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Consumer charity raises safety concerns over fridge freezers

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

Much has been written about the safety of white goods in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster – with campaign work still ongoing.

In a special article for RPI magazine we looked at the risks – particularly in rental homes and at what landlords should do to make sure their tenants are safe.

Speaking prior to the Grenfell Tower blaze Charlie Pugsley of London Fire Brigade warned about the insulation in fridges and freezers – polyurethane insulation foam that is highly flammable.  He said the effect is similar to having a solid bock of petrol.

Now, following a review of reviewed cold-appliance safety, consumer charity Which? has written to fridge-freezer manufacturers urging them to stop using non-flame retardant plastic backing in their appliances.

The call comes after evidence from London Fire Brigade indicated that the risk of a fire spreading is greater with non-flame retardant plastic-backed cold appliances and following the Grenfell Tower tragedy – a fire started by a fridge freezer.

Which? is also asking the industry to accelerate the introduction of tougher safety standards, so the use of potentially flammable backing material is no longer allowed.

It says it has ‘significant concerns’ about the safety of some models of fridges, freezers and fridge freezers on the UK market and is advising consumers – including landlords – not to buy them. In total, it has stopped recommending almost 240 products, dozens of which were previously ‘Best Buys’.

What if I already own one of these appliances?

The concern is that the backing material allows an existing fire to spread – it isn’t the cause of fire itself. However, Which? says if you need a new fridge, freezer or fridge freezer you should buy one with flame-retardant backing.

Standards

All cold appliances on the market have to meet the current British Standard before they can go on sale. However, Which? has described this British Standard as ‘deficient and inadequate’.

It has asked the industry to:

  • Stop producing cold appliances with non-flame retardant plastic backs
  • Support the call to make the new standard stronger
  • Ensure that all new cold appliances meet the proposed stronger standard immediately.
  • Do more to protect consumers

It also wants the government to urgently set up a new national body to take responsibility for ensuring manufacturers keep households safe and get dangerous products out of people’s homes quickly, before there is further tragedy or loss of life.

Alex Neill, managing director of Which? home and product services, said: “People who already have one of these models in their homes shouldn’t be alarmed, but our advice is that ​no-one should purchase one from new.

“Manufacturers must immediately stop making fridges, freezers and fridge freezers to a standard ​that they know is clearly deficient and inadequate, and could potentially be putting people’s lives at risk.

“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.”

The RLA is working with the government to promote urgent fire safety checks in PRS homes.

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the RLA wrote to newly appointed Fire Services Minister Nick Hurd supporting moves towards a full review of fire safety in residential accommodation across all tenures.

Representatives of the RLA also attended Andy Burnham’s Fire Safety Summit on High Rises held the week after the Grenfell disaster, with policy manager John Stewart calling for a review of fire safety and building regulations at a consultation meeting ahead of the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

It has also backed London Fire Brigade’s Total Recalls campaign, asking for a single, publicly accessible register of product recalls and greater regulation of second hand appliances.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Communications Manager for the RLA and Editor of RPI magazine. With 16 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and editorial content for our media partners.

She issues press releases promoting the work of the RLA and its policies and campaigns to the regional and national media and works alongside the marketing team on the association’s social media channels to build support for the RLA and its work.

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