Tumble dryer fires in laundry rooms

Offshore Information Sheet No. 3/2009



This sheet provides guidance on the actions that should be taken to reduce the risk of tumble dryer fires.


Although a relatively safe appliance to use, the main danger from tumble dryers is fire. Three such incidents have been reported to HSE since 2005. The most recent appears to have resulted from an insufficient 'cooling cycle' and involved a number of cloths (tea towels and catering cloths), which may have been contaminated with combustible substances such as fats, oils or grease.

A number of factors, either in isolation or in combination, may lead to tumble dryer fires. These include:

  • Reduced airflow in the dryer, mainly due to build up of lint in filters/traps but also from poor venting arrangements. This can cause overheating by considerably slowing down the drying action.
  • Insufficient 'cooling cycles' for reducing the temperature of items in the dryer. This will result in higher temperatures of the items being dried and longer periods for the heat to dissipate from the items.
  • Inappropriate fabrics or fabrics contaminated with combustible substances (grease, oils, fats). These may ignite spontaneously when exposed to the temperatures generated in a tumble dryer.

Actions required

It is essential that owners and operators of offshore installations ensure that appropriate systems are in place for the maintenance, inspection and use of tumble dryers in laundry rooms. Operators, with guidance from the equipment suppliers, should:

  • Ensure that lint filters in tumble dryers are cleaned before use and that lint is not allowed to accumulate in and around the appliance.
  • Ensure that the 'cool down' cycle of the tumble dryer is adequate to reduce the temperature of the items. Items should not be removed from the dryer or piled/stacked while hot. However, items should be removed from the dryer as soon as the drying/cooling cycle is complete.
  • Ensure that items contaminated with combustible substances such as solvents, grease, oils, fats etc (eg catering cloths, PPE) are not placed in tumble dryers. Contaminated fabrics should first be washed in hot water with extra detergent to reduce the contamination.
  • Items containing foam rubber (also know as latex foam) or similarly textured rubber-like materials should not be dried in a tumble dryer as these materials may ignite on heating.
  • Ensure that appropriate preventative maintenance is carried out as per manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Ensure that all laundry staff are aware of the laundry operation procedures and the checks required.
  • Ensure that a smoke alarm is installed in the laundry area.
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) Regulation 3
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) Regulations 4 and 5

This information sheet contains notes on good practice which are not compulsory but which you may find helpful in considering what you need to do

Updated 2021-02-12