Category Archives: Breaking News

Government Launches New Office for Product Safety and Standards

The government has today (21 January 2018) announced the creation of a new national oversight body tasked with identifying consumer risks and managing responses to large-scale product recalls and repairs.

The new Office for Product Safety and Standards will enable the UK to meet the evolving challenges of product safety by responding to expanding international trade, the growth in online shopping and the increasing rate of product innovation.

London Fire Brigade have responded to the announcement:

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Charlie Pugsley said:

“I won’t be able to rest until I know that people can easily check whether or not they have a potentially deadly appliance in their home. We welcome the establishment of the new Office for Product Safety and Standards but their first act should be to establish a single government backed product recall database to make it easier for people to check whether they are using a faulty appliance.

“We don’t even know how many defective white goods there are in use in homes across the UK but we do know there are at least a million Whirlpool tumble dryers with an identifiable defect that has caused over 750 fires in the UK.*

According to London Fire Brigade figures, nearly one fire a day in London involves white goods and in 2016, the Brigade launched its Total Recalls campaign which calls on the government and manufacturers to implement a number of changes to make all white goods safer including making it easier for consumers to find out if they own potentially dangerous goods via a centrally managed recall data base.

What is the Brigade calling for?

• A single government backed product recall database
• Recalls notices to be better publicised to reduce confusion
• Greater regulation of second-hand appliances
• Changes to the way that fridges and freezers are manufactured
• All appliances to be marked with a model and serial number to allow identification after a fire

(*As reported by Whirlpool to BEIS select committee)

Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said:

The new Office for Product Safety and Standards will strengthen the UK’s already tough product safety regime and will allow consumers to continue to buy secure in the knowledge there is an effective system in place if products need to be repaired or replaced.

I thank the working group for their efforts to help improve product safety and I look forward to working with them in this new phase.

Neil Gibbins, Chair of the working group, said:

It has been my mission to make the public safe since I joined the fire service nearly 40 years ago. That’s why I’m pleased to see the government respond to our recommendations with concrete steps to ensure the safety of consumers, now and in the future.

The government will continue to work with stakeholders such as consumer groups, manufacturers and retailers to ensure the office coordinates the UK’s product safety regime as effectively as possible.

This will not lessen any of the legal responsibilities that sit with manufacturers, importers and retailers to present safe products to the market, and to take rapid effective action when safety issues arise with their products.

Interim report into the Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Recommends Change is Needed

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in June an independent review of Building regulations and Fire Safety was launched.

The Chair of this independent review has found that a “universal shift in culture” is required to rebuild trust amongst residents of high-rise buildings and significantly improve the way that fire safety is assured.

Dame Judith Hackitt, who was appointed by government to lead released the interim report this week. Alongside her interim report, Dame Judith is calling on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to address the ‘shortcomings’ identified so far.

The interim report finds that:

  • a culture change is required – with industry taking greater responsibility for what is built – this change needs to start now
  • the current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings is not fit for purpose
  • a clear, quick and effective route for residents to raise concerns and be listened to, must be created

In particular the report has identified 6 broad areas for change required:

  • ensuring that regulation and guidance is risk-based, proportionate and unambiguous
  • clarifying roles and responsibilities for ensuring that buildings are safe
  • improving levels of competence within the industry
  • improving the process, compliance and enforcement of regulations
  • creating a clear, quick and effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to
  • improving testing, marketing and quality assurance of products used in construction

Dame Judith has consulted widely in developing her interim report and will continue to do so in the coming months before making her final recommendations.

She continued:

I have been deeply affected by the residents of high rise buildings I have met and I have learned so much from them. These buildings are their homes and their communities. They are proud of where they live, but their trust in the system has been badly shaken by events of the last few months. We need to rebuild that trust.

The independent review will now undertake its second phase of work – including targeted work in partnership with the sector and other stakeholders.

A summit involving government and representatives from the building industry will take place in the New Year and a final report will be published in spring 2018.

London Fire Brigade makes fire safety plea 100 days on from Grenfell Tower tragedy

One hundred days on from the Grenfell Tower disaster and London’s fire chiefs are using the anniversary to remind landlords and residents about their high rise fire safety responsibilities.
The cause and spread of the Grenfell fire, as well as the response to it, are the subject of an ongoing police investigation and public inquiry but the Brigade says there are key actions housing providers, landlords and residents of high-rise residential buildings can take to help prevent fires from occurring in the first place and to reduce the

Landlords, such as local authorities and housing associations, or building owners are responsible for maintaining up to date fire risk assessments for their buildings. These should identify any risks and hazards, which should be put right, as well as the general fire precautions required for the property.

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Dan Daly said:
“One hundred days ago we saw the worst residential fire this country has ever seen. It is understandable people living in tower blocks have raised questions about their safety after such an horrific blaze but although this was an incident on an unprecedented scale, thankfully fires are rare.

“The building owner or landlord is responsible for making sure the building remains safe and this includes everything from ensuring fire doors are properly fitted to keeping escape routes free from clutter such as bikes and push chairs. They must also keep residents informed of what they need to do in the event of a fire.

“Having an up to date and detailed fire risk assessment is the single most helpful thing building owners and landlords can do to improve the safety of their residents and it is a legal requirement.“

Top five safety tips for high rise residents

Fire safety in purpose built flats and maisonettes is dependent on good maintenance and housekeeping and residents also have responsibility to play in supporting that by following this simple fire safety advice

• Make sure fire doors to the front of flats and onto corridors and staircases are kept closed and not left held or wedged open as they are designed to stop the spread of fire. All fire doors should also be fitted with a working, self closing mechanism.

• Don’t store things in corridors or on staircases as this can block escape routes and stop firefighters doing their job.

• Install smoke alarms and test  them regularly. As a minimum you should have smoke alarms on each floor if you live in a maisonette – in the hallways and the rooms you use the most, plus a heat alarm in the kitchen.

• Be fire safety savvy – extinguish cigarettes properly if you are a smoker and don’t leave candles or cooking unattended

• Make sure you have a fire plan and that everyone in your home knows what to do in an emergency. If you are not sure what the fire plan is for your building contact your landlord or the building owner.

More than 100 firefighters tackle blaze in Kent

Fire broke out early this morning and 15 fire engines were at the scene at the peak of the blaze. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

The building was evacuated and there were no reports of anyone being injured.

A community briefing centre was set up for the residents of the 22 flats in the block in Lambe Close, Manley Boulevard, the fire service said.

A spokesman for the fire service said: “Crews are likely to remain on the scene for some time.

“It is believed that everyone has been accounted for and a rest centre has been put in place for residents.”

 

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton calls for sprinkler protection in all tower blocks

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton is urging Government to act.   The time for action on sprinklers in residential high-rise buildings and schools is now.

The call is made as the Grenfell Tower Inquiry formally opens.

Cotton said: “The tragic fire at Grenfell has thrown fire safety into the spotlight and while we are not pre-empting the findings of the Inquiry, now is the time to remind Government of life-saving recommendations we have been making for years.

We are calling for residential tower blocks to be retrofitted with sprinklers and they should be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments.

Sprinklers are the only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm. They save lives  and protect property and they are especially important where there are vulnerable residents who would find it difficult to escape, like those with mobility problems. ”

 

Commissioner Cotton continued: “For years builders, developers, local authorities and private housing providers have ignored the clear benefits of sprinklers.

“It’s not just about homes, we go to around 80 fires in London schools every year. Fires in schools cause major disruption to pupils, breakfast and after school clubs are cancelled and often, a costly repair bill could have been avoided.

“If they are incorporated from the design stage, sprinklers are around 1% of the total build cost.”

What LFB are calling for:

• The retrofitting of sprinklers in all residential high-rise tower blocks, as part of an appropriate package of fire safety measures

• Sprinklers to be installed in all school new builds and major refurbishments

 

Fatal Care Home Fire leaves 2 dead, 3 in hospital and 33 needing to be rescued

Tragic news early yesterday morning was that a fire which broke out in a care home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire has left 2 dead, while 33 had to be rescued from the building.

Despite firefighters launching a “challenging” rescue operation, they were unable to save everyone inside.  In addition to the 2 fatalities 3 more residents needed hospital treatment for minor burns and smoke inhalation, the fire service said.

Chief fire officer for Hertfordshire, Darryl Keen, said the fire “had spread inside the roof all the way along the entire property”.

“That rapidly escalated and the crews worked extremely hard in very difficult circumstances to rescue 33 of the 35 people who were in that property.”

Mr Keen said the outcome could have been even worse had crews not reacted so quickly.

“We had a number of people that were unable to get themselves out, you know, physically would not have been able to move even under normal circumstances,” he said.

“And when you add the difficulties that a fire would create to the situation, it makes it even worse”.

This tragedy comes just days after a court case heard how fire safety breaches in a sheltered housing scheme claimed the life of an elderly resident in a block in Surrey back in 2011.  In that case the housing provider has been successfully prosecuted for inadequate fire precautions, including lack of suitable fire separation in the roof space.

Southwark Council Pleads Guilty following fatal Lakanal House Blaze

Southwark Council expressed its “sincere regret” as it pleaded guilty to four charges relating to a tower block fire which killed six people.

Three women and three young children were killed in the 2009 blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The fire started due an electrical fault with a television.

Southwark Council pleaded guilty to charges relating to safety breaches and must pay £300,000 costs.

The council will be sentenced on Tuesday, where it is expected to be fined.

The charges, dating from 1 October 2006 to 3 July 2009, include a failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, failure to take general fire precautions – including in relation to safety of employees – and a failure to ensure that premises were subject to a suitable system of maintenance.

Following the hearing, councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We took the decision to plead guilty to all four counts of breach of fire safety regulations associated with the Lakanal building on the July 2 2009, the day before the fire.

“This is because, as an authority, we fully accept responsibility for the fire safety of all our council homes. The fact remains that the council did not have a Fire Risk Assessment for Lakanal in place on this date. Without this record, we can never categorically decide on the fire safety of the building before the fire happened.

This tragic fire and the deaths of six people in 2009, have meant that the council has had to reflect hard on the mistakes of the past.  Since then, we have spent £62m on our fire risk assessment programme and associated fire safety works for all of our council housing in the borough. We have worked closely with London Fire Brigade and meet regularly with them, informing them of progress on the risk profile of the borough and agreeing with them the strategy and actions we are taking to ensure fire safety remains a high priority for the council.”

An inquest into the six victim’s death was held in 2013, which returned narrative, highlighting “numerous missed opportunities” to carry out fire safety checks inside the building.

Camberwell and Peckham MP, Harriet Harman gave a statement that also put blame on the London Fire Brigade.

She said: “No-one would have died if the Fire Brigade had instructed people to leave their flats. The Fire Brigade, too, were responsible because as the fire spread and the safety measures failed, they failed to change their instructions to residents.

“Those who ignored the Fire Brigade’s instructions to stay put escaped with their lives. Those who accepted the instructions to stay in their flat died.  The Fire Brigade say they too have learned lessons.

“This prosecution sends a strong message not just to the London Borough of Southwark but to all landlords, public and private, that their tenants’ safety must be an absolute priority”.

London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Dan Daly said: “It is important to say that this prosecution is not focused on the fire that happened on 3 July 2009 or on the tragic loss of life following the fire but on the risk of death and serious injury from fire that existed at Lakanal between 2006 and July 2009.

“Millions of people in London live in purpose built blocks of flats. Our advice remains the same, that living in a flat is not more dangerous than living in a house but it’s important to know that your fire plan should be different.

“If buildings are built and maintained correctly, walls, floors and doors in flats and maisonettes give you protection from fire – a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes – so, if there is a fire elsewhere in the building but not inside your home you’re safer staying in your flat unless heat or smoke is affecting you. Stay put and call 999.

“If you leave your flat you could be rushing into choking smoke, the fire itself or firefighters using equipment to bring the fire under control in another part of the building.

“If there is a fire inside your flat or maisonette or you are being directly affected by it our advice is to leave, closing the door behind you and call 999.”

No working smoke alarms in vast majority of 2017 fatal fires

London Fire Brigade have confirmed that in 2017, the majority of fatal fires have occurred in homes with no working smoke alarms.

Five of the seven fatal fires since the turn of the year had no working smoke alarms fitted in their homes, London Fire Brigade announced today.

The information is being released in an unprecedented move ahead of the inquests in a bid to avoid further lives being lost. The Brigade says it is deeply concerned that lack of smoke detection in homes is putting Londoners at risk.

Since the beginning of 2017 sadly ten people have died in fires across the capital.

In all but one of these cases, the Brigade was only called when a neighbour noticed the fire. In the other instance the smoke alarm operated and was linked to an outstation via a telecare provider who summoned the Fire Brigade.

Whirlpool finally admit 5.3 million faulty tumble dryers should be unplugged and not used

For months Whirlpool have suggested that despite concerns raised after a number of serious fires, their tumble dryers were safe to use.

Finally after action by London Fire Brigade and Peterborough Trading Standards Whirlpool have updated the advice on their own website.

London Fire Brigade warned in October 2016 that owners of the faulty dryers must stop using them immediately, after one of the machines was found to be the cause of a huge blaze in an 18-storey tower block in Shepherd’s Bush in London.

Various dryers made by Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda between April 2004 and September 2015 are subject to a safety notice about the fire risk, which is caused by excess fluff coming into contact with the heating element.

The advice is now clear ‘If your tumble dryer is affected by this issue then you should unplug it and do not use it until the modification has taken place.

 

Thousands with faulty smoke alarm batteries

It has been widely reported in the news media that smoke alarm manufacturer Sprue Aegis has admitted many of the devices it has supplied have faulty batteries, leading to early battery failure.

Sprue Aegis, whose products are sold by High Street giants including Tesco and B&Q, yesterday revealed that batteries fitted to some of its smoke alarms were faulty.
Smoke alarm

Sprue Aegis makes a range of home safety devices such as smoke and heat alarms and carbon monoxide detectors under brands including First Alert, FireAngel, AngelEye and Sona.

In an unexpected statement to the stock market yesterday, the company said a fault in batteries provided by one of its suppliers ‘may cause a premature low battering warning chirp’ in some of the smoke alarms it sells in the UK and in Europe.

The company refused to say how many smoke alarms have been affected but sources said it was ‘a very small number’.

The company insisted the smoke alarms still worked, adding: ‘This is not a safety critical issue.’

Some fire and rescue services have fitted Sprue Aegis smoke alarms as part of their home fire safety visits.  Anyone concerned about their smoke alarms is advised to carry out the routine test, following the manufacturers instructions.  Fire and Rescue Services will continue to carry out home fire safety visits and advise on siting and type of alarms that should be fitted.