ASHTABULA, Ohio — When laundry managers review their injury logs with inspectors from OSHA or from their workers’ compensation insurance carriers, back injuries frequently rank among the most commonly reported. On average, each back-injury claim represents a week of lost productivity, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, plus associated healthcare costs. The culprits triggering many of these back injuries are not difficult to fix.
By paying attention to ergonomics, work positioning and the elimination or minimization of repetitive bending, reaching and lifting, laundry managers may save their workers from needless pain and injury and save their companies from needless, burdensome costs.
Considerations in Specifying
The importance of determining exactly how the spring-loaded mechanism is to be used becomes critical to whether ergonomics may be introduced as a cost savings or as a cost. Specifying the right spring-loaded mechanism requires the following key considerations:
Large items such as sheets or small items such as face cloths — Carts and trucks with relatively straight, vertical walls accommodate spring-loaded mechanisms most effectively because the platform may travel farther down toward the bottom without impediment. Carts and trucks with tapered walls or with stepped walls to permit nesting when empty sometimes block smooth travel and create gaps between the platform and the sidewalls in which small items may fall.
Linen transport cart, in-plant utility truck or basket — The more people are to be involved in moving and handling the load, the more effective using spring loading becomes and greater the value of hiding the spring mechanism under the platform.
Loaded by hand or catching from a freefall — If laundry trucks are to catch linens freefalling from a sling system, chute or conveyor, the platform needs to be able to accommodate the additional load borne in absorbing the fall without breaking and without the springs collapsing. The distance of the fall and the weight upon landing need to be determined to ensure the ideal number of springs is included. It is common for this type of dynamic load to require 50% more load-bearing ability of the platforms than a typical, hand-loaded platform. Using a large sorting table under the chute and transferring the linens to spring-loaded carts and trucks may offer a less costly yet ergonomically sensible alternative.
For soiled or cleaned — Preventing the spring-loading mechanism from contacting soiled laundry is important for infection control and, therefore, the hidden coil design offers an advantage.
Bagged linen or loose — Bagged linen is less likely to snag on the covered spring mechanism than loose linens.
Though each individual application will help guide the type of spring-loading mechanism to be specified based on balancing a variety of practical factors with cost considerations, choosing either type of spring loading delivers welcome support for workers and aids in the reduction of repetitive-motion injuries.