Faulty appliances cause 12,000 fires, Which? research finds

A firefighter holding two helmetsImage source, PA

Malfunctioning household appliances caused almost 12,000 fires in Britain in just over three years, research by consumer group Which? has found.

Washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers were the most likely items to cause fires, the research suggested.

Which? is urging people to register appliances they buy with manufacturers so they can be alerted of any recall.

The government figures, obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, cover January 2011 to March 2014.

Fires included in the figures were those caused by appliances that were "faulty, incorrectly installed or improperly maintained".

Which appliances caused the most fires?

  • 14% washing machines (1,723)
  • 12% tumble dryers (1,456)
  • 11% dishwashers (1,324)
  • 9% cookers (1,080)
  • 7% fridges / freezers (861)
  • 5% central heating (606)
  • 4% toasters / grills (495)
  • 4% microwaves (427)
  • 3% TVs (372)
  • 2% washer dryers (225)
  • 1% irons (92)

(Proportion and number of fires caused by faulty appliances between January 2011 and March 2014 based on government fire data.)

Source: Which?

Of the top 12 appliances looked at by the consumer group, irons were the least likely to cause a fire, with 92 incidents in the time period compared to 1,723 caused by washing machines.

Which? highlighted research by Electrical Safety First, which found that only a third of people register the electrical appliances they buy - meaning they may not be notified if faulty items are recalled by manufacturers.

"If an appliance is found to be dangerous, manufacturers issue a safety notice to alert owners, but knowing who owns their products can prove problematic," Which? said.

Case study: "Smoke poured out"

Image source, Tim Kent
Image caption,
Tim Kent's washer-dryer burst into flames

Tim Kent lives in a houseboat in London and had smoke pour from his washer-dryer because of a faulty circuit board.

"It happened without any warning. There was a smell of smoke and smoke pouring out from behind the machine," he said.

"Luckily, I was at home at the time. The entire inside of the boat is wood, all very flammable.

"It was a surprise to me. I presumed EU health and safety standards meant these things would be safe.

"I never registered the product as I did not want to be constantly pestered by call centres. I have now learned I might also have been able to get it repaired had I registered it, or if I still had the receipt.

"Statistically are these machines becoming more dangerous I wonder? Mine went wrong because of a printed circuit board, presumably a cheap component."

Executive director Richard Lloyd said it was "shocking" that everyday appliances could "pose such a danger".

Mr Lloyd said owners should be "reassured they can register their appliance without inadvertently signing up for marketing".

The government is reviewing the system for recalling appliances that may be dangerous.

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