The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Controlling Laundry Fires

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A recent fire in the laundry of Eni Australia's Onshore Gas Plant (Wadeye OGP) shows the need to operate and maintain laundry equipment in a safe way.

The keys to safe laundry work are good housekeeping and following the equipment makers instructions.

Why do laundy's catch fire?

The typical triggering mechanisms for laundry room fires include:

Firstly, the build up of lint which is not removed in accordance with manufacturers instructions.

Typically, lint builds up and is allowed to enter the internal section of the tumble-dryer where it comes into contact with the heater element prior to combustion.

Lint can also build up on air outlet of the dryer leading to a concentration of combustible material in the region of the air outlet.

Secondly, partially dried laundry can be taken out of a dryer prior to completion of the cooling cycle.

The problem here is that laundry removed before the completion of the cooling cycle has the potential to self heat and auto-combust.

Thirdly, if laundered items contaminated with organic oil residues (often found on tea towels) are overloaded into a tumble-dryer, self heating of the closely-packed items can cause ignition of the oils.

Finally, items other than laundry are sometimes mistakenly or deliberately placed in tumble-dryers and this can lead to combustion within the dryer.

What solutions are available?

1.  Regularly clean tumble-dryer lint filters.

2.  Vacuum tumble-dryer air outlets to remove the build up of lint.

3.  Always leave laundered items inside the tumble-dryer until the full cooling cycle is complete.

4.  Ensure laundered items that could contain organic oils are properly cleaned before loading into a dryer.
5.  Never overload a tumble-dryer.

6.  Check in the pockets of clothes or other places where combustible items could be concealed.

7.  Never attempt to dry combustible items inside a tumble-dryer.


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