Proper handling of soiled healthcare linen is a very important element in the healthcare industry. It ensures patient safety and safety of healthcare workers, environmental services personnel, and anyone who is visiting healthcare facilities. Even though handling it with care has such big impacts, there are instances when it’s not done according to OSHA regulations and best practices. Failures include storing soiled linen in shared spaces with clean linen, discarding soiled linen in the trash and/or red bag waste receptacles. The consequences can be vast: first, infections transmitted through improper procedures can result in illness or injury and, second, degraded safety levels will worsen patient experience and staff satisfaction.
Laundry policies are supposed to ensure that:
- The area for handling laundry is in a dedicated space
- All equipment for laundry handling is used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
- Staff is not allowed to consume any food or beverages in laundry spaces
- There are hand hygiene facilities in every laundry work area
- The use of a laundry skip is strongly recommended when removing soiled linen
- Clean laundry is properly sorted, packaged and transported in order to ensure their cleanliness and keep them safe from dust and soil.
All linen which is soiled with blood, bodily fluids, secretions or excretions should be dealt with by implementing the same precautions.
What follows are a few instructions that if accordingly followed will make sure that no health risks are present and the entire procedure is sanitary and safe.
First of all, each staff member that deals with soiled linen is supposed to handle contaminated materials with minimum agitation and shaking in order to avoid contaminating the air, surfaces and any people that are nearby. Next, if the soiled laundry is wet it is supposed to be wrapped in a dry sheet or towel before placing it in a laundry skip.
The safest way to protect staff members (and patients) is to educate them regarding the use and disposal of these materials, and teaching them to always hold them away from their body and uniform. Once the healthcare staff member places the soiled linen in a laundry skip, next thing to do is to discharge it directly into a soiled linen collection area for safety purposes. This helpful tool should be cleaned and properly disinfected with a low-level disinfectant once a day.
This is important – when changing soiled linen with a clean one, it is recommended that only the exact amount of clean linen required should be taken into a resident’s room. And, finally, there should be at least one-metre separation between clean and soiled linen.