Last year, 4,732 fires were caused by faulty electrical appliances, including recalled items, the equivalent of thirteen fires per day across the UK. Faulty goods were responsible for twenty per cent of all electrical house fires, causing hundreds of casualties and in some cases death. Despite this, new research from Electrical Safety First shows that three in ten British consumers are willing to put themselves in danger by continuing to use a product they know has been recalled for safety reasons.
This study follows the UK Government’s launch of a new product safety office, tasked with researching how best to encourage consumers to respond to recall notices and drive up the number of people registering appliances with manufacturers.
If an electrical appliance has been registered, the manufacturer can contact its owner if the product needs to be recalled. However, new figures show that only 24% of consumers always register their electrical appliances. The top three reasons people give for not registering include “It’s too much hassle,”, “I meant to but I forgot” and “I didn’t think it would have any benefits”.
Forgetting might not be the only explanation for low registration levels. Many people don’t understand why manufacturers ask them to register their appliances. Almost two thirds of people think it’s so they can be sent marketing messages to promote other products.
Electrical Safety First is urging consumers to protect themselves from the huge risks of fire, electrical shock or even death that faulty appliances can present, by always registering their products so that manufacturers can contact them if there is a problem.
The Charity also recommends that the UK Government establishes a centrally managed product recall database, which would allow consumers to check that the appliances they are using are safe. Since 2007, there have been 516 recall notices issued for electrical goods in the UK. Given that only 10-20% of faulty goods are ever returned or repaired, there are potentially millions of dangerous appliances still in people’s homes.
To help make white goods safer, Electrical Safety First has been working with the London Fire Brigade to develop a new ‘voluntary mark’ to be used by manufacturers of fridges and freezers to demonstrate that they have been made from fire-resistant materials. Refrigerators with flammable plastic backs are a serious safety concern and can cause large, rapidly developing fires.
Selena Hall from London understands the devastating consequences of living with a faulty appliance after her Candy tumble dryer burst into flames last month.
“I heard a loud bang, which I thought was my daughter, and then I started to smell smoke. I ran downstairs and saw flames in the bottom of the tumble dryer. I was terrified.”
Selena says the fire service was there within ten minutes but by that time the flames had grown rapidly.
“As a plumber I knew not to throw water on the flames, but how many people know that? I think there needs to be more awareness about the dangers of tumble dryers. I took good care of the machine and regularly cleaned the filters, so I can’t understand why this happened.”
“I have never felt so scared, so vulnerable and useless. It was a terrible experience and could have been so much worse. It could have happened while my daughter and I were both sleeping – we could have died from the toxic fumes. I’m so grateful the fire fighters arrived as quickly as they did and were able to save our home, lives and cats.”
Phil Buckle, Chief Executive at Electrical Safety First commented:
“We regularly hear of fires, some of them fatal, which have been caused by faulty electrical appliances. We’re urging people to protect themselves from these risks by always registering their products. It only takes a few minutes, and will give you and your family peace of mind that you will be notified if a dangerous product is in your home.”
“Electrical Safety First fully supports the new Office for Product Safety and Standards and would like to work with them on ensuring that the UK’s product safety system works as effectively as possible. We strongly recommend that a centrally managed product recall database is established, which would allow consumers to check that the appliances they are using are safe. There is a lot more to be done to tackle the threat posed by dangerous electrical goods and we urge the new office to work in the best interests of consumers.”
To check if an electrical item has been recalled visit: electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/recall
and to register an appliance, visit: www.registermyappliance.org.uk/