Kelly Tolhurst – 2019 Statement on Whirlpool Tumble Dryers

Below is the text of the statement made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 4 April 2019.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) will imminently publish its review of Whirlpool’s tumble dryer modification programme.

In 2015 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 my predecessor, the hon. Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths), commissioned OPSS to review the actions taken by Whirlpool.

Following a review of the modification programme, as well as consideration of technical documents supplied by Whirlpool, the OPSS has concluded that the risk is low and further reduced by the modification. However, shortcomings were found in the testing and quality assurance procedures, and the business must improve its monitoring and management of risk. They must also continue their consumer outreach programme and use more creative methods to contact affected consumers.

Given the full circumstances of the current position, in particular that the overall level of risk is low and that efforts have been made by Whirlpool to address the identified problem and to comply with its legal obligations, 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.

The main findings of the review are:

The ongoing risk from tumble dryers modified by Whirlpool is low and consumers can continue to use them.

Whirlpool has made efforts to address the identified problem but must do more.

OPSS is requiring Whirlpool to 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.

The safety of consumers is the number one priority for Government. We acknowledge the steps Whirlpool has taken to reach consumers and modify their tumble dryers, and we will continue to monitor the situation.