Ministers 'must act on faulty white goods fire risk'

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Image source, London Fire Brigade
Image caption,
A fire-damaged tumble dryer

More people will die from fires started by faulty white goods if ministers do not act to implement recommendations, the London Fire Brigade, the city's mayor, and safety groups have warned.

In a letter to Theresa May, they say some fridges and freezers are being sold with a flammable plastic backing.

People continue to use products that are subject to recalls, it adds.

The warning comes a year after a tower block fire in west London, started by a faulty tumble dryer.

The letter refers to the fire from August 2016 in Shepherds Court, which began in a Indesit dryer.

Despite taking 120 firefighters to bring the blaze under control, no one was injured in the fire.

But the incident prompted a series of safety recommendations, which, the letter says one year on, have not been acted on.

The government is due to respond later this year.

The letter says: "A year on, people across the UK are still using white goods that pose a serious fire risk and are subject to recall or corrective action.

"Worse still, some fridges and freezers are still being produced with a flammable plastic backing, which offers very little protection against the insulation foam inside catching alight if a fire starts."

Image source, @jasq11
Image caption,
At least 120 firefighters tackled the blaze in Shepherd's Court, west London

Chantal Froelich lives in Shepherds Court and was made homeless by the fire for more than three months.

" I can't believe it's a year on and these machines still haven't been recalled," she told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

"People are dying in these fires and we were just really lucky it wasn't one of us."

'Sleeping risk'

There have been 2,170 fires in London involving white goods since 2010, the fire brigade said.

It wants the government to put a single register of product recalls, including all international recalls, on its website.

It also wants risk assessments to be published when a fault is identified and for the "sleeping risk" to be included in these assessments.

The letter was signed by the London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Fire Brigades Union, the National Fire Chiefs Council and the charity Electrical Safety First.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
The Grenfell Tower fire started in a faulty fridge-freezer

The letter says other fire recommendations have not yet been implemented.

In 2014, a coroner suggested a series of safety recommendations to improve product recalls, following the inquest of Santosh Benjamin-Muthiah, a father who died saving his wife and children from a fire caused by a fridge-freezer.

The fire service said it was "extremely concerned" that "no substantial changes" have been made in the product recall system since then.

Mr Khan said the government's delay in implementing the LFB's recommendations was "inexcusable".

"The terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower in June is a stark reminder of just how devastating a fire caused by faulty white goods can be," he said.

The Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 80 people, started in a Hotpoint fridge-freezer. The product has not been recalled.

Consumer Minister Margot James said the government already has a "robust system" to inform people of faulty goods.

She said: "Our one-stop shop Product Recall website makes it clear to the public which white goods are safe to use at home and we are considering the framework for a national body to support consumers on product safety."

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