Rise in unidentifiable fire-risk appliances putting homes and families in danger

People’s lives are potentially being put at risk, as fire officers are increasingly unable to identify white goods that cause fires in the home, new research by Which? has revealed.

An analysis of the most recent UK fire data shows there were 3,203 fires caused by faulty appliances such as washing machines, tumble dryers and fridge freezers – equating to more than 60 fires a week on average –  between April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.

However, fire investigators could only identify crucial information about the brand or model of the appliance in 33 per cent (1,044 in 2016/17) of fires.

This is a significant drop on the previous three years, where fire investigators were able to identify the make and model in almost half of white goods fires, and means it is becoming even harder for the authorities to link dangerous products to domestic fires and gather the evidence necessary to initiate a product recall.

This critical flaw means that fire statistics cannot currently be used by bodies such as Trading Standards and the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to hold the manufacturers of these unsafe products accountable.

Which? is now calling for the Office for Product Safety and Standards to include commitments in its forthcoming strategy to ensure that manufacturers use fire-proof labelling on all of their appliances so that unsafe white goods can be identified and removed from consumers’ homes.

Stamping a unique identification number, such as a serial code, into a small metal plate and placing it on the appliance would be a practical way of ensuring identification. It could be similar to the vehicle identification number (VIN) used to identify cars and would ensure that fire investigators can  identify the make and model of any appliance they’ve deemed to have caused a fire.

Indelible labelling would make fire trends far easier for the Government and manufactures to analyse and act on, potentially meaning that appliances with a known issue are repaired or recalled before they cause more fires.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

“The number of fires caused by faulty washing machines, tumble dryers and fridge freezers has stayed shockingly high for a number of years, but our research shows its getting harder to identify the make and model of the appliance in the majority of instances.

“The Government must set out in it’s forthcoming product safety strategy how it will ensure that manufacturers use fire-proof labelling on all of their appliances, so that identified dangerous white goods can be quickly removed from people’s homes, and potentially save lives.”

Notes to Editors:

Fire statistics are collated separately by each UK nation. Figures relating to fires in England are published on the Home Office website, with 2016/17 data being released in May 2018. Minor revisions to this dataset could still be made at a future date.

When manufacturers are made aware of a possible fault with one of their products, they carry out a risk assessment to try and determine the likelihood and potential severity of a fire involving that model.

If the level of risk is deemed to be high, the manufacturer should (but has no obligation to) issue a modification programme or a product recall. The more fires there are where the make and model faulty appliance is unidentified, however, the less likely that is to happen.

Total number of household fires caused by faulty appliances by country 

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland Total
2012/13 2,751 208 287 N/A N/A
2013/14 2,632 173 276 153 3,234
2014/15 2,611 167 292 144 3,214
2015/16 2,413 174 283 122 2,992
2016/17 2,609 184 268 142 3,203

Number of UK household fires linked to faulty washing machines, tumble dryers, cookers (including oven), dishwashers and fridges, freezers and fridge freezers.  

Washing machines Tumble dryers Cookers (inc. ovens) Dishwashers Refrigeration
2013/14 545 430 364 412 267
2014/15 548 525 346 378 279
2015/16 556 547 328 263 222
2016/17 616 623 359 328 222


Press Release