Preventing Dryer Fires

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Dryer fires in dryers used by YMCAs for the drying of towels, clothing, etc. are incidents that are easily preventable. Implementation of a proactive dryer maintenance program by the staff at these facilities can prevent such fires, increase productivity, and even improve working conditions. Removal of the combustible lint eliminates fuel for a fire, and the increased airflow permitted by clean filters and vents normally reduces both the drying time and the overall humidity in the work area.

The following items should be included in any proactive dryer maintenance program, whether it is performed by Y personnel or an outside contractor. If a vendor is used for maintenance or as a labor source, it is important to control the vendor relationship by regularly monitoring these aspects of the contractor's work and by ensuring that all appropriate insurance coverage forms are in force.

  1. Lint filters should be cleaned regularly, preferably after every use as that is the easiest protocol to remember and keeps the filters the cleanest. If only a couple of loads are done daily, daily cleaning might suffice. Continuous use requires several cleanings a day to maintain proper airflow. Lint accumulation increases drying time and humidity, places additional stress on the belt and blower, and provides the fuel necessary for the fire.
  2. The dryer exhaust vent should be cleaned at least annually. Whether the dryer is a commercial grade or a residential type dryer, this cleaning is critical to maintaining efficient airflow. Clean filters are seriously compromised by any restriction of the exhaust vent. The cleaning should begin at the dryer and continue through the vent's discharge outside the building.
  3. The dryer should receive an annual service or tune-up that includes:
    • cleaning of lint or other debris from the interior of the cabinet, the motor, and the electrical connections;
    • checking of the belt condition and tension;
    • tightening of any loose screws, bolts, or nuts;
    • inspection (with repair if necessary) of the heating unit.
  4. The space immediately behind the dryers, which may be concealed and probably is at least difficult to access, should be inspected periodically and cleaned of lint, stray laundry, and other combustible material as necessary. Frequency of inspection depends upon amount of dryer use and the construction of the area (i.e., combustible or noncombustible). If dryer usage is continuous, the inspection should be weekly; reduced use can justify increased time between inspections, but the interval should never exceed quarterly.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.

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