Excessive reaching/pushing during the cleaning and transport of laundry and/or lifting wet, heavy laundry can cause work-related musculoskeletal disorders such as strains and sprains to the back or shoulder area.
Recognized Controls and Work Practices
Assess the laundry area for ergonomic hazards and address ways to decrease exposure to ergonomics-related risk factors.
- Use well-maintained rolling carts with large, low resistance wheels that can roll easily over mixed flooring as well as gaps between elevators and hallways.
- Keep carts, hampers, or other carts well maintained and clear threads from wheels to minimize the amount of force exerted while using these items.
- Keep handles of devices to be pushed at waist-to-chest height.
- Use handles to move carts rather than holding the side of the cart to prevent the accidental smashing of hands and fingers. Push rather than pull whenever possible.
- Reduce the need to lift by using mechanical aids such as Spring-Loaded Laundry Platforms, which help lift wet heavy laundry, and keeping laundry at a comfortable uniform work level.
- Use washers that automatically dump their loads into baskets so workers don't have to reach in and pull out wet heavy laundry manually.
- Limit the weight of the items to be lifted or get help when lifting.
- Restructure jobs to reduce repeated motions, forceful hand exertions, and prolonged bending.
- Redesign or reposition tasks to allow elbows to remain close to the body. Maintain a neutral (handshake) wrist position.
- Train workers to use proper lifting techniques for laundry bag lifting and carrying. Limit reaching or lifting hazards when lifting bags by:
- Using handling bags for laundry that have side openings to allow for easy disposal without reaching into and pulling bags up and out. The bags should be able to slide off the cart without lifting.
- Limiting the size and weight of these bags and providing handles to further decrease lifting hazards.
- If using a deep sink, limit excessive reaching and back flexion by:
- Placing an object such as a plastic basin in the bottom of the sink to raise the surface up while washing items in the sink.
- Removing objects to be washed into a smaller container on the counter for soaking and then replacing them back in the sink for final rinse.
- Use proper lifting techniques:
- Avoid lifting heavy and bulky objects.
- Avoid lifting/reaching or working above shoulder height.
- Avoid awkward postures, such as twisting while lifting.
- Lift items close to the body.
- Limit the weight of the item to be lifted.
- An ergonomics guide for hospital laundries. Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare in BC (OHSAH), (2003).
- Hazard Identification Training Tool. OSHA.
- Ergonomics. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page.
- Inspection Guidance for Inpatient Healthcare Settings. (June 25, 2015). OSHA memorandum establishing guidance for inspections conducted in inpatient healthcare settings.
- Also see Hospital-wide Hazards - Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders.