CSIRO’s burn notice!
The recent story on 60 minutes about the inherent dangers of the ionisation type of smoke alarms in almost all Australian homes. Most of these alarms are tested by the CSIRO who give them a seal of approval. The CSIRO is a member of the Standards Australia FP002 committee that has formally acknowledged the existing Australian Smoke Alarm Standard (AS3786-1993) is flawed. Australian’s should be able to place their trust in the CSIRO brand – the 60 Minutes story demonstrates the potentially fatal consequences of doing so.
The CSIRO’s CEO, Dr Megan Clark and the CSIRO Board of Directors have been aware for a number of years about the serious deficiencies inherent in ionising smoke alarm technology. Despite the tireless efforts of the World Fire Safety Foundation and others the CSIRO have continued to certify ionisation alarms as fit for purpose under their ActivFire scheme. CSIRO has refused to allow the filming of their testing, a formal request in the Australian Parliament for them to allow it.
The CSIRO receives a substantial income from its “rubber-stamping” of this technology which may have already contributed to the loss of Australian lives.
Australian and International firefighting authorities are strongly advocating against the continued use of these alarms and the technology has been discontinued in many other jurisdictions. However, the multi-nationals who manufacture and sell them continue to market them in Australia courtesy of the “trusted” CSIRO. Why? Because this technology is cheaper to manufacture and the manufacturer’s derive significant profits from their continued sale and use.
This is a clear example of the CSIRO putting its own financial interests ahead of the Nation’s own interests. It is hard to suggest that our national interests are being served by CSIRO’s generation of income through the testing products that have led to the loss of Australian lives.
Even more insidiously, the CSIRO has gone to great lengths to prevent the independent examination and verification of its compliance testing processes for such devices under the relevant Australian Standard, arguing that such access would breach its commercial obligations. Commercial considerations could be protected by removing or concealing the brand of device being tested or by requesting the manufacturer to supply an unbranded sample for testing purposes.
Such complicity on behalf of the CSIRO will inevitably come back to bite the organisation and the Australian Tax payer. A class action lawsuit was recently lodged against the manufacturers in the United States, and the largest testing authority has already been involved in litigation for alleged fraudulent testing. As Australian common law is closely aligned with its U.S. and British counterparts, it is only a matter of time before such suits commence in Australia.
The question Dr Clark, the CSIRO Senior Executive and indeed, the CSIRO Board should be asking themselves is how they would feel were a close family member to suffer a preventable death as a result of their failure to take appropriate steps to protect the public.
Given that recent investigations have found senior CSIRO officers to be lacking in empathy, it would not be at all surprising to learn that those involved have failed to conceive of such a possibility!