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Consumer watchdog brands refrigeration appliance fire tests 'inadequate'

​The consumer watchdog Which? has criticised current fire safety tests for refrigeration appliances as deficient, resulting in products which pose a potential fire risk being sold to consumers.

Kitchen gutted by fire

8 December 2017

Campaigners for fire safety, including the London Fire Brigade, have for years been calling for fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers with non-flame retardant plastic backing to be removed from sale.  These types of appliances are able to pass existing safety standard testing but Which? has said that this testing does not realistically replicate a real house fire.
 
The current British Standards Institute test involves passing a hot wire through the backing material of the appliance to see if it catches alight. However, Which? has put samples of backing through stronger testing which consists of holding the material to an open flame. The material only passed the test if it could withstand the open flame for at least 30 seconds. Two different types of plastic backing were put through this test by Which?, both set alight after just 10 seconds. 
 
Which? also used the same testing method on metal and aluminium-laminate backing material and found that those materials did not catch alight, even after five minutes’ exposure to the open flame.
 
The consumer watchdog is has stopped recommending the purchases of refrigeration appliances with non-flame retardant backing, which it says makes up almost half the products on sale. Which? are calling for manufacturers to voluntarily adopt the stronger safety testing.
 
The British Standards Institute has said that it has strengthened how fridges and freezers will be tested for safety, however, the new rules are not yet in force.
 
Jill Paterson, solicitor in the consumer law and product safety team at Leigh Day, who represents a number of people affected by appliance fires, said:
 
“We welcome this call from Which? to implement stronger fire safety testing of refrigeration appliances as soon as possible.
 
“The testing by Which? highlights once again the potential dangers of non-flame-retardant backed fridges and freezers, something which the LFB and safety campaigners have been highlighting for years.
 
“Once again it seems like warnings are falling on deaf ears and the government appears in no rush to improve safety for consumers.”
 

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