In the July/August 2012 issue of Laundry Today we discussed the importance of infection prevention and reviewed two very important and practical ways to prevent cross-contamination in your plant – facilities and design, and policies and procedures.
Today I’d like to discuss several more topics that will help prevent the spread of infection in your laundry. They include personnel, equipment, clean linen storage, transportation and relationships with infection control professionals.
Every laundry’s Infection Control and Safety process needs to include qualified personnel. How do you train those personnel? Have a comprehensive orientation program in place - and pay people to attend. Include the good news and the bad news about working in a laundry and emphasize safety and infection control.
Some people who have no experience in a laundry are unaware of all the aspects of the job. Write Job Safety Analyses (JSAs), which provide a complete breakdown of a job’s components, including step-by-step procedures and all potential safety hazards. Typically, a new employee goes through on the job training and a JSA serves as the guideline, checklist and ongoing reference for the new employee. As an
employer or manager, it is your responsibility to make sure that you get the right person in the right job. Someone who is squeamish but wants to make the soil side premium is not the right person to put on the sort line.
Training on how to handle soiled linen must be ongoing and make sure you have a clean and easy to access supply of PPEs. It is also helpful to have a safety committee with representatives from all areas of the plant.
It is very important to have a well established preventative maintenance program in place. Malfunctioning equipment can cause accidents, linens on the floor and delays that may lead to taking risks. So make sure you have well-training maintenance staff should be well-trained on site during all production hours. Also make sure your maintenance procedures include quick response. When appropriate, install Lint Eaters - they
cut down on the lint that collects on the clean linen. And when appropriate, install bug zappers. But, be sure to install the bug zappers away from the linen areas so no carcasses land on the linen. Also, please be sure to tie the maintenance and cleaning of your bug zappers to your pest control program.
CLEAN LINEN STORAGE
Establish a first in/first out system for your stored linen. Make sure you rotate and keep the linen fresh. Do a daily visual check of the area to make sure there are no problems.
All linen areas should be free of bugs and you should have the temperature controlled in the area/room. Linen areas should not be exposed to excess humidity. It is also important to keep the shelves holding linen clean so construct the shelves of a material that can be easily cleaned. Maintain an inventory of all the items and limit access to authorized personnel who are properly garbed.
Don’t forget about transportation of linens and those who do that job. Make sure your drivers have PPEs on board. They absolutely need heavy-duty gloves. Many, if not most, will not wear a gown or mask. Make sure there is hand sanitizer on board and it is used. Many companies provide a clean kit on board for spills and clean up. Instruct the drivers to always exercise caution when handling the bags of soiled linen. Sometimes they have to consolidate two carts into one and it can be potentially harmful if the bags of soiled linen are open or ripped. Keep the soil and clean linens separate at all times. If transporting them on the same truck, make sure they are well wrapped and strapped down, away from each other.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH INFECTION CONTROL PROFESSIONALS
It is also important to maintain relationships with your customers’ infection control professionals. Ask them to review your policies as you develop and update them (infestation, chemo linen, etc.) They will have to be informed of your policies so it is advantageous to get their input before they are finalized. Invite those infection control professionals into your plant. They will see things you cannot see and help you make your operation better. Never stop learning and never stop communicating with your customers. It is also helpful to attend linen committee meetings to find out what is going on in the hospitals such as their current focus or challenge.
In conclusion, always remember that infection control and safety are processes that require constant vigilance and updates. The process will not work unless everyone understands the merits of compliance and takes the time to comply. Both your internal staff and your external constituents must work together to be successful at infection control. For example, communication about infested linen must come from the hospital. Communication back to the customer about the items found in soiled linen helps them understand how they can do a better job protecting everyone.
Learn, learn, learn and learn some more. Our industry is filled with experts who can help us meet any challenge and solve any problem. Join and participate in organizations such as APIC, ARTA, TRSA, ALM or IAHTM, and stay current on best practices. Consider applying to HLAC for inspection to become accredited. It will make you and your organization stronger.
For more information on infection prevention in your laundry and complete HCLA accreditation standards go to www.hlacnet.org.
Editor's Note: This article is derived from a presentation given by Judy Reino at the American Reusable Textile Association's 2012 Education Conference in Memphis. For more information: www.arta1.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Judy Reino is the past chair of HLAC, the current chair of the HLAC Inspection Committee and the President of Reino Linen Service. Reino Linen Service operates two HLAC accredited plants, one in Michigan and one in Ohio and process approximately 35 million pounds a year. Reino Linen Service is a family-owned company that has been in business since 1943
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