pardon the pun.

K.

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There are various reasons that fires can start in refrigeration equipment and you have given some in an earlier Conversation. The LFB video makes it clear to me that some investigation is necessary, even if only one fridge-freezer has been tested. Should we just ignore the concerns of LFB and wait for BSI et al. to update standards as they see fit?

For anyone who has not seen the video, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pvko16hqJ7g

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If no failure of standards can be proven then yes they should be ignored.

If a problem within those standards can be demonstrated through evidence then they should be amended to take account of any issue.

Here all I see is a pretty meaningless video intended to incite a reaction, no more than that.

K.

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It looks as if it has been sufficient to spur Which? into action. All the effort may have been worthwhile.

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Not really I consider it bogus.

Watch it again, spot the problem.

K.

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I’m not playing games, Ken. If the older plastic backs were safe, why have they been replaced with an alternative plastic, as you told us in an earlier Conversation? You referred to the new material as ‘resin’ but that’s a standard term used in the plastics industry.

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No, I referred to it as a compound. I did not specify what as often I wouldn’t know, no requirement to as it meets standards.

K.

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I have earlier referred to the working parties dealing with fire risks and the expert composition of the committees. None of this is about BSI “seeing fit”, which is a quite inappropriate comment. BSI are part of the international standards organisation and work with them to improve standards, using expert input from a range of relevant disciplines and bodies.

BSI act together with international bodies to work on safety standards and should be recognised for the sterling work they undertake and not denigrated. The LFB are part of the UK committee and are part of this standards process.

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I believe necessary standards work and proposals were being made well before this. I hope Which? and BSI work closely in future so that reporting can be properly coordinated.

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I’m glad we have standards, Malcolm, but for years I have considered some better than others.

You criticise many organisations from time to time, as most of us do. Yet BSI can seemingly do no wrong. Should we recognise our government, the Civil Service, businesses, quangos, education, the Health Service, etc. do sterling work too?

I could produce a list of inadequacies (in my view) of BSI, but the main one is failure to make standards publicly available when they are relevant to all of us. I’m not going to worship the organisation, and I strongly disagree with your criticism.

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Are you saying that the Fire Brigade faked the video, Kenneth?

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No.

K.