Focus On…Laundry

While staff run an on- site laundry room, efficiency and ergonomics also play a major role in ensuring a smooth-running operation. Workstation design, laundry procedure, and well-thought-out methods to performing various laundry tasks all contribute to the goal of a productive work environment.

Repetitive, awkward motion; frequent bending; and poorly sited equipment can slow the work flow and lead to injury. In general terms of the amount of lost work time, back strain ranks a close second to the common cold for days missed.

With that in mind, many workplaces-especially on-premise laundries, such as those found in long-term care and assisted living facilities-are placing a renewed focus on the goal of ergonomics; i.e., fitting the job to the worker.

To help prevent physical injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends training employees on proper lifting techniques, posting signs that illustrate those techniques, reducing the size and weight of items lifted, and installing mechanical aids when possible.

Equipment Positioning
Equipment must be adjusted to the proper height to limit bending. Sometimes commercial laundry equipment is installed on concrete pads to raise the height of the machines for more efficient use. Most long-term care laundries are equipped with 60-lb washers, the bottom of the washer door opening should be at least 25" off the floor to enable 10-bushel wash carts (which are approximately 25" high) to match the machine opening (figure 1).

While it's important that the pad is neither too high nor too low, laundry managers also should make sure that the equipment isn't set too far back from the front edge of the pad. Otherwise, wash carts will be too far from machine fronts and laundry workers will have to bend and reach awkwardly when loading or unloading machines. A good rule of thumb is to have about 3" of space from the front edge of the pad to the front of the machine.

Ergonomics and the Laundry Process
OSHA has offered a number of recommendations to ease the strain on laundry personnel. For example, when removing laundry from deep machines, OSHA recommends using a long-handled rake or similar device to pull it from the rear of the machine closer to the opening. Loading and unloading large items such as sheets can be especially difficult, particularly if items become knotted during washing. OSHA suggests that when this happens, the employee should brace one hand and use the other to gently remove the knot.

A good way to avoid injuries and strains suffered from removing large wet items, as well as limit those frustrating knots, is to load sheets and larger pieces of laundry individually. When loading sheets, for example, a proven method is to grab the item by the corner, gather it accordion-style, and place it in the washer (figure 2). Although the process takes a little extra time during loading, significant time savings will be realized during unloading because clean sheets will not be tangled. Laundry workers also benefit, as they are saved from the awkward task of fighting the washer to remove multiple heavy, wet items-easily the most difficult job in the laundry. Related to easing the task of removing clean, wet linens from the washer is choosing the right equipment. Washer-extractors with high g-force ratings remove more water out of laundry items; thus, linens are less water soaked at the end of the cycle and easier for laundry staff to remove. When changing loads, workers should be instructed that during the turn from machine to cart, they should keep their nose over their toes, picking up their feet as they move. This method will keep workers from wrenching their knees.

Folding is another task in which repetition may lead to strains or injuries. Properly adjusted folding counters can limit the possibility of such issues arising. Folding surfaces should stand 30" inches off the floor. Stand-up, one-person folders are faster, more efficient, and easier on the user's back than employing two people to fold sheets.

Figure 1.

Laundry Room Design
While less about ergonomics and more about efficiency, laundry room design can aid work flow and limit mishaps. U-shaped designs seem to work best, with separate rooms for soiled linens, washing, and drying. Soiled linens come in one door and clean items leave through the opposite-side door. Dedicated, color-coded carts for each area will ensure that laundry items are not mixed up and limit the risk of spreading infection.

In response to ergonomics and, ultimately, better efficiency, on-premise laundries in nursing homes and other healthcare environments are moving away from stationary storage of clean linens in favor of mobility. Mobile shelving is winning out over permanent shelving because folded clean linens are stacked just once versus stacking linens on shelves and then restacking them on carts when needed on the floors. Again, employees gain the ergonomic benefits of less bending and reaching, and carts may be wheeled to their destination.

Figure 2.

A Final Word
Sometimes the best means of applying ergonomics to laundry room tasks are achieved by using one's own two eyes. Laundry managers may want to schedule time to just watch staff members perform their work. Note the room itself. Is it cluttered? Do workers have to move things out of the way to perform tasks? Managers also will want to take note of instances in which workers are bending frequently, turning without moving their feet, or just reaching in awkward ways. These may be signs of impending repetitive motion stress. Also, take note of where supplies are stored. Are they placed on shelves or in areas where employees have to stretch or bend to reach them?

Small alterations to workstations can pay big dividends in terms of staff members working with less effort or discomfort. That ultimately translates into happier workers-and that means more productive workers.

Kim Shady, national sales manager for UniMac, has worked in the commercial laundry industry for more than 18 years. Owned by Alliance Laundry Systems, UniMac offers an industrial line of on-premise laundry equipment designed for efficiency and durability. For more information, call (920) 748-3121 or visit To send your comments to the author and editors, please e-mail
Washer-Extractor Timer Control
The E-P OneTouch microprocessor timer control is offered exclusively on Milnor's T-Series line of washer-extractors, which have 35- to 60-lb (16- to 27-kg) capacities. This control provides ease of use with four preprogrammed formulas for healthcare laundries. These formula selections result in fast operation and reduced operator training time.

Pellerin Milnor, 1-800-469-8780,
Upgraded Laundry System
An upgrade to the Speed Queen MicroMasterÖ Laundry System, the MicroMaster 2Ö control has a rapid-advance feature that enables operators to jump the cycle to the end, add extra time to the load, and restart the machine where it left off.

MicroMaster 2 also offers a cycle repeat feature that acts as a one-button start to repeat the last cycle. An ergonomically designed touch pad and color-coded start/stop buttons make the system easy to operate. A four-digit display also provides immediate information on cycle progress and time remaining. Other features include a digital cycle counter and programmable water temperatures.

The MicroMaster 2 Laundry System is offered on Speed Queen's line of washer-extractors, including 20-, 40-, 60-, and 80-lb machines, backed by a three-year warranty.

Speed Queen, 1-800-345-5649,
Energy-Saving Dryer
American Dryer Corp. has introduced a new 75-lb dryer that saves up to 30% of natural gas consumption. Using a 100% axial airflow design, the dryer maximizes heat use for fast dry times while using less gas. The machine also has a 120-volt, single-phase reversing tumbler, which prevents loads from tangling or balling up, ensuring items are completely dried.

Other features include a standard four-wheel drum support system, stainless-steel basket, and microprocessor with residual moisture control and auto-dry functions.

American Dryer, 1-508-678-9000,
UniMac's UW60PV 60-lb washer-extractor has features that reduce cycle time, thus helping to curb labor and energy costs. Key to the UW60PV's design is its extraction speed of up to 300 g-force. Higher g-force means there's less moisture left in linens, which means less drying time is required.

In addition to the 60-lb unit, UniMac's UW line of washer-extractors offers a variety of options to fit the needs of any on-premises laundry. The line ranges from a 35-lb model up to the recently added 150-lb model.

UniMac's line of washer-extractors is backed by a five-year warranty on the frame, basket, shaft, bearings, and seals. A full three-year warranty covers all other parts. Financing is available for UniMac products by Alliance Laundry Systems.

UniMac, 1-800-587-5458,
45-lb Stack Tumbler
For facilities that have outgrown their existing drying volume, Huebsch offers an easy way to add 90 lbs of drying capacity with its T45 45-lb stack unit. Although the T45 has 50% more capacity than Huebsch's 30-lb stack, it occupies just 24% more floor space. Its larger door opening makes it suitable for drying large loads and oversize items.

The T45 offers the same features as the 30-lb stack. This year, both models will change to dual digital timers. Heat and cool-down times are set individually, but now each is clearly displayed to show how much time is left for each part of the cycle. Huebsch tumblers use an axial airflow design, which speeds drying time while reducing overall energy consumption. The twin T45 is easy to install. Huebsch offers a three-year limited warranty on its line of tumblers.

Huebsch, 1-800-553-5120,
Top-Loading Horizontal-Axis Washer
Staber Industries is the only U.S. manufacturer of a top-load horizontal-axis washer; it tumbles laundry like a front-load washer, but it maintains top-loading convenience. The washer, designed for facilities that currently use home-style washing machines, meets ENERGY STAR« guidelines for energy efficiency.

Instead of a round tub, Staber uses a patented stainless-steel eight-sided outer tub with a six-sided inner tub that holds more laundry and tumbles it down repeatedly into a pool of water, which creates a water-pumping action that cleans clothes more effectively than circular tubs. Because of the fast spin cycle, drying time is reduced.

Staber, 1-800-848-6200,
Laundry Labeling System
The Titan Laundry Labeling System from Direct Supply saves time and eliminates laundry mix-ups. The Titan system creates permanent labels for residents' garments in just minutes. Everything needed to print labels is included, even the computer and printer. The user-friendly Windows«-based software prints both text and bar codes and can store an unlimited number of label formats. The on-screen help menus and pop-up screen make this program easy to use.

To complete labeling, the Titan Label Heat Seal machine securely affixes labels that last for the life of the garments.

Direct Supply, 1-800-634-7328,

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