Safety: Every Day, Every Shift (Conclusion)

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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?”

Chemicals Supply: Scott Pariser, Pariser Industries Inc., Paterson, N.J.

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Scott Pariser

Scott Pariser

No laundry can ultimately be considered a successful operation unless worker safety is the No. 1 priority. Wash results, production efficiencies and profitability are all contingent upon the establishment of the protocols and disciplines necessary to ensure the health and welfare of the laundry’s personnel.

Employers and department heads can help employees be safer by means of a number of specific practices, but it is important to stress that worker safety is a team effort, and that all parties, inclusive of employers, managers, employees and related vendors, must contribute toward the goal of a safer workplace.

In order to appropriately address a safe work environment, concerted efforts must be made to educate personnel on the potential dangers that may exist in their respective workspaces. This includes provision of Right-to-Know information, incorporating chemical product Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and Procedural Guides, all of which should be posted on-site at point of chemical product and laundry equipment use. This documentation should also remain on file and up to date in the department head’s office.

Too often, this literature is only read after someone has been compromised by chemical contact or an equipment-related issue. SDS and related procedural postings should be supplemented with routinely provided in-service training sessions. Session content should include the safe and effective use of personal protection, the proper handling of each and every chemical item in use, and the remedial action that should be taken in the instance of physical contact or spillage.

Worker training should also cover the safe and proper use of washers, dryers and folders, and the purpose of safety mechanisms, and how, where and why they are installed.

Chemical companies and equipment dealers should both be called upon to provide these in-service sessions on a quarterly basis, and employees should be required to sign off on their attendance at these meetings, and their understanding of the session’s subject matter.

Written acknowledgments from the employer attesting to the employee’s participation in the process go a long way in developing a workforce’s buy-in and the appropriate group mindset necessary to enhance this team endeavor.

Periodic and frequent quizzing of employees as to what they would do in an emergency situation is an effective way to raise consciousness and keep tabs on the workforce’s current informed status.

Accidents will happen, but a safe workplace is only achieved when all parties understand the importance and protocols necessary to minimize adverse conditions. It is made possible through education, discipline and the establishment of a culture that holds the welfare of all associates as its primary concern.

Done properly, a productive, efficient and effective laundry will be its outcome.

Textiles: Steve Kallenbach, ADI American Dawn, Los Angeles

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Steve Kallenbach

Steve Kallenbach

Much like our last discussion on quality, safety cannot be a department or a program but rather a culture. Additionally, any culture must be based in a common language. The best safety cultures have five key elements:

1) Management Leadership Partnered with Employee Involvement — For any culture to sustain, associates must see leadership’s commitment from the top down. As that is reminded daily, the actual “program” should be managed and driven by a body of employee associates from all levels and departments—all of whom have an equal voice in setting standards and addressing policies. 

Communication about meetings, actions and outcomes should be given to all employees regularly. Policy and expectations, as well as measurements, should be posted for all to see, and kept current on a daily basis. Some companies offer group incentives for accident-free records. Live it.

2) Common and Simple Language — Just like quality, a culture of safety needs keywords that all associates can understand. S.A.F.E. can be an acronym for the words Safety-Attention-Focus-Education. Simply put, make safety your first cause, always. Give constant attention to your work environment. Focus on immediate correction where needed. Educate, continually, your entire organization on safe work practices. Live it.

3) Continual Workplace Analysis — While safety meetings tend to be reactive in nature, and certainly need to focus on known issues, it is of much more value to regularly audit each and every area of the operation (in cycle) with the entire governing group, so that all eyes can look at potential hazards. Live it.

It’s amazing what occurs when an hourly associate from one department spends a little time in another area. Think about any time a visiting GM has looked through your operation and shown you improvement opportunities that were right in front of your nose. Create this kind of environment, and your safety culture will thrive. Live it.

4) Hazard Prevention and Control — Bring in outside specialists in safety to continually update your associates and governing committee with hazard prevention practice. Find great customers who have effective safety outcomes, and bring key associates right into your meetings. Have associates visit their meetings. Lead your company to constant improvement in safety, but empower a truly open door. Live it.

5) Constant Continuing Education — Never, ever stop training. All meetings should start with a safety quote or reading or update. If you want to make safety first, as I’ve stated after every point, live it.

Continually and regularly hold training and retraining meetings. Assign your more experienced workers as safety mentors to help “train up” your newer associates. Safety is more than just equipment and workplace. It’s also about personal heath, from ergonomics to water consumption, stretching, etc. There is no question that you care about the safety and health of your workers. Who doesn’t? But living safely is a constant discipline, and should at the top of leadership’s responsibility. Live it.

Our charge as owners, managers and participants in this great industry is to first protect the lives of our fellow workers. Talk it. Walk it. Live it.

Miss Part 1, with insights from a commercial laundry expert and a consultant? Click here now to read it.

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