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Auto-ignition of laundry items

What happened?

Cloths used for general galley cleaning were removed from a tumble dryer, immediately folded and piled in a steel bucket. Three hours later they were stowed in a cupboard. After a further three hours (six hours after removing the cloths from the dryer) a burning smell and the presence of smoke were reported. Upon investigation, the cloths were found smouldering. Immediate action was taken, and no further damage was noted.

What went wrong? What were the causes?

  • Following the fire, it was discovered that the cloths were still contaminated. This indicates that the items had been washed at the wrong temperature (40° instead of 90°) to reduce the wash time. This was not sufficient for them to be fully cleaned;
  • Either the cloths were removed from the tumble dryer prior to completion of the full cool down cycle or the wrong temperature setting was used (too high). As a result, the hot contaminated cloths were not cooled before being stowed. This led to them starting to smoulder.

What actions were taken? What lessons were learned?

  • Ensure items are washed at suitable temperatures to remove residue;
  • Ensure that the correct temperature setting is selected and that cool-down cycles are completed when using tumble dryers;
  • Hot laundry should never be folded and stowed. Allow suitable time for cooling down;
  • Discard cloths that can no longer be cleaned;
  • Reiterate these lessons to all catering crew.

IMCA notes that this is an ‘evergreen’ safety issue that has come up often before. Our members may wish to bring this potentially serious issue once again to the attention of their management and crew.

Please see the following:

Safety Event

Published: 23 August 2018
Download: IMCA SF 18/18

Relevant life-saving rules:
IMCA Safety Flashes
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IMCA Safety Flashes summarise key safety matters and incidents, allowing lessons to be more easily learnt for the benefit of all. The effectiveness of the IMCA Safety Flash system depends on Members sharing information and so avoiding repeat incidents. Please consider adding [email protected] to your internal distribution list for safety alerts or manually submitting information on incidents you consider may be relevant. All information is anonymised or sanitised, as appropriate.

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