Textile Association: MassCOSH Report on Laundry Work “Distorts Reality”

Aug. 15, 2011
The Textile Rental Services Association of America (TRSA) rejected a recent Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) report that suggested textile service workers were exposed to ergonomic injuries and other safety and health hazards. TRSA claimed the report distorts reality and may have been “prompted by union posturing.”

The MassCOSH report, which was based on a survey of 113 workers at the Somerville, Mass.-based Angelica Textile Services, also failed to recognize the industry’s consistent improvements in workplace safety and health, TRSA stated.

TRSA made the following points in response to MassCOSH’s findings:

  • While the MassCOSH report alleged that laundry workers are exposed to heat, TRSA clarifies that washing and drying equipment within the industry is automatic and has cool-down operations. Nothing hot can be touched.
  • The MassCOSH report also suggests that textile service facilities may expose workers to strenuous machine-paced work, but TRSA points out that such work only is assigned to individuals who are trained to operate the equipment; they are reassigned if they cannot maintain the prescribed productivity level.
  • While the report indicated “prolonged standing” is a risk factor for laundry workers, TRSA argued that work in commercial laundries is no different in this respect than numerous other industries and workers commonly are provided with regular breaks.
  • The MassCOSH report indicated lifting laundry and pushing filled carts is a common problem for workers in textile services facilities. TRSA countered that the industry employs lift tables, mechanized cart dumpers and sling bags that are moved by trolleys running on overhead rails to reduce material handling hazards.
  • The report also suggested that laundry employees are overworked and exposed to the risk for repetitive-motion injuries. The association pointed out that the industry addresses redundant work motion by training workers to handle multiple tasks and by rotating them through different jobs.

TRSA also maintains that textile services work has made safety gains more quickly than other businesses. TRSA member surveys indicate that member companies have reduced mishaps by more than 50 percent over the past 6 years. Since 2006, their reportable injury and illness rate (TRIR) has fallen 42 percent and days away or restricted or transferred work (DART) have dropped 33 percent. General industry, meanwhile, saw only 22 and 25 percent declines, respectively.

“These documented gains provide irrefutable evidence of our members’ diligence in eliminating hazards,” stated TRSA President Joseph Ricci. “But the MassCOSH report offers no indication of the widespread practice of making safety the No. 1 priority for textile services facility operations.”

Finally, TRSA suggests that MassCOSH’s survey and subsequent report were prompted by union posturing on labor issues such as contract provisions and productivity requirements rather than safety concerns.

TRSA also recently discounted a study that suggested workers who use laundered shop towels may be at risk of exposure to heavy metals.

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