Industrial laundries aren’t like your corner Laundromat.
There are several major differences between the industrial laundries that serve local businesses and your local Laundromat.
The industrial laundry industry consists of large-scale facilities that employ thousands of workers who process the millions of linens we use at restaurants, hotels and hospitals. In most cities, these facilities are not regulated unlike retail laundries. As a result, many laundry workers clean linens in dangerous, unsanitary and unregulated sweatshops.
Industrial laundries are often loud, hot and full of machinery that can injure or kill workers, if not properly trained. Although, laundry workers work hard at their jobs, they have little to no power to encourage their employers to set realistic production quotas, to keep dirty linen away from clean linen, or other practices that would help assure the delivery of safe linen to the public.
The poor working conditions industrial laundry workers often face threatens the public’s health. As we saw after a 2008 incident at a children’s hospital in New Orleans, contaminated linens can lead to outbreaks and possibly death.
In the New Orleans tragedy that left 5 children dead, the New York Times reports that “Workers unloaded clean linens on the same dock where medical waste was removed, moved clean and soiled linens on the same carts, and stored linens in hospital hallways covered in dust from a nearby construction site, court records indicated.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has emphasized that hospital linens should be laundered, packed, shipped and stored in a manner that minimizes exposure to environmental contaminants. However, there are no specific laws regulating industrial laundries in our cities.
We can clean up dirty industrial laundries
Health and policy experts agree that regulation is the best way to protect the public’s health while cleaning up dirty industrial laundries.