Spontaneous Combustion


Working in a hot environment (particularly on hot summer days) can not only cause heat exhaustion (heat stroke) and dehydration in humans, but it can also cause linen to catch on fire because the plant is operating in hot conditions.

Spontaneous combustion can occur throughout the year and is caused by:

  • different types of materials
  • reactive chemicals (such as oils and cosmetics) and
  • heat - all mixed together and
  • left in a pile for a period of time

For example, if linen from a dryer hasn't been given a chance to cool properly then it may cause spontaneous combustion to occur. Linen stored properly after being ironed could also start a fire.

To prevent spontaneous combustion from occurring you and your co-workers must:

  • store linen appropriately in a cool place
  • make sure linen is washed properly based on the type of material and the level of soiling
  • when leaving your shift, you should check if the 'clean dry' items have cooled down properly
  • make sure the cool-down dryer cycle has been used
  • make sure clean linen is stored in a ventilated area
  • store soiled linen in air tight containers if required

Case Study 1
Commercial Laundry
An employee at a commercial laundry had placed eighty tea towels in a dryer for fifteen minutes then opened the dryer door to stop the machine in order to close the business for the day. The tea towels were left in the drum of the dryer. Two hours later, the towels ignited without any other introduced heat and the resulting fire incinerated most of the contents. Fortunately, this fire was contained within the body of the dryer. The tea towels had been exclusively used for the purpose of wiping baking items that had been sprayed with a canola oil-based product.

Spontaneous combustion can occur without warning. Don't be complacent and think it won't happen to you. Make sure you know who the fire warden is on your shift and how to contact them in case of an emergency. 

Last modified: Tuesday, 24 November 2020, 10:46 PM