The Facts around Tumble Dryer Fires

Hotpoint Indesit facia panelsWhirlpool brandsThe Whirlpool, Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryer fire story has been a hot topic for many consumer organisations who are pushing for a recall of the affected dryers, rather than the modification that Whirlpool took on when they purchased the brands back in 2014. The affected models potentially numbered into the millions as the safety notice applied to tumble dryers produced between April 2004 – September 2015.

This presented a number of issues:

  1. How to locate all these tumble dryers and are they still in use or have they been scraped.
  2. How to modify them with the current service force.
  3. How to maintain stock levels to facilitate the modifications.

An extensive advertising campaign was launched on tv and in newspapers. Customers that had registered their appliance were contacted first but of course if they have moved that information would be out of date. As owners of the affected models came forward in time they were contacted. There are still many affected models out there that haven’t been reported and the advice of whirlpool not to use them is being ignored.

Whirlpool established a two prong approach to the engineer issue. Quite clearly there would not be sufficient spare capacity with their existing workforce as they would still need to maintain the current service requirements of the business. They began a recruitment and training program for new engineers and also sub contracted to independent engineers around the country.

Whirlpool dryer modification pop rivit

The modification involved removing and replacing the back panel, rear seal and bearing, installing a pop rivet into the rear of the drum and while the drum is removed giving the whole appliance a good clean, removing any build up of lint that may have bypassed the seals. The whole process should take around 45 minutes.

The purpose of the pop rivet is to scrape the rear seal and help prevent any build up of lint as can be seen in the image.  In our opinion due to how little the rivet touches the rear seal lint will still build up.

Whirlpool dryer lint build up on rear seal

This image demonstrates a modified dryer that is still starting to collect lint on the rear seal.

We feel that the modification has not resolved the issue of customer education in the correct use of there dryers.

Also included in this safety notice are some Proline and Swan brands.

Currently Logik, Siemens and Beko also have safety notices in place for some of their models.

Tumble dryers have always been a cause of fires due to a build up of lint igniting on a heater element. We at The Institute for White Goods Engineers feel that;

a. More emphasis needs to be placed on training customers and instalation personnel in the correct use and installation procedures.

b. Also manufactures need to add sensing to check air flow and prompt filter cleaning.

Lint build up occurs mainly when the air flow from the fan, through the clothes, lint filter, condensing chamber (for condensing dryers), vent hose and wall vent are restricted in any way. If there is a restriction pressure builds up in the drum forcing air and lint past the seals.

It is vitally important that:

  1. The lint collector is emptied after every use.
  2. If the dryer is a condensing type, the condensing chamber is removed at least once a month and cleaned.
  3. If it has a vent hose, check that this hasn’t been crushed usually by pushing the tumble dryer back onto it.
  4. Checking the wall mounted vent to the exterior of the building hasn’t become restricted by a build up of lint.
  5. Location also plays a big role, if the dryer is in a location where dust, pet hairs, leaves or anything else can be sucked in, these too can build up and become a potential source of ignition.

The best advice we can provide for our members is, Check for obstructions and remove any build of lint when ever your service engineer opens a dryer for service or repair.

Tumble Dryer lint removal following a serviceAdvise your customers on the use and cleaning that is necessary.

Also a possible solution to the crushed vent hose problem could be to place two 100mm blocks of timber on the floor. This isn’t ideal as will often result in the dryer protruding further than liked, but a house fire is less than ideal also.

UPDATES:

4th April 2019

The review, by the Government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards, found that there is a low risk of harm or injury from lint fires in modified machines.

The review explored whether Whirlpool’s technical modification, designed to further reduce the risk of lint fires arising from its tumble dryers, was effective in both design and installation, while also reviewing whether Whirlpool’s consumer outreach programme was adequate.

Read our Press Notice: Review of Whirlpool Tumble Dryer modification finds fire risk is low

12th June 2019

Reports in the media that the Government has ordered a recall of 500,000 tumble dryers under the Whirlpool brand such as Hotpoint, Creda, Proline and Swan.

Currently we can find no supporting evidence that this has taken place and currently as of the above date Whirlpools safety Notice website states the following:-

“Please note that this is not a new campaign and was launched in November 2015. Recent media attention relates to the ongoing campaign. If you have registered for a modification previously then you do not need to register again.

This issue refers only to tumble dryers manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015. Anything manufactured after this date is not affected.

If your tumble dryer has already been modified or you have purchased a replacement machine from ourselves then please be assured that this issue is now resolved for you and no further action is required.”

8th July 2019

A letter from D. Jeffrey Noel, Corporate Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, Whirlpool to Graham Russell, Chief Executive, Office for Product Safety & Standards

9th July 2019

A reply letter from Graham Russell, Chief Executive, Office for Product Safety & Standards to D. Jeffrey Noel, Corporate Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, Whirlpool

Which in parts says: I can confirm that OPSS will accept your proposal on the basis set out in your letter of 8 July. To enable us to monitor the recall you must inform us in a timely manner of relevant information, which we will set out.

We expect this action to provide for an effective recall of the unmodified products, such that it would not be considered necessary to issue a recall notice at this time. The acceptance of your proposal does not preclude OPSS from taking enforcement action in the future should there be any reason to reconsider adequacy and effectiveness of the corrective action, including any lack of sufficient and timely progress towards implementation.

10th July 2019

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial StrategyOffice for Product Safety and Standards, and Kelly Tolhurst MP

Published the following:

Whirlpool UK Appliances Ltd is to issue a product recall of tumble dryers not yet modified from consumers’ homes.

The announcement follows an intervention on 4 June by the government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) which informed Whirlpool of its intent to serve a Recall Notice.

Under the recall, consumers with an unmodified, affected tumble dryer will be entitled to a new replacement machine. This will be delivered and installed, with the old one removed, all at no cost.

Whirlpool has agreed to undertake a number of actions required by OPSS, and which have been reviewed by an Expert Panel, consisting of an independent Queen’s Counsel and 3 Chief Scientific Advisors from the Home Office, Health and Safety Executive and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. These actions are set out in an exchange of letters between OPSS and Whirlpool but include commitments to:

  • deliver a significant new consumer outreach campaign with wide ranging publicity of the product recall aimed at reaching affected consumers and driving up awareness
  • guarantee no charges for delivery, installation or removal of machines
  • improve identification of, and outreach to, vulnerable consumers
  • provide OPSS with timely reporting of progress made in the product recall

Consumer Affairs Minister Kelly Tolhurst said:

The UK has some of the toughest consumer protection laws in the world. Our intervention demonstrates that we will take all the necessary steps to keep consumers safe.

I want to reassure consumers that we are doing everything to ensure consumers with unmodified machines are made aware and have their tumble dryer replaced.

Consumers with an unmodified machine should contact Whirlpool to arrange a free replacement.

The decision follows a review by OPSS, published in April 2019 which instructed Whirlpool to reach affected consumers in more creative ways to minimise the risk of unsafe machines still being in people’s homes. Owners of unmodified, affected tumble dryers should unplug and contact Whirlpool.

Whirlpools product recall/safety notice page remains the same insisting that this relates to the ongoing product recall, and that modified dryers and those that fall out side the date range remain safe to use.

20th July 2019

Jeff Noel, Whirlpool
Jeff Noel, Corporate Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs

Whirlpool issue the following open letter from Jeff Noel, Corporate Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, Whirlpool on there webpage: https://dryerrecall.whirlpool.co.uk/

Dear valued customer,

Safety is our top priority and tackling the issue with our tumble dryers has been one of the biggest challenges we have ever faced. We value our customers more than anything and we recognise that we let many of you down. You deserved better from us and for this we apologise to you all.

We are honoured that our brands have been a part of British homes for more than a century and we are immensely proud to still be manufacturing our appliances in the UK. We recognise the huge responsibility we bear and always strive to do the right thing.

We work continuously to build better, safer products and help to drive change that improves safety across the industry.

When we bought Indesit in 2014, we didn’t just acquire a great British company, we welcomed its 5,000 employees and pensioners, and its millions of loyal customers in the UK into the Whirlpool family. With that comes a duty of care for their safety that is of the utmost importance to us.

The safety of Indesit’s tumble dryers was consistent with other brands’ appliances in the market. They met all UK and European regulations too, but Whirlpool demands higher standards, so, we applied our own safety policies to review Indesit’s products. Our review found a potential safety issue in Indesit’s tumble dryers concerning the build-up of lint. It affects certain models made between 2004 and 2015 that were sold under the Indesit, Hotpoint, Creda, Swan and Proline brands.

Even though evaluations under the EU’s official risk assessment system identified this as a low risk issue – its lowest category – we were not satisfied. Shortly after purchasing Indesit, we raised our concerns with the UK regulator and launched a campaign to fix the problem.

We did that because we believed it was the right thing to do to for people’s safety.

We are the first to admit we got some things wrong and could have done some things better. Due to the scale of the challenge, we left many consumers waiting too long and did not provide the level of service we expect of ourselves. That should never have happened and we apologise.

We did everything we could to put that right, hiring thousands of additional engineers and customer advisors to meet demand.

As a result, we have resolved the issue for 1.7 million people. This represents a success rate of up to five times the UK average for a product recall, but we recognise we have more work to do. There may still be people out there with affected dryers who have not responded. It’s vital that we find and resolve those remaining dryers.

To help us achieve that, we are redoubling the efforts of this campaign by issuing a full recall of all unmodified dryers.

That means anyone with an unmodified dryer is entitled to a free replacement, a free modification, a refund based on the age of their appliance, or the opportunity to upgrade to a superior model for a fraction of the retail price.

We’ve worked with the UK Government to agree on these next steps and together we believe this is the right action to encourage any remaining owners of unmodified dryers to come forward.

For anyone who still has an unmodified dryer, please call us immediately on 0800 151 0905 or visit safety.hotpoint.eu/dryercheck.

We thank the millions of people who have already engaged with us; for your time, for your patience, and for your understanding. Nothing matters more to us than your safety and we are truly sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Yours faithfully,

Jeff Noel, Vice President

An interview with Jeff Noel can be found here

Other related documents from the Office for Product Safety can be found here

Steve Bunyan

Engineer first, trainer 2nd