Laundry Safety: Every Day, Every Shift (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“I’ve recently read news about accidents at hotel laundries, OSHA with new standards, and chemical training. Safety is foremost on my mind. How can I help my employees be safer on the job? What recommendations do you have for safety training?”

Commercial Laundry: Rick Rone, Laundry Plus, Bradenton, Fla.

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Rick Rone

Rick Rone

I believe that this is one of the most important subjects we have ever reviewed. Safety should be of prime importance to all of us in the laundry industry. It is a subject that should be discussed and reviewed on a daily basis.

It’s somewhat like athletes who do repetitive motions. Muscle memory and mind memory go hand-in-hand. Every day. Every shift.

There are many positions within our laundry that can get quite monotonous. Our co-workers start to run on “auto-pilot” and take things for granted. That is when things can and do go horribly wrong. Many of us have heard the same thing: “I know better than that. It was just a stupid mistake.” That mistake can ruin a person’s life and those of their loved ones.

How many of us have released a person from their employment due to not following safety procedures? It is difficult to think that you are doing them a favor by doing so.

Everybody within your organization, from the CEO to the line workers, needs to have constant training in all aspects of safety. Not just in how to avoid accidents, but also what to do and what is the prescribed procedure if and when an accident does occur.

Do you maintain at least one AED (automated external defibrillator)? How many people, no matter what language they may speak, have had full training in its proper use? The Red Cross offers free lessons in both mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and external heart massage. Is everybody’s training up to date?

When there is an accident, after the situation has been properly handled, is there a complete review of all aspects of it? Not just how it happened but what can be done to avoid the same thing happening in the future?

The review should also include the steps that were taken after the accident. Were the appropriate agencies called, if necessary? Time is always of the essence. Were all aspects of the accident handled with professionalism and expediency?

One last thought: How many of us have asked OSHA to inspect our facility on a voluntary basis? Are you aware that in most cases, if you invite them in, they will not fine you? Instead of fearing OSHA, let’s utilize them as the means to a safer and healthier workspace.

Consulting Services: Chris Mayer, Performance Matters, Plymouth, Minn.

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Chris Mayer

Chris Mayer

Great question(s)! I am glad you are staying on top of the recent changes and ensuring your employees are working safely. I have included some information on the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards as well as some tasks that should be completed if not already accomplished to ensure you are compliant and your workers are informed about safety.

June 1, 2016, was the final implementation deadline for employer compliance with HazComm 2012.

As of June 1, employers are required to update any alternative workplace labeling of containers with covered hazardous chemicals. Also, employers are to update their hazard communication program as necessary, which includes making all required Safety Data Sheets (SDS) accessible to all workers. Finally, employers have to provide additional employee training for the new program as well as newly identified physical or health hazards.

OSHA revised the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) with publication of a Final Rule on March 26, 2012. The revisions aligned the HCS with the United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), creating new format and content requirements for chemical labels and SDS. The new SDS are intended to replace the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) previously in use.

Under the new rule (HazComm 2012), compliant labels must include harmonized signal words (Danger or Warning), pictograms, and hazard statements for each hazard and category. Precautionary statements must also be included on the label. The new SDS format and content requirements call for a specific 16-section format, replacing the format and look of the now phased-out Material Safety Data Sheets. Additional information on new labels and SDS may be found at OSHA’s Hazard Communication Webpage.

The harmonized format of the SDS will enable workers to access the information more efficiently, enhance worker comprehension of hazards (especially for low- and limited-literacy workers), reduce confusion in the workplace, facilitate safety training, and result in safer handling and use of chemicals. 

The Hazard Communication Standard in 1983 gave the workers the “right to know,” but the new Globally Harmonized System gives workers the “right to understand.” OSHA anticipates the HCS of 2012 standard will prevent 43 fatalities and 585 injuries annually, with a net annualized savings of approximately $500 million a year.

QUIZ: ARE YOU COMPLIANT WITH REQUIREMENTS?

  • Do you have a designated person(s) responsible for obtaining and maintaining SDS? If the answer is no, designate someone and ensure there is a process for accepting new chemicals in the building; all chemicals are documented in the SDS book, log or whichever forum your company uses.
  • How are the SDS in your workplace maintained? If you do not know the answer, find out or create a process. Inform all involved parties of the process.   
  • How do workers access the SDS when they are in their work area? If you ask any worker at your facility, will they know where to find the SDS?
  • What procedures are followed when the SDS is not received at the time of shipment? If you do not know the answer, find out or create a process. Inform all involved parties of the process.
  • Is there an SDS for each hazardous chemical used in the workplace? Ask yourself this, do you have an SDS for gasoline? If a worker spilled gasoline in the plant and splashed it in their eyes, how would you treat the worker? How would you clean it up? Should they have been wearing PPE? The SDS will give you all this information and more.
  • Is the Hazard Communication program updated to include the new changes? If not, you will need to update with the appropriate changes. You can find program templates online at OSHA.gov, your local Department of Labor and on various Internet search engines.
  • Are all employees trained for the new program as well as any newly identified physical or health hazards? Employees need to understand the program, where, why and how to find and use SDS, as well as the meaning of the signal words and pictograms. You can find training online at OSHA.gov, your local Department of Labor, and on various Internet search engines.

This quiz will let you know if you have additional work to do to be in compliance with the new standard. A lot of the items listed were required with the old HazCom standard but sometimes we all need a refresher to ensure we are doing what is needed for the safety and health of our greatest assets—our employees.

Check back tomorrow from responses from chemicals supply and textiles experts.

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