London Fire Brigade (LFB) has called for rules to be tightened on the plastics used in modern fridge, freezer and fridge freezer models after extensive research shows that these appliances pose a serious fire risk to homeowners.
The report from the LFB finds that modern fridge and freezer models contain much more plastic than older models and highly flammable insulation that both burn quickly and give off toxic gases.
According to the LFB when compared to figures from the USA where one in twenty five fires results in some form of injury, in the UK one in every five incidents results in someone being injured.
There is an average of 336 fires that involve fridges or freezers in the UK every year injuring 69 people and the LFB is seeking more stringent safety standards for these appliances.
LFB Deputy Commissioner Rita Dexter said in a statement: "Unfortunately, on rare occasions problems do occur and the result can be a big fire with potentially tragic consequences. This is why it's so important to make sure that if a fire involving a fridge or freezer does start, it doesn't spread.London Fire Brigade wants to see tougher standards so that the highly flammable insulation in fridges and freezers is better protected from fire. In the meantime, our advice is that if people notice any strange noises coming from their fridge or freezer, they should call the manufacturer or an electrical repair expert immediately."
However there are some practical tips that we can offer to minimise any risk if you are concerned and, there are circumstances where caution is strongly advised.
When you install a fridge, freezer, fridge freezer or chest freezer please ensure that it is installed into a suitable environment according to the instructions given by the manufacturer and the climate class.
As we point out in this article on installing refrigeration to low temperature environments, no domestic appliances that we are aware of currently are suitable for installation to low temperature or high moisture environments. That means that all are unsuitable for unheated areas such as garages, outbuildings, sheds and so on an when they are installed in these environments the performance cannot be guaranteed along with an increased safety risk.
Where there is no option we strongly recommend that you ensure that the appliance is installed on a circuit that has RCD protection to prevent any short circuits from causing a fire and, where that they are not protected by your home RCD circuit that you install one of these cheap RCD adaptor units to ensure safety. The reason being that, as soon as there is any danger detected an RCD will trip the power ensuring your safety.
If the RCD trips, have the appliance seen to by an engineer to locate the cause of the earth fault. To use an appliance without the RCD in place when it was tripping is highly dangerous.
Fire brigades across the UK will all tell you exactly what we are going to tell you, make sure that you have a smoke alarm fitted and make sure that it works regularly. These devices save lives.
Any appliance can suffer from a problem and, although statistically very rare, they can on occasion catch fire or smoulder giving off smoke and unpleasant fumes. We therefore would underline the various fire brigade's advice to have a smoke alarm fitted and ensure that it is operating correctly on a regular basis.