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Caution on Electrical and Child Safety in Washing Machines - CHOICE# 440

  • 2013.06.17

Parents with small children are alerted to the hazard of washing machines without any child protection installation.

News reports of home accidents involving washing machines in drowning or injuring children are not uncommon.

In Hong Kong, in February 2011, a 16-month old toddler climbed up a laundry hamper by the side of a washer, an impeller type top loader, and out of curiosity opened the lid of the machine while in full swing of operation. The child lost balance and plunged head down into the spinning drum.

Fortunately, the mother swiftly came to his rescue - but not without after more than one minute. He was hospitalized with an injured head.

The Consumer Council is continuing its vigilance on the safety of washing machines, a household electrical appliance prone to accidents involving children - and fire.

In the latest test, in collaboration with the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), all 10 models were shown to be equipped with child protection device.

As the test covered only a small number of samples, it is quite possible that models without the safety feature of child protection system, could be found on the market. Parents should therefore stay vigilant in the purchase and use of washing machines in respect of child safety.

The test focused on 10 models comprising 7 horizontal axis models including 3 European top loaders and 4 front loaders, and 3 impeller type top loaders.

All the 7 horizontal axis models and 1 impeller type model were equipped with door/lid lock to ensure the machine cannot be opened while in operation.

The 2 other impeller type models were fitted with an alarm system which needs to be activated by the user, although the lid of both models could be opened while in operation.

In one model, if the lid is opened for 5 seconds or more during operation, it will stop and raise the alarm. In the other model, it uses a "beep-and-drain" protection design; the machine will beep and stop operation and if the lid remains open for 5 seconds, the water inside the washer will be drained off automatically.

Besides the concern over child protection installation, the test revealed deficiency in 2 models in respect of their design on internal wire for protection against access to live parts.

The internal wire of both samples could be touched by the test finger through the gap between the drum and enclosure of the washing machine. Further, the thickness of the supplementary insulation layer of the internal wire was less than the standard requirement.

In one model was found the plastic material of some components failed to pass the resistance of heat and fire test.

Parents are advised to always check if the child protection system of the washer has been activated or not.

Never leave children unattended to play around the washer; teach them not to get inside the washer; never place short stools close to the washer; drain out the water inside the washer and close the lid after use.

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