Claire Rizos

Director

Author Bio ▼

Claire is Director of Clarity Safety Solutions Ltd., an Oban-based health and safety consultancy. She has more than 17 years of health and safety experience advising organisations and is a Chartered Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, an OSHCR registered consultant, and an IFE registered life safety assessor. Since attempting to leave the rat race in 2008, and moving to the West Coast of Scotland, Claire has written hundreds of articles, reports, policies, papers, newsletters, and training courses. Nevertheless, she continues to help clients directly with their health, safety, and fire safety arrangements both within the UK and abroad.
October 23, 2013

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Dorgard Pro: Holding fire doors open – until the alarm sounds

What Appliance Is Most Likely to Set Fire to Your Home?

Which? has recently reported on its findings about the propensity of different appliances to cause fires.

The consumer rights magazine analysed data collected by fire brigades about the causes of fires.

The results showed that of all fires caused by product faults washing machines made up 14 percent, tumble dryers 12 percent, and dishwashers 11 percent. It issued a warning to consumers that it isn’t the appliances they might expect that create the greatest fire risk — ovens, toasters, and irons seem more likely candidates.

Note that the data is subjective, as it relies on the opinion of the investigating fire officers.

Which? also analysed the brands involved, to the extent that this was possible from the data available. It found that some of the highest numbers were for Hotpoint dishwashers (one recalled model, plus another model, the DWF3, as yet not recalled) as well as Hoover and Candy washing machines, but emphasised that the lack of “market share” data, and the small numbers involved, means that “It’s not possible to say beyond doubt which brands are most likely to catch fire.”

In response, Hotpoint said, “We believe it is difficult to compare relatively small numbers of incidents against market share and draw these conclusions. Hotpoint’s assessment of the DWF3 dishwashers found the risk was ‘very low.’ As only a small number of these are still in use we concluded repairs weren’t necessary.” Hoover said its own data showed that damage and installation problems contributed to the fire numbers, that these were small, given the 2 million appliances in use, and that it was confident there were no common issues, because of its own thorough incident investigations.

Recall mayhem

As we’ve described previously even when a manufacturer decides that a product needs to be recalled, it’s never going to work out as it should. The Electrical Safety Council found that the average level of success was 10 to 20 percent for product recalls in the UK.

The lack of effectiveness of the recall process is supported by the Which? findings. It asked 1,091 members of the public about recalls:

  • A quarter reported that they had owned a product that was subject to a recall or safety notice.
  • The majority knew about the recall because they had received direct mailings from the manufacturer.
  • Two thirds contacted the company for a repair or a refund.
  • A quarter said they stopped using the product or threw it away.
  • Five percent decided to continue using the product.

Further investigation of consumer attitudes showed that notices which clearly stated the nature of the problem were far more likely to result in action than those which were looser in content.

Clearly, the best chance of finding out about a recall is to be registered, rather than hope to notice some advert in a newspaper. But consumers are sometimes reluctant to register purchases with the manufacturer, not wishing to sign themselves up for the inevitable stream of “extended warranty” offers.

The more useful safety angle is somewhat hidden to the average householder. After all, manufacturers are never going to promote registration with the words, “Tell us where our product is and who you are, so that we can let you know if it turns out to be a death trap.”

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Elsa Andersonphases3batyeRobert GrossmansafeNsane Recent comment authors
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JonathanL
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JonathanL

This article was informative, I will never look at my washer the same way again, there is no way I thought it would out pace the dryer as a fire hazard.  Thats just amazing.  The small appliances that you think are the biggest threat are actually down on the list.

safeNsane
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safeNsane

Well if you think about it, your washer is running water past open electrical components and often very close to those components.  Add in things like motors to increase water pressure in your dish washer or the motor that drives the drum on your clothes washer and you’ve got a part that gets very hot if things get a little out of normal tolerances.  Also this involved product faults not consumer faults like not cleaning lint traps so it’s not that surprising, rarely does a dryer get too hot, when they fail the heating element usually goes cold.

JonathanL
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JonathanL

I guess in my mind I equated it with water since the only problems I have ever had from a washing machine are busted hoses and dead water pumps.  I have seen however consumers using dryers in a fashions that they were never intended for like in place of a furnace.  Yep I have seen tools wedged into switches to keep the dryer running with the door open in attempts to warm a home and this inevitably leads to the dryers failure but also it is a large risk at the same time.  Its strange the ways that some people… Read more »

Rob Ratcliff
Guest
Rob Ratcliff

Yes, there’s some bonkers uses out there. I suspect if we were talking about fires from product misuse the chart would look very very different.

shehan
Guest
shehan

@JonathanL   – Overriding the default manufacturer features and settings is extremely dangerous and even cause serious damages to life. I wonder what they expect from doing this?

shehan
Guest
shehan

@safeNsane – Most manufacturers have sensors installed to detect any faulty and indicate. Some low cost manufactures so not have these features installed in their systems. I think it’s wise to look for these features when buying any appliance. 

safeNsane
Guest
safeNsane

I don’t know about sensors, maybe really new appliances do but older washers/dryers for example are about as simple as they can get, the safety features on them are more centered around not being able to put your hand into a spinning drum than shutting down due to a faulty wire or leaking hose.

shehan
Guest
shehan

Ohh I never knew my washing machine could create such a stir, thanks for information. I think it’s good to be more careful. 

Robert Grossman
Guest
Robert Grossman

“Washing machine could create such a stir?” Too funny…

batye
Guest
batye

yes, it funny, but sad… as fire safety is a must in any case… as a lot of the times manf. put products on the market with out  proper testing… expecting customers act as a testers…

Robert Grossman
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Robert Grossman

IU’m not sure this can always be blamed on the manufacturer. I have worked for two different manufacturers over the years, bith with exhausive testing and a serious commitment to quality control — and problems STILL slipped through. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t been on the inside, seeing the paces the products were put through, from heat to vibration to drop testing, only to have problems show up later. Sadly this included thermal problems in one case that led to smoke, but no fire (fortunately)

batye
Guest
batye

yes, you are right… but sometimes corners get cut… and end result is disaster waiting to happens…

Robert Grossman
Guest
Robert Grossman

And Murphy’s Law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy's_law) is always waiting in the wings…

batye
Guest
batye

at some places you will see more of Murphy’s Law… than in others… as many other factors in play…

shehan
Guest
shehan

@ JonathanL – yes these small appliances seems to be much dangerous than we ever thought. Sometimes I leave my dry clothes lying in the basket right next to the washing machine.

robertpmorley
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robertpmorley

Presumably this survey was only on electrical appliances – what happened to the chip pan?! Were the fires only within the appliance considered or only where the appliance fault led to a fire to the fabric of the building and where the fire brigade was notified? Obviously with a small sample size and without a better indication of contributing factors, including lack of maintenance, poor installation, incorrect operating regimes, age of appliance, usage load of appliance, etc., the data provided is really not worth very much nor greatly helpful in prevention of future events. It is well known and accepted… Read more »

Rob Ratcliff
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Rob Ratcliff

I think your last point there is crucial as to why this ‘study’ was issued, as the general lack of awareness and interest from the general public is key to the problem. If people were more on top of recalls the incidents of appliance-related fires would be lower.
Chip pan fires etc. weren’t included, it was only appliances.

shehan
Guest
shehan

@robertpmorley – I think we are in a world surrounded with many electrical machines which carry potential risk to life. We need to be careful when using them, as you said improper maintained and installation could be some reasons to set up a fire at home. 

Sheh
Guest
Sheh

@Shehan I think that masses  need to be educated on the subject. People are only aware of the benifits of an equipment but they are not aware of the hazardeous affects of same equipment in other situations. I think the presence of a manual or warning signs need to be placed at an appropriate place where they can be easily seen and understood.

shehan
Guest
shehan

I feel that the government and other authorities should communicate this information to the general public to safe guard their homes. They could use the media with some awareness campaings.

s.James
Guest
s.James

Could someone let us know please; How does a washing machine catch fire?
I ask because I would have thought that the casing of the machine would prevent an internal fire spreading. I know that cooling fans can cause a fire, as the capacitor in the motor has been known to explode.
Can one install a washing machine so that any fire would be unable to spread?

safeNsane
Guest
safeNsane

Well, you have wiring, circuitry in the control panel, plastic parts, dust and lint to name a few fuel sources.  Then you mix in things like cleaning chemicals and malfunction and you’ve got a party.
 
Here’s a clip of fires that started in a washing machine.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBcI4r-FIw4
 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest
Rob Ratcliff

Great find, amazing images!

shehan
Guest
shehan

@safeNsane – Scary images, thanks for sharing. I wonder how these devices caught on fire and how it affected the rest of the goods around it. I’m sure this is enough to set your entire house on fire. 

safeNsane
Guest
safeNsane

It is hard to know what happened to anything around those washing machines but in some circumstances I wouldn’t be surprised if the damage wasn’t much worse than just some melted casing.  Anytime you have electricity and water in close quarters you have the potential for trouble. 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest
Rob Ratcliff

Would be interesting to know that, yes, but I think we can fairly assume that faults are the root cause by in large, either with the appliance or the electrics it’s plugged into. A fire from an appliance like this can be devastating, but equally it could remain relatively self-contained. There’s so many factors.

batye
Guest
batye

shehan, it reming me about russian color tv in poland…. almost every each secound tv… catch fire after 6 months of use….

s.James
Guest
s.James

Dear safeNsane,
Thank you so very much for replying to my post; I cannot thank you enough for the link to those terrifying pictures. I’m now totally rethinking my washing machine installation. Health & Safety are concerned about CO poisoning and it now seems to me that washing machines are just as dangerous as gas appliances. Thanks again and I like your picture.
Best wishes, s.James

Rob Ratcliff
Guest
Rob Ratcliff

Do you think then that your life would be safer if you removed the washing machine and just relied on a launderette instead then? Or are you going to reinvest in a more expensive, potentially more reliable machine? (and make sure you register it with the manufacturer for any recall notices)

safeNsane
Guest
safeNsane

I’m reading this with a healthy dose of sarcasm and I hope that’s the case. Yes things like washing machines catch fire and they can do damage but as you noted there are many other things to worry about, now we just know that some of the appliances we worry about catching fire aren’t the most likely suspects. 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest
Rob Ratcliff

Theoretically you could put it in a small utility room that was really well protected with passive fire products, fire doors etc. but to encase the product in fire proof materials would make the product prohibitively difficult to use, right? And that’s what fire protection is at the heart of: it has to make things safe, but there will always be a risk no matter how much you mitigate.

shehan
Guest
shehan

@s.James – I’m not sure if we have fire safe coating material inside the washing machine. However as you said these little components inside could catch fire when the overload or have some malfunction. 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest
Rob Ratcliff

You can’t fire coat everything. Much better to spend the money on better components that are less likely to malfunction, no?

batye
Guest
batye

Rob, I could not agree more, quality of components play a big role… as example few weeks ago Apple started replacing OEM/No name chargers for it products… better safe than sorry…

SunitaT
Guest
SunitaT

It is very essential to find out the rate at which different appliances in the home have their own propensity of causing fire. This is why there have been the variance in the type of appliances used and thus the difference in the maintenance of the particular objects. Making the effort to know the worth of the fire risks is very important as it can help in making sure the appliances are protected from the risks against fire and other objects. The types of brands one purchases is yet another factor one must consider when purchasing such appliances.
 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest
Rob Ratcliff

The brand point is interesting. Do you think a brand can recover from negative stories about their appliances being set alight? Beko is a good example. I know lots of people who don’t trust Beko fridge-freezers after the press reports a few years ago about fires. However, they’re still on the High Street and selling units, so clearly not everyone feels the same.

phases3
Guest
phases3

@shehan Just turn them off when your not in attendance and ignore the guys selling mobile apps to turn things on remotely!!

Elsa Anderson
Guest
Elsa Anderson

You did a great job of including statistics of appliances that are highly likely to set on fire in every household, such as: dishwashers, ovens, toasters, and irons. Some of my appliances are beyond the extended warranty seal and it is important that I make a note of these to avert possible accidents especially that I am always out working. While I trust that my appliances are durable, based on the reputation of the brand carrier, it is still best to have those checked and fixed if there are any slight problems with an appliance repair expert. Thank you for… Read more »

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