A report from UK fire chiefs last year identified household appliances as a serious fire risk. They believe that only one in five identifiably faulty appliances is returned to the manufacturers.
Government statistics show that faulty household appliances cause around 4,000 fires a year. There have been recent product recalls and warnings to do with tumble dryers, but other white goods such as dishwashers, washing machines and even fridges and freezers can pose a fire risk.
Should your fire risk assessment account for white goods?
White Goods Igniting
Given that plenty of workplaces also contain white goods in kitchen, canteen and staff rest areas, the potential for a fire from faulty appliances is wide.
A frequent cause of fires in both homes and workplaces are fridge freezers. Usually the cause of fire is an electric switch failure. This is the switch that controls the defrost and fridge freeze function.
The faulty switch causes a small fire at the back of the appliance to ignite, which in turn causes insulation materials to set alight – these are usually plastic or polystyrene based.
Older models may use pentane, a combustible refrigerant gas, which may then ignite or explode. Newer models of fridge freezer use propane, which is also combustible.
Propane is also used in larger, commercial models of fridge freezer.
The signs that something is faulty are usually when the defrost and freeze facilities malfunction – if the appliance constantly freezes up, or, conversely, fails to achieve a freezing temperature.
According to the consumer body Which?, some brands of appliance are more dangerous than others, and some appliances more likely to catch fire than others.
Washing machines come top, with tumble dryers following closely. But in fact, there is a wide range of appliances involved.
We take to take appliances for granted both in the home and the workplace, however, a thorough fire risk assessment will expose any risks.
Another way of reducing the risk of fire from faulty appliances is through a product recall. This, though, depends on the speed of the manufacturer in issuing a recall, and the channels it uses to do so.
If a product recall falls short, the risk remains.
The crucial thing to do is regularly check appliances, and if you think there is something wrong with any of them, check the manufacturer’s website for any recall notices.
If you do suspect there is a problem, such as the appliance making strange noises, then don’t take any risks. Unplug it and contact a qualified repairer, or the manufacturer.
Don’t Take a Risk
If you have any doubts about the safety of your workplace when it comes to fire, contact Comply at Work for a full fire risk assessment.