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Meeting Inspection Requirements

As you prepare your laundry for an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Inspection at either state or federal level, a survey by the Joint Commission or a mock survey, which is used to prepare for a survey, it is important to understand the basics and rules governing inspections. In previous issues I have addressed the basics involved with the Joint Commission (JCAHO.)

That is important now because the JCAHO and OSHA have communication links which make each aware of the progress your facility makes with regard to complying with the others efforts and requisite rules.

Keeping in mind that OSHA will soon publish an Ergonomic Guide/Standards be advised that if you have an operation where employees are manually unloading a large capacity or are transporting heavy carts by pushing or pulling heavy weights, I would suggest looking into the marketplace and finding means of correcting these issues. There are wash systems available that unload without manual attention, feeding machines that are more ergonomic than others and cart moving systems that would allow a worker to move a heavy cart easily.

Okay, let us look at the basics as they apply to an OSHA inspection in your facility. The following areas would be reviewed as this applies to any laundry operation, healthcare or hospitality; no joke.




Hazard: Employee exposure to hazardous chemicals found in the laundry


Things to consider:

Splattering potential when pouring from one container to another place i.e. container, washer, tub etc.
Non-labeled chemical containers.
Chemicals could cause an allergic reaction or other dermalogic condition.
If an employee has a skin condition from chemicals, or another condition, there is the possibility that an infection may arise upon further exposure to chemicals.
Never mix chemicals that can form a deadly gas i.e. ammonia and chlorine.


Solution: Implement a written program which meets the requirements of the communication standard, Health Care Standard (HCS,) have warnings posted and have access to
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

In the areas of medical services or first aid, where eyes or any portion of the body of an employee are exposed to chemicals or corrosive materials, provide suitable faculties
for the drenching and flushing of eyes and the body within the immediate work area.




Contaminated laundry as outlined in the OSHA Blood borne Pathogen Standard may have been soiled with blood, other potential infectious material or may contain sharps.


Hazard: Exposure to blood or potentially infectious materials through contaminated laundry that may have been improperly labeled, identified, or handled.


Solutions: Follow procedures outlined in this standard:


Handle “contaminated� laundry as little as possible with minimal agitation. Identify what is contaminated and what is not; there are very few situations where textiles
would or could be contaminated.
When a bag is contaminated by contaminated laundry at the location of use – do not sort laundry at that location.

Common sense should prevail. This does not mean you should post sort in your laundry facility, this means do not sort linen in the patient room/area or adjacent

Place wet contaminated laundry in a leak-proof, and color-coded, labeled containers at the location of use.
When contaminated, laundry must be placed and transported in bags or containers labeled as biohazard (use the symbol) or in red bags in accordance with the OSHA Standard.


In a facility that utilizes or practices universal precautions regarding the handling of soiled textiles, alternative color-coding is adequate, providing that it permits employees, visitors
and patients the ability to recognize that the containers comply with universal precaution provisions. If the facility does not practice universal precautions, then the red bag
requirement or having a bag marked as bio-hazard would apply.


Laundry procedures should be used according to the washer manufacturer and chemical supplier’s recommendations. The Center for Disease Control Guidelines for Laundry in
Health Care Facilities would apply.




Constant exposure to heat may result in heat exhaustion. As a result of constant exposure to high temperatures and high humidity less blood will be circulated to most vital organs,
particularly the brain. Heat exhaustion can lead to dizziness, nausea and possible collapse. If not treated quickly and professionally a person suffering heat exhaustion can suffer
damage to the brain and heat stroke which may be the cause of death. There are numerous systems available in the market that can remedy such exposure, mobile air cooling
systems being utilized in laundry facilities are on the rise, these can be rented or purchased.


Hazard: Workers may be exposed to high temperatures from working in the laundry facility.


Solutions: As with most situations, it is important to educate and train all individuals that enter the laundry facility to be able to recognize all signs related to any heat related illness
(stroke or exhaustion.) First aid should be available in all areas of the facility, workers, supervisors and all employees should be trained in the recognition of heat related illnesses
and be able to render first aid.

Employees suffering from heat exhaustion should be immediately removed from the environment and provided with cool water. Lay the employee in the prone position and
elevate the legs and feet. If the employee does not regain a sense of feeling, immediately call for emergency help.

Heat stroke can be fatal. Symptoms to recognize are headache, loss of consciousness (fainting), a flushed or red face and the employee will most likely not be able to
generate sweat. Call medical help immediately. As with heat exhaustion, remove the employee from the environment immediately and place the employee is a cooler environment,
soak down the employee and remove appropriate clothing.


Management should be aware of the technological and work practice controls such as:


* Mobile Cooling Systems

* Ventilation requirements

* Spot Cooling Systems help but do not take care of most laundry related heat challenges. This is especially true to the high degree of heat radiation that is stimulated by
laundry equipment, particularly ancillary support systems such as steam pipes that are not properly insulated and flatwork ironers and dryers that may fall into the same category.

You can require that most items of laundry equipment are insulated and designed to prohibit heat radiation. It may cost a little more, but certainly will reduce utility bills and
potentials for employee related heat illnesses. New self-contained ironers are on the market. These ironers contain their own heat generation source and only require electrical and
air connections.




The potentials for violation of this OSHA factor become more apparent as ergonomics become a priority to our industry. As OSHA becomes aware that there are systems available to
improve the ergonomic condition of laundry facilities, you will find that inspectors will be paying more attention to this area than ever before.

There are systems available that can assist in cart movement. These systems not only improve ergonomic conditions, but drastically reduce employee accidents and
associated claims for compensation. The loading and unloading of washers and dryers by manual means will become a thing of the past should ergonomic draft rules be placed in
effect, as will the bending, pushing and pulling required to feed the various items classified as flatwork to a spreader feeder or flatwork ironer. There are now systems available that
drastically improve this situation/circumstance in all types of laundries.


The current standard basically puts the challenge out to our industry, these general suggestions are:


* Avoid lifting bulky or awkward weighted objects.

* Avoid lifting/reaching or working above shoulder height

* Avoid awkward postures such as twisting while lifting

* Lift items close to the body

* Limit the weight of the item to be lifted

* Use mechanical aids to reduce the need to lift, such as overhead conveyance,

washers and dryers that extract load onto conveyors or carts, and mechanical devices that move carts with minimal manual attention.




Fires in laundry facilities are on the rise. The major problem associated with these incidents is the lack of training and the lack of knowledge pertaining to reducing the risk of fire
during normal laundry operations.


Hazard: Fire hazards exist due to excessive lint build up on duct work, roof structures and other surfaces that are part of heat radiation equipment.


Solutions: Conduct routine maintenance programs that include cleaning of all surfaces that contain lint. Management should regularly establish procedures that are specific to all
equipment and systems that make up a laundry facility. Remember blowing lint adds to an environmental hazard, vacuuming lint and disposing of this nuisance is the way to go.

Sanitation is another area to review. The laundry manager should control accumulations of flammable and combustible materials in order that the potential for fire or smoke
may not contribute to an emergency or destruction of property.

Additionally, make sure all operators are trained with regards to drying materials, especially rags that contain oil.


In the next issue Ken will address OSHA requirements as they pertain to Latex, Noise

Exposure, Slips and Falls, Sharps Handling and Personal Protective equipment.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Ecolab Receives Environmental Stewardship Award

AUSTRIA - An environmental stewardship award was recently given to Ecolab Inc. in Austria in recognition of the their efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of a local hospital laundry. The award is for implementing their PERformance SMART low-temperature at an Austrian hospital. The laundry program is said to reduce water and energy usage, in addition to shortening wash time.