This is part 2 of a series of articles about the dangers of modern white goods appliances and how you can improve appliance safety in your home. Read part 1 first (How dangerous are our appliances?) for a full understanding of these very real dangers.
This is not just a shallow list of do’s and don’ts. It’s an in depth look by an experienced engineer, accompanied by reasons and explanations.
1: Make the effort to be more aware
If you are reading these articles you are already being proactive. Part 1 shows that substantially more fires are caused by white goods appliances than you think. Only a fraction are nationally reported. It also states that in a large percentage of cases a user could have avoided an incident if they’d been more aware, or had used the appliance exactly as instructed in the user manual. Not in all cases, but in a very significant percentage. In a way that’s good news. We can proactively avoid many of the dangers. Help make others aware too by sharing these articles.
Take proper notice of all incidents, not just for white goods. Ensure you don’t make the same mistakes. For example there are a lot of reports about things catching fire whilst charging. We might not be able to prevent it (apart from avoiding cheap and possibly counterfeit ones). But if we are properly aware of the risks we can make sure we never charge a product on or next to a flammable surface or object.
We can also make sure we never leave something charging totally unattended. This photo shows how my daughter left something charging at our house the other day when we all went out. It would most likely have been fine – but if by any chance it had caught fire it would have set the curtains (and house) on fire.
Do not overload the wall socket by plugging too many appliances in Extension leads and cables with appliances
2: Don’t risk leaving appliances running
You could lose your kitchen or entire house in the “unlikely” event of your washing machine, dryer or dishwasher catching fire if no one is at home. With no one around it would be free to keep burning and do as much damage as possible. Kitchens, garages, or entire houses can be gutted by appliance fires and thousands are. Any pets left in the house can be killed (dishwasher fire risks – pet dogs killed).
The same applies if you are all in bed. I have an in-depth article on this subject here – risks involved in leaving a washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher running when out or in bed. Some appliances have to be left on all the time so there’s little we can do about that – but not washing machines, dryers and dishwashers. Leaving one of these appliances running when out of the house or in bed is merely a convenience. It’s never a necessity. So why take any risk – no matter how small you may perceive it? The chances of something happening are arguably very low, but the consequences are catastrophically high. I for one will not take that type of gamble (in just 1 year 13,000 fires were caused by white goods appliances in the UK).
3: Always read instruction manuals
Always read instruction manuals properly. This can take time and patience. But if not used correctly, or properly maintained, their potential to harm us or burn down our house should not be underestimated (see The Facts LINK from Part 1). We need to properly understand how to look after them and use them safely. User misuse and ignoring manufacturer warnings is a major contributor to or direct cause of many injuries and fires – maybe even most.
Some user manuals can be long and difficult to read. After an initial look I leave mine to hand for the first week or so and keep returning to it. That way I absorb the contents more efficiently and I’m less likely to forget important things.
At least seek out the warnings
Most white goods appliances are substantially more complex than they were in the past, with many more components. These complex appliances come with a lot of advice, warnings, and essential maintenance instructions that you need to know about. Understand the do’s & don’ts. There are often some serious warnings in manuals that many people never even read. For example, in my 79 page tumble dryer manual it says –
..if the drying programme is interrupted before the end of the cooling down phase, this could cause the laundry to self-ignite ”
Now that is a very serious warning. It’s not prominent at all other than just being one of a list of dozens of don’t do warnings. It’s not even in bold – that’s my emphasis. So not reading and understanding this could potentially lead to burning my house down – how can a tumble dryer catch fire when unplugged?
Manufacturers need to warn us more efficiently about serious consequences. I don’t believe it’s good enough just slipping the information inside lengthy manuals and washing their hands of it. But until they improve it’s up to us to invest time carefully reading the manuals for essential information. I think that important safety information should also be printed on a separate sheet, or even occasionally on the front of the appliance if appropriate. It’s far too important to be hoping everyone will read it.
Read instruction manuals for your existing appliances again
Seek out the instruction manuals for all your existing appliances. Particularly ones containing a heating element. Read them properly. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn that will help you use the appliance more effectively as well as the safety warnings. I’ve often found brilliantly useful information about an appliance that I’ve had for ages by re-reading the manual. Things I’d forgotten or never absorbed in the first place.
Lost your white goods manual? download white goods instruction manuals
4: Use smoke alarms
It’s totally impractical to watch all appliances. But when someone is close by it reduces the risk of a full kitchen or house fire if that person is alerted quickly enough. Being alerted by the smell of burning, or the sight of smoke is one way. A much better and quicker method would be via a smoke alarm. Use smoke alarms close to all white goods appliances whenever possible. Kitchens can be difficult for smoke alarms, but you can use heat alarms designed for kitchens. Check out this UK Fire service – Smoke Alarm Advice.
Don’t rely on smoke alarms to hopefully wake people up in the event of an appliance fire during the night. Just don’t wash or dry laundry, or wash dishes during the night.
5: Keep fire extinguishers near to appliances
Your ability to put out a burning appliance is limited or none existent if you have nothing to fight it with. It’s one thing being aware enough to catch a burning appliance early on. At least you can evacuate and call the fire brigade. But if you have a small fire extinguisher close by (suitable for electrical fires) you can put out the fire immediately. They do not cost much. I have a few small ones strategically placed. I’ve had them for many years and never needed them. They are insurance, and give peace of mind. Worth every penny even if never needed.
6: Register your appliances
Registering an appliance with the manufacturer is vital these days. Manufacturer’s discovering serious safety issues (sometimes many years after you’ve bought it) need to be able to contact you to let you know. Explained in full here Should you register the guarantee?
7: Register for regular safety notice updates
When better informed we find out quickly about new dangerous appliances and can stop using them, and get them fixed or replaced. There are several databases you can register with to be notified of safety notices and product recalls.
A good first step is to register for new Whitegoods articles by adding your email address below this article where it says “Keep informed – especially about safety warnings”.
Any new safety information I come across will be warned about here on Whitegoodshelp. The same applies to my Facebook page. I don’t add many articles but many are safety related – my Whitegoodshelp Facebook Page. Same applies to Twitter – Whitegoodshelp on Twitter
8: Check available safety notices
Check out all of the appliance safety notices already out there to see if you or a friend or family member has an appliance already known to have a safety issue. I can’t guarantee they are all here but these are all the ones I am aware of –
- Official Safety notices – all appliances
- Cooker & Oven safety notices
- Dishwasher safety notices
- Fridge and Freezer safety notices
- Tumble dryer safety notices
- Washing machine safety warnings
- Washing machine safety notices
The following categories and tags contain many more of my safety related articles –