“At what points during the laundering process are workers most vulnerable to injury or even death, and what precautions should be taken to minimize the risk? I want to make sure I am doing everything I can to protect my staff.”Chemicals Supply: Matt Koloseike, Procter & Gamble Professional, Cincinnati, Ohio
While laundry detergent, bleach and softener provide a valuable service in providing clean, soft and spot-free linens, they include potentially hazardous cleaning chemicals. Therefore, it is important that each person who works around these chemicals understands that safety requires proper action by management and employees.
Safe use, storage and transportation of laundry chemicals are essential for any commercial laundry facility and probably are the key aspect of maintaining a safe laundry operation.
Laundering safety begins with the chemical product line selected. Minimizing the total number of products utilized is a good starting point. Additionally, chemical dispensing and chemical handling need to be analyzed — deploy dispensing systems that minimize employee contact. These systems should be closed-loop, properly labeled, and relatively easy to change out products.
The role of your sales and chemical supplier representative is critical to obtaining a safe laundry program. This individual should be knowledgeable of the laundry room equipment, chemicals, chemical dispensing systems and all related hazards, and should be able to describe the features and benefits of the chemicals being utilized, as well as conduct training for the staff and all laundry room personnel.
[NP][/NP]The final aspect to maintaining a safe laundry environment is the actual chemical safety training. Proper training is imperative and should be conducted annually by each laundry facility with assistance from the laundry chemical supplier.
Particular emphasis should be placed on the selection of the safest possible chemical program; proper documentation that includes Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each product in use; proper chemical labeling; proper storage procedures; and appropriate handling procedures to include any required personal protective equipment (PPE).
A safe laundry program can be managed through prevention, education and training. It is everyone’s responsibility and should not be overlooked.Equipment Manufacturing: Joe Gudenburr, G.A. Braun, Syracuse, N.Y.
Safety is always a top priority, but often does not get the attention that it deserves due to the competing priorities of day-to-day operations. This is a sad statement, but often true in looking at the many operating plants (in this industry or any other).
Keeping this in mind, I don’t think that we as managers can afford to say that there is any one area that puts employees in a more vulnerable position than another. If we say this, we tend to diminish the focus on safety throughout the organization as a whole, which works against our objective to create safety awareness and a safe workplace.
[NP][/NP]Also, if we look at history, often the injuries that occur are due to employee complacency within the work environment. This usually means that employees don’t view the area as a hazard, and take their environment for granted. When that happens, people get hurt.
In laundry operations, each specific area of the business presents potential hazards, from fleet maintenance and route operations to general plant maintenance and production. Each of these areas presents real hazards, and merits attention.
The first thing that any operations team should do is to make certain that each job description is clearly defined so that a risk assessment can be done to determine the potential hazards that exist for said job.
In doing so, the management team will then be able to determine if its operating methods, safety equipment, and safety practices are adequate to ensure that employees are in an environment that is as safe as possible. This is just a starting point.
To ensure that safety gets that proper focus and attention perpetually, there needs to be an established culture within the organization that reinforces a safe operating mentality, assigns dedicated ownership/responsibility for the safety function, and involves 100% of the workforce as part of the continuous-improvement culture.
It’s important that human resources works closely with the assigned safety coordinator to document all training needs by job description, and to ensure that all safety improvement initiatives are shared with the workforce. Keeping all employees informed is vital to the success of any safety program, and to creating the awareness.
Another recommendation is that the dedicated safety coordinator establish a documented safety committee that would support several critical efforts:
- Conduct documented safety audits.
- Conduct formal injury investigations into OSHA-reportable and time-lost incidents.
- Assist in conducting work area/job description risk assessments, and develop improvement priorities for said operating area.
- Present the workforce with timely updates about findings, and improvements that are being made.
- Promote awareness, and create an empowered safety culture.
These are just a few basics and some recommendations that can be leveraged to either implement a safety program, or to enhance one.
It’s true that “safety is no accident,” and that it takes a structured, coordinated and disciplined effort on the part of the entire organization to truly establish a safety culture.Linen Supply/Commercial Laundry: Tamica Goree, Ph.D., STG Linen Services, Glendale, Ariz.
Workplace safety is about preventing injury and illness to employees. Therefore, it’s really about protecting an organization’s most valuable asset: its workers.
[NP][/NP]A safe working environment reduces overall costs associated with work-related injuries, improves an employee’s sense of well-being, and cuts down on lost productivity.
Employers who take seriously their legal responsibility to provide workers with a safe and healthful workplace should assess the hazards workers may be exposed to and take steps to eliminate those hazards from the workplace.
There are four key elements to an effective workplace safety program in a commercial laundry:Management Leadership and Employee Involvement
Take an active part in developing and implementing safety activities.
- Involve employees in making policy on safety and health issues.
- Publish and post a written policy on safety and health.
- Foster open communication between employer/employee on workplace safety processes.
Review all workplace conditions to identify and eliminate existing or potential hazards.
- Perform reviews on a regular, timely basis.
- Make certain employees know and understand the potential hazards for all jobs.
Focus workplace design on physical aspects:
- Consider physical demands of tasks with respect to ergonomic impact.
- Proper attire for the tasks being performed.
- Dangers of smoking near or around chemicals.
- Awareness of food-contamination risks.
Hazard Prevention and Control
Regularly and thoroughly maintain equipment.
- Ensure that employees know how to use and maintain personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Train employees in proper procedures for handling specific situations.
Safety and Health Training
- Ensure that everyone is properly and consistently trained to standards set by organizations such as OSHA.
- Allow only properly instructed employees to do any job.
- Make sure no employees do any job that appears to be unsafe.
- Hold emergency-preparedness drills for employees.
- Train supervisors and managers to recognize hazards and understand their responsibilities.