How safe are domestic appliances in reality?
Every now and then there is a news item or such that will latch onto some dangerous appliance scare story, normally it’s something surrounding fires, recalls, explosions and so on, very often making people very afraid of the “danger” lurking in their kitchen.
The truth however is almost never what the headlines make people think.
In fact we’d argue that modern large domestic kitchen appliances are probably some of the safest products that you can own and that they will rarely present any danger to you at all so long as:
- They are installed correctly
- They are maintained correctly
- They are used correctly
If however you you break any of these golden rules then yes, hey can prove to be dangerous, just as dangerous as a lawnmower not maintained, used or operated properly or, a car or almost anything else that involved mechanics and moving parts.
Stay within the the guidelines and the chances of anything untoward happening is extremely remote indeed. We’ll come back to that in a bit.
Every week we see reports of a washing machine fire, occasionally a tumble dryer fire and on the odd occasion a cooker or oven fire.
In the case of washing machines there are any number of reasons however when you actually dig down past the attention grabbing headline what you will often find is a burnt out controller or motor, sometimes a simple overload and smoke from the seal. Not an actual fire.
Fact is, there’s not all that much to burn in a washing machine.
Tumble dryers as we’ve said many times, is usually as a result of poor maintenance (especially filters and condenser cleaning) or things in the dryer that should never have been in there catching light.
Cookers and ovens are usually a result of spillage or whatever was in or on it that has caused the fire.
In other words, in virtually all cases these incidents are as a result of a simple failure or, more often, as a result of either improper maintenance or all too often, use.
Our advice mirrors that of every fire brigade on this topic though, make sure you have a working smoke alarm, test it regularly as they also need to be maintained or you put yourself and your home at risk. And, from more than just any appliance danger.
However due to the concerns surrounding this particular topic every now and agains we have published a series of articles that are intended to help you understand and avoid any risk, most of it is common sense and specific articles can be found from the following:
When a manufacturer recalls a product then it is for a reason, there can be a number of explanations as to why that they would issue a recall from a fear of legal action through to advertising and very often nobody will ever get to the bottom of why.
Most that we have seen however are borne of a genuine desire to respect the safety of buyers.
We say this as to issue a safety recall notice or even a full blown recall is hugely expensive and laborious to accomplish. It puts massive pressure on the service side of the business and generates a lot of negative press or, can do. So manufacturers are not exactly keen to do this as, there’s normally no benefit to them in doing so.
Recalls however are far from new and there’s usually at least one or two going on at any given time. It’s been this way for decades.
The only time it hits the news cycle is when it is large, generates a good headline and there’s mileage in the story. It fills up content in newspapers, TV shows, websites and often will get someone’s face in the news.
What should probably be more of a concern is what we like to call a soft recall.
Anyone that’s ever worked in almost any service department will have seen this sort of thing where you have a commonly failing component that is changed or “modified” in order to prevent (or try to prevent) further failures.
This is not normally carried out free of charge but instead at the cost of the owner or the warranty company covering the costs.
Some of these should probably be carried out free of charge, perhaps some should even justify a safety notice or similar but, they are not. Owners are faced with the choice of paying to have the repair or not.
We have never seen one of these reported in the news.
The Odds Of Danger
We promised to come back to this earlier.
In 2013 there was an outbreak of “exploding washing machines” by Hoover and some from Indesit and Hotpoint and in the trade forums, where there was a warm debate about the topic Kenneth Watt posted the following to explain the odds of disaster striking:
There are approximately 27 million homes in the UK almost all of which will have a washer. Let's say that there are 25 million washers out there for round numbers.
Using the average of 2.3 people to each doing the average 117 washes per year per person, that's 269 washes per year, per home which equates to 6,727,500,000 wash cycles run in the UK every year.
Even if it was two fires per week that put the odds of such an instance happening to you at over 64,680,000:1.
The odds of being in a plane crash are 11,000,000:1 almost six times greater risk.
The odds of being killed in a car crash 5000:1. An order of magnitude more dangerous.
In actuality, you've more chance of death from falling out of bed and, I'm serious.
Out of all the washing machine fires I've seen over the past decade or so, not a single fatality. Not one. Ever.
So the odds of a washing machine causing a fatality through a fault or fire are utterly staggeringly, infinitesimally small so much so I can't even point to a single example of it happening worldwide. Which is why nobody is interested.
The chance of a fire is extremely low even leaving aside the possibility of a fatality being caused.
Which goes to show you just how safe appliances actually are and it's actually far more surprising that there are not more serious incidents than there are when you actually run the numbers and take into account some of the stupid things people do.
I'm not saying that anyone should be complacent at all, I'm just demonstrating what the actual risk is from a statistical viewpoint and why the press and government don't care. And, probably never will unless there's a big off like what happened to Beko recently where they can identify a potential (serious?) risk and hold someone accountable for it.
But, to get the numbers to do that to others given the data, probably nigh on impossible as there simply aren't enough incidents to warrant it. then, when you do see them reported, not enough data as, like I said, you usually don't even know what brand it was let alone anything else.
Of course since then we have had the debacle with Samsung washing machines going on fire in Australia which have, allegedly, led to a fatality but in far more than a decade, that’s the only one we’ve seen.
The point being, while don't be complacent as that could be disasterous for you, equally don't worry too much and follow the advice given and you've less chance of an applaince disaster than many more exotic problems as you can see.
Behind The Headlines
We live in an age where media both social and traditional is often used for purposes other than reporting the facts. And, we are constantly bombarded with slews of information.
Key facts are often omitted, diluted or misrepresented in order to pursue an agenda and very often we will see details not given or perspective. We suspect because if it were, there would often be no story at all.
To illustrate the point read through the online reports of fires or incidents with appliances, you will find a number of holes in the reports such as, no brand names given, no reasons given as to why it happened, no follow up on what the cause was and so on.
The reason we think for this is that the press is clever, they do not want sued for stating that a “brand” washing machine, dryer or whatever went on fire only to find that it was caused by misuse later and have to pay up as well as retract and try to repair the damage.
Equally, if the “incident” later proves to be caused by the owner, where the machine was or such this we have never seen reported, ever.
What you have to keep in mind here is that some people may be seeking compensation, looking for a big payout because of some incident. There can be legal firms that release the story in order to leverage compensation or, a larger payout which if we were cynical, leads to a bigger payout for them. Then there’s the press itself who need to fill space with content.
Over the years we’ve dug down into a number of these incidents both completely independently as it has been an industry story or working with various media outlets and rarely do the initial claims made in many of these scare stories stand up to scrutiny.
What you see being reported may not always be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The good in this however is that it makes people aware and reminds everyone that, if applainces (any appliance from a toaster to a dryer) are not used, installed and so on properly then they can be dangerous and, that's a really good message to get across.