The case studies in this section are real incidents with real consequences for those involved.
The case studies cover the main causes of injury and occupational ill health in the laundries and dry-cleaning industries
Several laundry workers were suffering musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Their Work involved tipping laundry bags onto the floor for sorting then
re-bagging, which meant them having to work in stooped positions. Washers
were then loaded by hand and yet more bending pulling and twisting was
involved in pulling washed, entangled loads out from carts. More awkward
movements were used when feeding onto the calender and then when placing
folded items into low level trolleys. The company were not recording MSD
problems and had not carried out a risk assessment. An ergonomics specialist
was brought in to advise, and changes were introduced including reducing
double handling by improving work flow, introduction of sorting tables,
improved trolleys, training for staff, and a conveyor system for loading
of washers. Both production and health and safety benefits were realised.
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A laundry operative slipped and twisted her ankle whilst carrying a pile
of laundry from the sorting area to the washing machine. This involved
crossing a small 'bridge' consisting of 2 steps up, a small platform and
then 2 steps down. She fell forward off the platform and landed on some
sacks of linen.
She was wearing trainers with rubber soles which may have become slippery
due to food debris from tablecloths and napkins which often contaminated
the sorting area. Alternatively, she may also have tripped over fallen
table linen. At the time of the accident the bridge was slightly darker
than the adjoining areas.
As a result, new strip lights were installed above the bridge and the
edges of the steps were highlighted. The company also changed procedures
so that uncategorised linen was moved by conveyor instead of by hand. The
steps now have additional markings at the edges. Regular cleaning is now
done in the sorting areas.
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Falls from height
A laundry operative fell from stepladders which were being used to gain
access to the 3m high hopper of a continuous batch washer. He was standing
at the top of the steps and reaching over to clean a sensor when the ladders
toppled and he fell to the ground breaking his arm. This was a regular
job and use of these steps was custom and practice even though they were
totally unsuitable. No one had ever given the risk any thought. Following
the accident new steps with an access platform and handrails were purchased
to allow the hopper to be reached safely and comfortably. All old ladders
throughout the plant were destroyed and only suitable ones retained or
purchased. These are logged and checked every 6 months for damage. Staff
were trained and instructed in their use.
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A busy laundry in a built up area had difficulties with vehicle safety.
Lorries were reversing onto and parking on the public pavement outside.
No risk assessment had been carried out for the site. A safe system of
work was drawn up in response to HSE enforcement notice to but there were
ongoing problems getting some drivers to follow the safe system of work
and wear high visibility jackets. The company had to persist and take disciplinary
action to change old habits but a high risk was reduced.
Workplace transport accidents happen for 3 main reasons: an unsafe site,
an unsafe vehicle, or an unsafe driver. Site layout can be changed to reduce
the risk from pedestrians and vehicles using the same routes, vehicles
can be made safer by, for example, good maintenance, fitting CCTV for reversing
as some laundries have done, or driver behaviour or training can be improved.
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A laundry worker was injured whilst operating a folding machine. Whilst
attempting to remove a trapped garment from rollers at rear of machine
the person's hand was trapped in an in-running nip resulting in severe
bruising to their hand and arm. Fortunately, a second employee was nearby
and stopped the machine. Access to the area should have been prevented
by guarding and the machine should have been switched off before entry.
In another accident, an operator received severe burns whilst operating
a shirt press, resulting in one month in hospital. The two-hand control
of the press did not operate correctly. What's more, another operator had
been injured on the same press one hour earlier. Good management and simple
maintenance would have prevented this.