CHICAGO — Parkland Health & Hospital System, also known as the Dallas County Hospital District, uses an on-premises laundry (OPL).
Richard Hoelscher, linen services production manager for Parkland, says the laundry has had emergencies over the years. Fortunately, these incidents have been minor.
“Parkland has had several small fires, but these only involved one piece of equipment each time, were promptly put out by staff with a hand fire extinguisher and verified out by the fire department,” Hoelscher says. “Parkland’s staff performed extremely well during the Code Red, following the RACE (Rescue, Alert Security, Confine, Extinguish) procedure.”
The reason Parkland has performed so well during emergencies is that it has detailed emergency procedures in place, Hoelscher says. Also, staff undergo training to help ensure all know what to do in the event of a risky situation.
It is essential for laundry operations of all types and sizes to have emergency procedures and training in place for safety, and to ensure the business is able to keep processing linen.
For Laura Gracia, safety director for Admiral by Alsco in Houston, emergency procedures are essential to minimize, if not prevent, injuries and damage to property, ensuring continuance of business.
“Each of our plants was assigned to develop a plan according to their location and needs,” Gracia says. “The plan should be reviewed and revised when changes occur and/or reviewed and revised at least yearly.”
Brian Keegan, safety and sustainability officer for AmeriPride Services Inc., headquartered in Minnetonka, Minn., says his company focuses on preventing the common emergencies under the company’s control and makes sure it is prepared for those not under its control.
“AmeriPride/Canadian Linen is very proactive when it comes to practicing emergency procedures,” he says. “We have daily measures and controls in place in order to prevent emergencies from occurring. Our employees are trained from day one on the best way to deal with emergencies and can receive advanced training on the use of AEDs [defibrillators], etc.”
Parkland employees receive training annually to respond to disasters, emergencies and code alerts, Hoelscher says. The training is online, in the classroom and in the laundry. Fire extinguisher training is hands-on using electronic BullEx training equipment.
“We also participate in fire (Code Red) drills, evacuation and other disaster drills,” he says. “Our staff have particular responses to each code, such as remaining observant during Security Watches; codes Gray, Pink and Brown; reporting to a designated classroom, which has no windows, during a Code Black; locking doors during codes Silver and Orange; etc.”
Keegan says AmeriPride develops its emergency training and programs by studying root causes, identifying current best practices and then modifying policies and procedures based on the best practices and root-cause analysis.
“We communicate our safety policies and procedures starting on day one and throughout our ongoing in-person and online training, during regular monthly safety training and meetings, at special events, and during regular fire and emergency drills,” he says. “We also discuss specific safety topics in special sections of our quarterly newsletter and corporate intranet.”
Keegan adds that branch management has a crisis communications plan, and that the company has developed a mobile phone crisis application to help branch managers react and respond to emergencies.
George Latus, manager of linen services at White River Health System, Batesville, Ark., says that in a medical center environment, the system’s safety philosophy is omnipresent. Safety procedures are well-documented.
“We definitely stress to laundry employees that careful attention to safety procedures is key to their safety, but also can impact the whole facility,” he says. “When we don’t follow safety procedures, it jeopardizes the safety of patients and all who work in the hospital. This fact is well-communicated to staff.”
Latus says laundry safety procedures drive off the facility’s procedures, but adds that those procedures are specific to the risks associated with a hospital environment laundry. In the laundry, he says, changes to safety procedures are communicated during monthly in-service meetings or to “refresh” on current processes.
“New employees go through training on safety procedures,” Latus says. “Also, nobody works by themselves, so we always keep an eye on one another and identify any safety lapses.”
Keegan says that essential emergency preparedness should start with the basics, like the development of an emergency action plan and evacuation plan to meet OSHA and insurance company requirements.
“There is a lot of good information from OSHA and insurance providers on how to deal with immediate emergencies,” he says.
From there, procedures can evolve into a crisis management plan in which the laundry provides more training and support to branch management from outside consultants, vendors or corporate office specialists.
“This crisis management plan will include how to deal with specific issues after the immediate crisis has passed,” he says.
Latus says laundry operations definitely need basic safety procedures in place in the event of fire or electrical issues.
“In a medical facility such as ours, we have additional safety guidelines to avoid contact with sharps, should one accidentally find its way into the laundry, as well as what to do in the event that someone is stuck,” he says.
Along with the essential safety procedures is an incident analysis, according to Latus, during which the laundry will seek to uncover the root cause of the incident and either retrain or reassess procedures to prevent a similar mishap.
For Gracia, communication and knowledge among staff is key for laundry emergency procedures.
“Identify ‘first responders’ and provide adequate training, and instruct employees on how to report and/or request immediate help,” she says. “When using a paging system, instruct employees on what to say when paging for assistance. If you have a ‘pull’ station for siren, instruct employees on when and how to use it.”
In addition, Keegan says every company should have a business continuity plan, and possibly business interruption insurance matched to a risk.
“This business continuity plan provides specific, individualized plan(s) (based on a common template) to address the full range of business disruption topics, from the loss of a boiler to having your servers hacked,” he says.
Should Parkland’s laundry be unable to operate for any reason, Hoelscher says the facility has reciprocal agreements with other laundries within and outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“If needed, we also have contacts with vendors for additional new linen,” he says. “We have contracts in place to provide trucks, water in tankers, generators and other emergency supplies as needed. However, Parkland has never had to send its linen to another laundry to be processed.”
Parkland has frequently provided emergency services for other hospital laundries, some more than once, according to Hoelscher.
“Most occurred when they had equipment breakdown or replacement,” he says. “One was when their laundry had a fire and Parkland processed their linen for a full year. Another is still in progress due to damage to a laundry facility caused by a tornado in January 2017.”
Hoelscher says Parkland has redundancy in almost all of its essential equipment: air compressors, boilers, thermal heaters, hot-water generators, water reclamation, washer-extractors, tunnel washers, dryers, ironers, folders, etc.
“The system also has an excellent laundry maintenance team and large spare-parts inventory, as well as backup systems in place should the computers fail for the rail system and tunnel washers,” he says. “Parkland employees are cross-trained to cover other positions in the laundry and distribution if short-staffed in any area.”
During utility outages, Hoelscher says Parkland staff has always been able to serve its patients by utilizing linen conservation practices, hand folding, emergency reserve linen, new linen that was pre-washed, other usable non-premium linen, running extended hours, and rescheduling employees to come in early the next day when the utility was restored.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion.