WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has unveiled new safety and health guidance that will help healthcare workers and their employers prepare for a possible influenza pandemic.
The agency released Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guidance for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers on Monday.
“During an influenza pandemic, the healthcare community will be on the front line,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “This new guidance provides information and tools to help protect healthcare workers.”
A comprehensive resource for healthcare planners and practitioners, the new guidance offers information and tools to assist the industry in preparing for and responding to an influenza pandemic.
It includes technical information on infection control and industrial hygiene practices to reduce the risk of infection in healthcare settings; workplace preparations and planning issues; and OSHA standards that have special importance to pandemic preparedness planners and responders in the industry.
There is a specific section for work practices related to Linens and Laundry:
“The following precautions are recommended for handling linens and laundry that might be contaminated with respiratory secretions from patients with pandemic influenza:
- Healthcare workers should place soiled linen directly into a laundry bag in the patient’s room. The linen should not be contained in a manner that prevents the bag from opening during transport and while in the soiled linen holding area.
- Healthcare workers should wear gloves and gowns when directly handling soiled linen and laundry (e.g., bedding, towels, and personal clothing), as per standard precautions. There should be no shaking or handling of soiled linen and laundry in a manner that might create an opportunity for disease transmission or contamination of the environment.
- Healthcare workers should wear gloves when transporting bagged linen and laundry.
- Healthcare workers should perform hand hygiene after removing gloves that have been in contact with soiled linen and laundry.
- The healthcare facility should ensure that linens and laundry are washed and dried in accordance with infection control standards and procedures.”
The complete document can be found at www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA_pandemic_health.pdf.
OSHA directs those seeking additional information to see the Laundry and Bedding section in Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities, 2003, which can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.