OSHA - What Is It

OSHA Laundry Certification

Contaminated Laundry

OSHA recognizes that there are many potential hazards to contaminated laundry.  The Bloodborne Pathogen Standard defines contaminated laundry as “laundry, which has been soiled with blood or other potentially infectious material or may contain sharps.” This can be even more hazardous if this material is labeled or handled improperly.

The solution to this is to follow the procedures outlined in the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.  A few of the procedures are described below.

  • Only handle contaminated laundry when necessary and do so with minimal agitation.
  • Do not rinse or sort contaminated laundry at the same location where it was used.
  • If contaminated laundry is wet put it in a leak proof and labeled container.
  • Contaminated laundry that becomes wet must be placed in containers that prevent it from soaking- through and leaking during transportation.
  • The containers transporting contaminated laundry must have the biohazard symbol or be in red bags. See below for labeling instructions.

OSHA Container Labeling Chart

OSHA Container Labeling Chart

Item No Label Needed if Universal Precautions Are Used and Specific Use of Container or Item Is Known to All Employees Biohazard Label Red Container
Regulated waste container (e.g., contaminated sharps container) X or X
Reusable contaminated sharps container (e.g., surgical instruments soaking in a tray) X or X
Refrigerator/freezer holding blood or other potentially infectious material X
Containers used for storage, transport or shipping of blood X or X
Blood/blood products for clinical use No labels required
Individual specimen containers of blood or other potentially infectious materials remaining in facility X X or X
Contaminated equipment needed service (e.g., dialysis equipment; suction apparatus) X
Plus a label specifying where the contamination exists
Specimens and regulated waste shipped from the primary facility to another facility for service or disposal X or X
Contaminated laundry X* or X or X
Contaminated laundry sent to another facility that does not use Universal Precautions X or X
* Alternative labeling or color coding is sufficient if it permits all employees to recognize the containers as requiring compliance with Universal Precautions.

OSHA Risk Management Tactics

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Another important aspect to laundry safety is making sure you have the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Without the proper PPE it is possible to be exposed to blood borne pathogens by touching contaminated laundry.

A few of the solutions of this problem are:

  • Employers must take on the responsibility to ensure that employees wear the correct PPE such as gloves, gowns, face shields, masks, etc.
  • People working directly with contaminated laundry should use thick utility gloves

Sharps Handling

Laundry that contains sharps that were exposed to blood borne pathogens can be extremely dangerous.

To try to minimize the risk of these situations OSHA recommends that a safety program should be implemented that details the appropriate handling and disposal of sharps. Below are some basic suggestions to follow to help in managing sharps.

  • Sharps shall not be bent, broken, or recapped by the staff.
  • Contaminated sharps should be discarded as soon as possible in the correct container.
  • Any area where sharps are handled should have a needle container close by for easy disposal.

Hazardous Chemicals

Exposure to hazardous chemicals that are used in the laundry process can easily occur if not closely monitored. Possible exposure can result from unlabeled chemical bottles, splattering of chemicals when pouring, and allergic reactions caused from contact with soaps and detergents.

Listed below are some of the solutions to this issue:

  • Create a program that follows the requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard.  By following this standard you will train your workers, place warning labels where needed, and provide access to a Material Safety Data Sheet.
  • Provide facilities to quickly flush the eyes and body of a worker who comes in contact with corrosive materials.

Latex Allergy

Many people are allergic to latex so you need to provide the appropriate gloves for latex-sensitive employees.

Noise Exposure

Prolonged exposure to loud noises from the machinery can result in hearing loss, high blood pressure, hypertension, and other negative health effects.  To reduce the effects of exposure to loud noises you should create a health program that addresses the risks created by noise exposure.

Heat Stress

If workers are continuously exposed to hot conditions it can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.   The body responds to high temperatures by sending a large about of blood to the skin to counteract the heat by perspiring.   This causes less blood circulation to the rest of the body, including the vital organs.  This effect can lead to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion’s symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and fainting. In extreme cases heat exhaustion can cause brain damage. Heat stroke is even more dangerous then heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is when a persons body no longer sweats which causes the body’s temperature to rise to unsafe levels which can lead to death.

To prevent heat stress from affecting your workers you should follow these guidelines:

  • Educate employees on the symptoms of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • When an employee recognizes these signs they should immediately stop working.
  • Provide fans, water, and cooling stations for employees.
  • Urge employees to do the most demanding work in the coolest part of the day.  Also tell employees to wear breathable and light clothing.
  • Keep in mind each employee’s physique and adjust their work accordingly so you do not place employees in situations that they can not physically handle.

Lifting/Pushing Hazards

If employees are improperly lifting and pushing materials they can suffer strains and sprains to their back and shoulder muscles.

To try and prevent this from occurring follow these basic guidelines:

  • Do not lift objects that are bulky or awkwardly weighted.
  • When lifting items lift them close to the body.
  • When lifting items try to limit the weight of the items that you are lifting.
  • Use Spring Loaded Laundry Platforms to assist you when lifting hefty laundry.

Fire Hazards

Fire hazards can result form the build up of lint. To reduce this risk a schedule should be created to effectively clean the areas where lint builds up. When hiring an employee make sure that they understand the preventative measures in place to reduce the possibility of fire hazards.

Slips/Trips/Falls

Wet floors in any area of the factory can result in slips, trips, or falls.  To reduce the chance of this happening implement programs to address any area where slips, trips, or falls can occur.