CHICAGO — Ask almost any laundry and linen services provider, and they’ll tell you that the safety of their employees is one of their top concerns.
However, over the past few years, plant safety has taken a backseat to pandemic health worries.
Now that the pandemic is over, for the most part, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new enforcement guidance to make its penalties more effective, plant safety is returning to top of mind.
For the most part, according to respondents to the latest Your Views survey for American Laundry News, operations are making progress on safety measures.
“In general, most locations take seriously the safety protocols,” writes a survey taker. “From time to time, we see some violations, but not often.”
However, not everyone who took the survey thinks laundry operations are making enough headway when it comes to safety efforts.
“I think the industry struggles with safety, especially after the COVID pandemic,” writes a respondent. “Turnover is high, laundries are using temps and safety has really never reached the same level of importance as productivity in many operations.
“Laundries try to improve safety by placing signage, which has little to no effect on safety performance. I believe operators don't really know how to approach safety to ensure that their operation is truly safe rather than safe by accident, relying on luck.
“Measuring safety performance by recordable rate is not a true measure of safety performance. It is much like driving while looking in the rearview mirror.”
Another respondent writes, “The corporate boomer mentality in this industry is destroying the ability for everyone to work together in a healthy way to prevent safety hazards.”
For 86% of those who took the survey, safety training/testing is a standard part of a new employee’s orientation.
When asked if they provide continuing safety education or training for employees, whether annually or more frequently, 80% of respondents indicate the affirmative.
Safety measures in the industry seem to be working at some level because when asked, “When did your operation last record a lost-time injury (a nonfatal traumatic injury that caused any loss of time from work beyond the day/shift during which it occurred),” more than half of respondents say it had been more than 24 months since such an event took place.
That was followed by 20% indicating it had been 19 to 24 months since a lost-time injury while 13.3% say it was one to six months ago.
Both seven to 12 months ago and 13 to 18 months ago were indicated by nearly 7% of survey takers.
When asked if their laundry/linen service had a consultant or other knowledgeable industry resource assess its safety, almost 47% say no while 40% had.
Around 13% indicate they don’t know of a consultant or other resource that had been used.
Finally, in response to the question “Has a regulatory agency ever fined your operation for a safety violation during your tenure,” more than 73% of respondents indicate no while 20% had.
Almost 7% didn’t know if their operation had ever been fined.
“I would be more interested in what the new regulations are and how they affect the industry as a whole,” writes a survey respondent.
While the Your Views survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100%.
Subscribers to American Laundry News e-mails are invited to take the industry survey anonymously online each quarter. All managers and administrators of institutional/OPL, cooperative, commercial and industrial laundries are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and identify industry trends.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].