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September 16, 2011
Laundry Safety: Sorting Contaminated Items

Think about the rules you are required to follow when handling contaminated laundry. Do your employees understand how to properly handled laundry items that could be contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials? Do your laundry employees understand the risks and take proper precautions? Here are some guidelines for sorting and washing contaminated laundry.

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OSHA defines “contaminated laundry” as laundry that has been soiled with blood or other potentially infectious materials or that may contain sharps. You should follow these special safety rules when handling contaminated laundry.

  • Wear gloves that are appropriate for the task at hand.
  • Don’t sort or rinse laundry at the location where it was used (bag it).
  • Keep potentially contaminated laundry separate from other laundry for special handling.
  • Handle contaminated laundry as little as possible with minimal agitation. For example, don’t shake out contaminated laundry; roll it up with the soiled side in.
  • Always watch out for sharps hidden in laundry. Put any you find in labeled biohazard sharps containers. Even something as small as a toothpick in a pocket could puncture the skin.
  • Keep contaminated linens out of clean laundry areas.
  • Use appropriate laundry cycles and follow manufacturer’s instructions for the proper use of machines and detergents.
  • Finally, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after removing gloves when you have been handling potentially contaminated laundry. Always wash before eating, drinking, smoking, using the toilet, or leaving the laundry area for a break or at the end of your shift.

What other guidelines can you think of to reduce risks associated with working with potentially contaminated items? What training do you provide to your employee for minimizing or eliminating these risks?

The above information comes from BLR’s presentation "Laundry Safety." For more information on all the training courses BLR has to offer, go to our Safety Training Materials & Resources page.

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