Consulting Services: David Bernstein, Propeller Solutions Group, Park City, Utah
First and foremost, I hope that you, your families, your colleagues and team members, and their families are, and have been, safe and healthy throughout the past few months as we have endured this pandemic separately but together.
The phrase, “we’re all in this together,” has been repeated so many times over the past few months that it sounds cliché, although I think truer words have never been spoken.
That is why, as we work to reopen our local, state, and national economies, it is so important that we take care to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of our team members, customers, and the communities we serve. As with all things, this begins at home which, in this case, means our laundries.
Industry publications, trade associations, safety experts, consultants, insurance companies, governmental agencies, certifying bodies and your own team members have for years made the safety of personnel a value and a priority, but if we are being honest with ourselves, we know that lapses have occurred.
With time, people naturally become comfortable in their work environments; comfort leads to complacency, and complacency leads to diminished adherence to safety rules, including hygienic practices.
Pre-COVID audits of every size and type of laundry bear this out, with consultants taking pages of audit reports to remind management of their own safety rules and those of local, state, and national governments.
As laundries around the world re-open, team members have a greater respect for these rules and compliance is near 100%. We hope it stays that way.
Beyond the pre-COVID rules for personal protective equipment, considerations for bloodborne pathogens and the like, the “new normal” for the foreseeable future requires operators throughout the industry to find new, innovative and important ways to keep their team members and their customers safe and healthy, starting with the arrival of employees to work each day.
Interim guidance from the CDC for critical infrastructure operations like laundries is to do all that is possible to ensure that only uninfected workers come to work each day. This means that only those who are asymptomatic and have not had a positive test result for COVID-19 can begin work.
In many cases, laundry operators are checking the temperatures of employees before they begin their workdays; however, it must be stressed that those who are infected but asymptomatic may not have an elevated temperature. With this in mind, additional precautions are being implemented in laundries to protect all workers and their customers.
Laundries have always been places where employees are supplied with and trained in the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand hygiene, but whereas PPE for hygiene was primarily employed in the soiled areas of the laundry, we are now seeing the use of face masks, face shields, barrier garments, gloves and other PPE expanded throughout entire facilities.
There is also an increased and enhanced focus on hand hygiene throughout laundry facilities. Additional handwashing and sanitizing stations are being added throughout plants, with an increased emphasis on touch-free sanitizer and soap dispensers as well as faucets, toilets, light switches and even areas where employees clock in and out for their work shifts.
Once workers enter the facility, social distancing must be maintained. According to the CDC’s web site, “current information about the asymptomatic spread of SARS-CoV-2 supports the need for social distancing and other protective measures within a work environment.”
In other words, areas throughout a laundry and the production methods employed are being changed as much as possible to ensure the maintenance of appropriate distancing between workers.
We are seeing this throughout laundries including, but not limited to, soil reception, soil sorting, the washroom, finishing and folding areas, storage, and pack-out. A variety of means of reminding workers of these distancing requirements are being implemented, not the least of which is the use of signs and floor markings.
In areas where distancing is difficult, we have seen a number of innovative ways of trying to decrease or eliminate the possibility of the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19. This includes the use of plexiglass, strip curtains and other physical barriers between workers, as well as requirements for workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth and/or face shields.
In some cases, this also means that personal cooling fans are being removed and ventilation systems being modified to minimize the risk of virus spread.
In addition to the modification of work areas, emphasis must also be placed on ensuring that break rooms and cafeterias do not become vectors for the spread of the virus.
One way to keep this from happening is to stagger break times, but it may also be necessary to remove some tables and chairs from a break room to ensure proper distancing or to provide temporary break rooms in other areas (e.g. conference rooms, training rooms, etc.) or by using temporary tents, outside tables and chairs, or other measures.
Just like in work areas, the use of signs and visual indicators will help remind workers to be vigilant, even during break times.
There are likely myriad other ways that laundry operators are trying to ensure the safety of their employees and their families, but the previous are some of the measures that seem most prevalent, and perhaps permanent, as we continue to navigate our way through these uncharted pandemic-infested waters.
Stay safe and healthy, my friends.
Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Phil Jones, Hotelier Linen Service, Lakeland, Fla.
This has certainly been something we have never seen before during our lifetime, as it would have been hard to imagine hotels, restaurants, theme parks and businesses closing for extended times.
As we begin to recover, our operation has looked closely at how we can safely operate and keep our employees at a low risk when we resume the business of processing laundry.
We changed our breakroom, moving tables to maintain a 6-foot clearance for social distancing and also the number of seats at each table. This also meant that we would need to stagger who took breaks and when so that only enough for the number of tables and seats would be on break at a given time.
The cleaning of the area with specific cleaning materials and the amount of times for high-touch areas in the breakroom were increased.
All visitors must enter through our front entrance and are required to wear a mask during their visit. Only visitors with a valid reason would be allowed to enter the laundry processing area. Each visitor is given our guidelines that need to be followed during their visit.
We placed signs in different languages throughout our facility reminding our employees about social distancing and washing hands and our management team was trained on how to properly coach someone if they were not following the proper guidelines. At this particular time this includes all employees wearing masks until at least phase three of the recovery plan is in place.
There were several concerns that we needed to address in the processing area such as social distancing. We moved the towel-folding machines so that there was at least 6 feet of spacing between the machines.
We added plastic spacers between the pillowcase machine feeding stations as a layer of protection between the employees. We added the same type of plastic spacers along the sorting line as well. The spacers are removable so you can adjust based on the number of employees working in the area.
More hand sanitizers were added throughout the building so that easy access to sanitizing was available, including all bathrooms and exit areas. All hand sanitizers were checked as part of the increased cleaning process to make sure they were always filled and working.
Finally, our electronic information board provides daily safety practices with a heavy emphasis on COVID-19 information, such as what to do if you begin to feel ill during the day.
I am sure there are many more changes and improvements to come as we continue to cross uncharted waters, but to all I end with hoping all of you are staying safe through these trying times for our industry.
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