Chemical Safety in your Commercial Laundry

Chemical Safety in your Commercial Laundry

As we all know, commercial laundry facilities use chemicals. Depending on the types of goods processed – hospitality laundry, nursing home, healthcare, veterinary, etc. – the types and amounts of chemicals used can vary greatly. Unfortunately, reports of accidents and incidents involving the use and storage of chemicals are far too frequent. We must remain diligent in properly handling and storing these hazardous materials, or problems will arise. So, in this post you’ll find general safety rules of thumb for handling and storing chemicals in the laundry.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Before we start rounding up barrels of chemicals and reorganizing our laundry, we need to make sure we have the proper PPE. At a minimum, this should include appropriate chemical-resistant gloves and eye protection, closed-toe shoes (essential for handling chemicals), and lab coats and/or chemical aprons (use when needed or when required).

Once we have collected our PPE, there are just a couple more things to gather before we begin moving those chemical containers around. Survey your surroundings, and take notice of any potential trip hazards and locations of work stations where others are busy. Make sure exits, passageways, and emergency equipment areas (i.e., eyewash and safety showers) are clear and free of stored materials. Locate and have close at hand a full spill kit with appropriate absorbent materials, neutralizing agents, cleanup utensils, and waste containers. Finally, check that all chemical containers have complete labels in good condition and that safety data sheets (SDS) are readily available. Consult OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard for guidance. Another good resource for this is the Standard System for the Identification of the Hazards of Materials for Emergency Response.

Safety During Transport

Here are some pointers for moving chemicals safely:

  • Never move visibly degrading chemicals and containers. Report these to your supervisor.
  • Whenever transporting chemicals, place containers in appropriate, leak-proof secondary containers to protect against breakage and spillage. A good example is using a special chemical resistant spill pallet.
  • When moving multiple, large, or heavy containers, use sturdy carts. Ensure cart wheels are large enough to roll over uneven surfaces without tipping or stopping suddenly. If carts are used for secondary containment make sure the trays are liquid-tight and have sufficient lips on all four sides.
  • Do not transport chemicals during busy times like break times or during lunch.
  • Use freight elevators for moving hazardous chemicals whenever possible to avoid potential incidents on crowded passenger elevators. Remember to remove gloves when pushing elevator buttons or opening doors.
  • Never leave chemicals unattended.

Hazardous chemicals can be managed safely with the use of these strategies

  • Make sure all current and new employees are aware of the location of the Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
  • Read the labels and SDS for the chemicals you are handling to ensure you understand how to safely use the chemical, what PPE is necessary and what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Chemicals should be stored according to the instructions on the SDS. Make sure the containers are clean and sealed properly so the next employee to use them isn’t exposed to the chemical.
  • Use chemicals only for their intended purpose, for example, don’t ever use solvents to clean your hands or clothing.
  • Do not eat, smoke or drink where chemicals are handled, processed or stored.
  • Wash hands carefully before eating, smoking, using the toilet, handling cosmetics or touching contact lenses, even if you were wearing PPE when you were handling the chemicals.
  • Do not use any chemical if the label is missing or the cap is damaged.
  • Don’t take any risks. If in doubt ask your supervisor.

By taking chemical use and exposure seriously, we can keep each other and ourselves safe.

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