An outbreak of fire in a laundry room led to 11 service users being evacuated from a Boston care home. Four fire appliances and a paramedic team attended the home and although the laundry room and its contents suffered 100% damage, on this occasion, no one was seriously injured.
Fire outbreaks are every care home worker’s biggest nightmare but despite modern fire alarm systems, professional risk assessments and annual fire training, incidents such as this continue to occur, putting service users and staff at serious risk. Over 20% of care home fires start in laundry rooms and, due to their often remote location combined with the presence of gas and combustible materials, small fires can quickly develop into life threatening incidents.
Read on to learn how to reduce the risk of laundry room fires and help everyone in your care home sleep more safely.
Many laundry fires result from spontaneous combustion as a result of items that have been over-dried and tightly packed whilst still hot. This can mean that there is no opportunity for the fabric to cool and chemicals in the item can react with the heat, therefore generating further heat and causing it to self-ignite.
Laundry fires can also arise as a result of items not being washed correctly and still being impregnated with residues of fat, grease or oil which then ignites when subjected to the heat of a tumble dryer. This can be a particular risk with items such as tea towels, kitchen cloths or kitchen staff uniforms which have been exposed to cooking fats and grease.
6 Tips to Reduce the Risk of a Laundry Fire at Your Care Home
- Regular filter cleaning: Ensure that any fluff, lint or debris is removed from the filters on your tumble dryers regularly, in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Use the cooling cycle: Reduce the risk of over-heating by allowing laundry items to cool within the dryer before being removed and stored.
- Dry high-risk items separately: Where possible, items such as tea towels containing fat or oil, should be dried on a washing line or airer rather than in a tumble dryer which could cause excessive heat build-up.
- Shake it out: Shake out laundry items to help them ventilate and cool before being stacked or stored.
- Avoid heat build up: Never place warm, damp laundry in polythene bags, combustible containers or baskets, or in poorly ventilated areas.
- Train your team: Fire training often focusses on direct risks to residents and practical aspects of fire safety such as evacuation. However, you should insist that your training also includes the specific risks related to your laundry to ensure that all staff are aware of the risks of spontaneous combustion.
For the best advice on assessing and mitigating health and safety risks in care, make sure you read Care Quality Matters. Every month Care Quality Matters provides practical resources, advice and tips for Resgistered Managers.