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The RISCAuthority has published RC58: Recommendations for fire safety in laundries.

The document is intended to apply to all commercial and industrial laundries, including facilities that are incorporated in large establishments such as hotels, holiday resorts, hospitals and major care homes. Dry cleaners and other operations which involve the recovery and recycling of a non-aqueous cleaning medium are specifically excluded from the scope of RC58.

There is a history of major fires in laundries, commonly caused around:

  • Self-heating (spontaneous combustion) of dirty laundry heavily contaminated in grease and fat, or of hot laundry at the end of the drying process.

  • Electrical faults

  • Lint clogging of ducts and filters serving driers and other plant giving rise to overheating and friction.

In addition to RC58, the RISCAuthority has also issued Risk control briefing note 4: Fire safety for laundries with a focus on tumble dryers. This has been published owing to the fact that whilst the hazards associated with tumble dryers have been well publicised over many years, serious fires continue to occur, both in respect of commercial laundry premises and in-house laundry facilities in other premises such as hotels, care homes, hairdressing academies, etc. Any business undertaking laundry activities involving the use of tumble dryers is potentially at risk, which can be significantly enhanced where oil-contaminated laundry is involved.

When considering the hazards posed by tumble dryers, recognition should be given to the fact that domestic dryers can present a high risk when employed in commercial settings. Such ‘off the shelf’ appliances are not designed to cope with the rigours of constant use, as compared with machines that are purpose built for high volume commercial applications.


Detailed guidance on the specific hazards associated with laundries and the risk control considerations that apply is fully covered in RC58 and Risk control briefing note 4 to which Consultants should refer. In particular, attention should be given to the following:

1. Electrical Installation

Correct maintenance of the electrical installation, preferably as part of a planned maintenance programme, is of paramount importance. This should include:

  • Periodic electrical installation inspection and test at least once every three years, together with routine checks at least annually.

  • Avoidance of temporary wiring and trailing leads.

  • PAT testing conducted regular at intervals in accordance with established guidance.


2. Plant and Machinery Maintenance

All plant and machinery should be inspected and maintained in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions, once again, preferably as part of a planned maintenance programme. Close attention should be given to driers, which should include ensuring that temperature probes and thermostats are clean and functioning correctly. Written records of all such activity should be kept.

A permit to work system should apply to all hot work, whether in connection with plant maintenance, or any other activity.


3. Extract Ducts/Removal of Fluff

Attention should be given to the correct design, installation and maintenance/cleaning of extract ducts in accordance with the guidance in RC58, with particular emphasis on ducts and flues associated with drying processes.

Drier ducts should be inspected and cleaned internally as a matter of routine, the frequency of which should be determined by a risk assessment. Typically, this will be once every three to six months, but more frequent inspection may be necessary.

In addition to dealing specifically with extract ducts, arrangements for the periodic removal of fluff and fly from around and under machines and the environment generally is a key risk control measure. In this regard, close attention should be given to areas below calenders and to the rear of tumble driers where, by coincidence, electrical defects can often be found. All such cleaning should be accomplished with the use of suitable industrial vacuum cleaners.


4. Self-heating

Self-heating of clean laundry left in tumble driers or removed and deposited in tightly packed trolleys waiting final processing has been the cause of many serious fires in laundries and requires close attention by Consultants. Key measures to reduce this risk include the following:

  • Tumble driers to be operated by trained personnel in accordance with written procedures.

  • Laundry to be immediately unloaded from tumble driers on completion of the drying cycle. Under no circumstances must laundry be left in tumble driers overnight.

  • On removal from the tumble driers, all laundry should be separated and processed in the normal manner.

  • In the event that laundry is not processed immediately, it must be separated out in such a manner that heat is quickly dissipated.

  • Ideally, working arrangements should be such that all laundry is removed from tumble driers and fully processed prior to close of business.  

In the event that laundry is undertaken of garments that are heavily contaminated with grease, fat or oil, special precautions will require to be taken. This will include ensuring that that all such laundry is segregated from other activity and processed separately. Ensuring that all such laundry is processed on the day of arrival will significantly reduce the self-ignition risk.

Particular care is also required to be taken when laundering towels and robes from spa facilities, which owing to the presence of massage oils can significantly increase the risk of spontaneous combustion during and after the drying process. In these circumstances, washing at a high temperature, combined with adding an emulsifier to the detergent can help to reduce the risk.

At least two leading dryer manufacturers in the States have developed and patented optional automatic water mist fire suppression systems for tumble dryer application, one of which has been encountered by RiskSTOP in the UK in connection with surveys of a chain of health clubs. Direct low pressure application fire suppression systems can also have a valuable role in the protection of tumble dryers of which the Firetrace system is an example (LPCB approved to LPS 1666).

Whist the internal protection for tumble dryers has not been a common feature in the UK, there is no reason why fixed fire suppression should not be a considered risk improvement in connection with high risk or post loss scenarios.


5. Steam Pipes

Virtually without exception, all industrial laundries will incorporate steam raising, which will be used to supply process steam to calenders, driers, presses and other items of plant. Even at modest pressure, the temperature of steam distribution pipes can be sufficient to ignite common combustible materials from either short or, long term contact.

It is therefore essential that all steam pipes in areas of potential hazard are suitably lagged, and that where penetrating combustible floors, partitions, linings, etc, the combustible feature is cut back and the pipes lagged around the penetration.




RC58 concludes with a detailed fire safety management checklist which may be of valuable use on site.

TG10: Laundries

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