In 2015, the company Whirlpool identified a design issue in several tumble dryer models which could lead to increased risks of fire incidents due to excessive lint accumulation at the rear which then ignites. The company then undertook a modification programme to address the issue. However, concerns were raised about the modification programme and in May 2018 the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy ordered the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to review the actions taken by Whirlpool.
On 4 April 2019 a review conducted by the OPSS which investigated the modification programme as well as the technical documents supplied by Whirlpool, concluded that the risk of fire as a result of the tumble dryer design is low and was further reduced by the modification. However, shortcomings were found in the testing and quality assurance procedures, with it being ruled that the business must improve its monitoring and management of risk. Whirlpool has also been ordered to continue its consumer outreach programme and use a diverse range of methods to contact affected consumers.
Given that the overall level of risk has been identified as low and that efforts have been made by Whirlpool to address the identified problem, it has been decided by the Government that formal enforcement action is not justified at this stage. However, OPSS has produced a list of requirement actions for Whirlpool to take in light of the findings of the review, and OPSS will continue to monitor the programme. Should Whirlpool fail to take the expected action within appropriate timescales, enforcement action would need to be considered.
As a result of the review conducted by the OPSS, two main conclusions were reached: firstly, that the ongoing risk from tumble dryers modified by Whirlpool is low, and secondly, that consumers who have bought Whirlpool’s tumble dryers can continue to use them. It should also be noted that Whirlpool has made serious efforts to address the identified problem but has also been ordered by the Government to do more in order to ensure that their consumers are safe from risk. OPSS has made clear to Whirlpool that it must take further action and will continue to monitor the steps taken to ensure the efficacy of the modification in consumers’ homes over the long term. The modification and outreach programme should continue, with new and different methods used to reach consumers.