CHICAGO — The goal of any laundry service, whether it’s an on-premise laundry or a textile rental company, is to satisfy the needs of its customers. After all, there wouldn’t be much point in a laundry continuing if it didn’t process and supply what its end users or accounts required.
But there are larger, sometimes faceless players that a laundry must also strive to satisfy, because it’s either mandated by law, meeting their voluntary industry standards can improve the laundry’s standing and generate additional business, or it just makes good sense.
Through education and enforcement, these “silent partners” push for better workplace and highway safety, encourage environmental responsibility, protect worker rights and generally promote good business.
OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY & HEALTH ADMINISTRATION (OSHA)
Arguably the best-known acronym among laundry managers is OSHA — the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
A division of the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA is responsible for creating and enforcing workplace safety and health regulations.
Under the current administration, the agency is focusing on three strategies: 1) strong, fair and effective enforcement; 2) outreach, education and compliance assistance; and; 3) partnerships and cooperative programs.
Any one of a number of factors — sharpened focus on a specific industry, media coverage of accidents, employee complaints, etc. — can trigger an OSHA inspection. And if alleged violations are noted, the penalties could be harsh.
In August 2007, the agency proposed $2.78 million in penalties against Cintas Corp. after investigating the death of an employee who fell into an industrial dryer. Cintas is appealing the findings.
Recognizing that applying general OSHA regulations to a laundry operation can be difficult, the Association for Linen Management (ALM) has organized a series of seminars designed to provide laundry-specific OSHA training to all levels of the workforce population.
The second of those meetings is this month in Albany, N.Y., and the last will be Nov. 17-18 in Dallas.
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION (CDC)
Among this agency’s chief missions are to monitor health, detect and investigate health problems, conduct research to enhance prevention, and to develop and advocate sound public health policies.
Launderers can look to the CDC for guidance in infection control and washing infected materials, among other topics.
While it has no regulatory authority, its guidelines and recommendations are often implemented in voluntary accreditation requirements used by the Joint Commission and the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC).
NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH (NIOSH)
NIOSH, which is part of the CDC, is a federal agency that conducts research to reduce work-related illnesses and injuries, and promotes safe and healthy workplaces through interventions and recommendations. NIOSH and OSHA often work together toward their common goal.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)
The EPA is responsible for researching and setting national standards for a variety of environmental programs, and delegates to states, through agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality, the responsibility for issuing permits and for monitoring and enforcing compliance.
EPA’s chief influence on the laundry industry is its enforcement of the Clean Water Act. In the late 1980s, the EPA identified industrial laundries as a potential source of hazardous waste solvents discharged to publicly owned treatment works, sometimes called municipal treatment plants, or POTWs.
In 1997, EPA proposed requiring pretreatment of some industrial laundry wastewater prior to discharge to POTWs. But after reviewing information regarding the volume and toxicity of the discharges, EPA elected in 1999 not to establish new regulations. Instead, it began working with the laundry industry and other stakeholders to launch a voluntary pollution prevention program.
Today, LaundryESP (Laundry Environmental Stewardship Program), presented by the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA) and the Uniform & Textile Service Association (UTSA), continues to promote environmental responsibility and reduce the possibility of nationwide wastewater pretreatment limits becoming necessary.
FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA)
While the FDA is probably best known for ensuring that food is safe, it’s also responsible for approving medical devices, which include surgical healthcare textiles. The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) published a standard that indicates laundries processing surgical textiles should “comply with the industry standards of practice and guidelines and should be aware of FDA’s quality system regulation.”
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (DOT)
Laundry services often utilize commercial trucks to transport soiled and clean linen to/from off-site customers, and that’s where the DOT comes in.
The department is committed to reducing the number of crashes involving large trucks and “aggressive enforcement” of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations is its primary strategy for improving truck safety levels.
And so, as a laundry powers up its equipment, fuels its fleet and greets its workers for another day on the job, it should remember that it has more than its end users or customers to satisfy.