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OPSS report: Characteristics of modern domestic fires and the implications for product performance testing

The Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS) had a busy month in May, having published reports on both artificial intelligence and consumer attitudes towards product safety. And it also found the time to produce a study on the characteristics of modern domestic fires, published on its website on 27.05.22.

The report notes that domestic homes have changed in their design (and materials) and now contain modern products (such as e-cigarettes and products containing lithium-ion batteries) which can all impact on the propensity for and characteristics of domestic fires.

Some of the key findings will be of interest to those involved in product liability and property damage claims including as follows:

  • The increased number of electrical products (and lithium-ion batteries) inside homes will of course increase the risk of domestic fires, particularly given the difficulties faced by consumers in identifying poor quality and counterfeit products (particularly when purchasing online) – and more could be done to help consumers, including better regulation of online marketplaces.
  • Whilst some products (like TVs) are causing decreasing numbers of fires, other products are causing increasing numbers of fires, including washing machines, tumble dryers, computers and battery chargers.
  • Common problems with batteries, wiring, cabling, plugs and battery chargers include insufficient insulation and overheating.
  • The report notes potential changes to lithium-ion battery designs that could mitigate fire risks, particularly associated with ‘thermal runaway’.

Those dealing with product liability and property damage claims may not be too surprised by the OPSS’ conclusions. Indeed, the risks associated with modern products incorporating lithium-ion batteries have been well reported in recent months. Of course, consumers and businesses can reduce the risks associated with Lithium-ion batteries by sourcing them from reputable suppliers and manufacturers and by following the manufacturer’s advice relating to charging and storage. Insurers will be well aware that if a battery contains a defect, which causes a fire, then the producer of the battery/product will likely be strictly liable under the Consumer Protection Act or in contract.

 

Publication Authors:

Daniel West

Daniel West
Partner & Head of Product Liability