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Tumble dryer fire onboard a vessel

A member has reported an incident in which there was a small fire inside the drum of a tumble dryer on a vessel offshore. A burning smell was detected on the bridge of the vessel concerned and an investigation into the source was commenced. It was traced to the laundry where a small fire in the drum of a tumble dryer was observed. The fire was extinguished and the dryer contents removed and doused to cool.

Investigation revealed the following:

  • The dryer had been filled with galley towels by a steward, who then started the drier on a ‘normal+’ temperature cycle and left the laundry to carry out other duties;
  • Despite established operating procedures, the steward did not return to the laundry on completion of the cycle and it was around two hours later that the fire was detected;
  • The towels were not the specific colour coded cleaning cloths designated to wipe down the galley surfaces but rather oven towels and dish towels;
  • The towels placed in the dryer appear to have become contaminated with oils or fats which, after being through the drying cycle and then remaining in the drum for around an hour, allowed the heat to build up and led to the start of spontaneous combustion of the towels;
  • The steward demonstrated lack of awareness of the established procedure for laundering galley towels/cloths and failed to realise the consequences of his actions;
  • The third-party catering contractor had procedures for operating the tumble dryers but these had not been put into practice on the vessel, nor were the catering team fully aware of these procedures;
  • Control measures and lessons learnt from a previous tumble dryer fire on the same vessel had not been retained owing to changes in catering personnel.

The following actions were taken:

  • Vessel management should ensure that policy and procedures for laundry operations, particularly with regard to the drying of galley cloths, are fully understood by all catering personnel;
  • Adequate and clear instructions for the operation of the laundry and any specific instructions such as for galley cloths, payloads and temperatures should be posted in the laundry.

Safety Event

Published: 10 November 2009
Download: IMCA SF 16/09

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