The Chicago Occupational Accident Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Injured Laundry Workers
Laundry workers and dry-cleaning employees operate washing machines or tend to dry-clean equipment to wash cloth garments, blankets, linens, draperies, leather goods, rugs, carpets, and linens. Most workers wash, dry, sort, fold and mend linen and clothing. Their laundry operations usually involve loading and unloading washing machines and dryers and use steam cabinets, irons, extractors, and sewing machines. Qualifications for their job usually requires having the ability to lift at least 50 pounds and work in a standing position, reaching up and bending over for extended periods. Common job responsibilities include:
- Loading soiled articles into the washers and dry-clean machines at routine intervals to ensure loads are removed (unloaded) when the machine cycles are completed.
- Regulate the machinery process when washing, drying, or dry-cleaning articles by turning valves and levels to control the temperature, specific cycles, and additives including detergent, softener, bleach, dyes and other chemicals.
- Maintain the equipment by lubricating components and changing machine filters when required along with alerting managers and supervisors when machines need professional repair.
- Sort, separate, and count articles removed from commercial dryers before wrapping, hanging, or folding articles that require personal attention.
- Use hand markers to mark identifying code numbers and monitors as a part of the laundry or tri-cleaning process.
- Use neutralizing solutions and portable machines for a variety of tasks including staining articles, spot cleaning, pre-soaking, scrubbing, sterilizing, and drying articles when required.
At some clothes-cleaning jobs, the laundry worker or dry-cleaning employee is required to interact with customers by accepting clothing, reading receipts, taking payments, completing sales transactions, and making monetary change. In addition to using a cash register, the employee must also have basic computer skills and have the ability to read, write and communicate.
Potential Hazards and Dangers
Like many work environments, performing the duties of cleaning and drying laundry requires using numerous chemicals. Also, the employee has the potential of being exposed to contaminated laundry that might be heavily soiled with potentially infectious biohazard materials, blood or other properties. Laundry workers should perform their duties by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations to minimize the potential of contaminated biological exposure.
Common potential hazards and dangers associated with the commercial laundry process at a local establishment, hospital, hotel or other facility that harm and kill employees include:
- Hazardous Chemicals – Laundry workers are often exposed to hazardous cleaning chemicals that are a part of the housekeeping and laundry process. Injury can occur when handling unlabeled chemicals or from the splattering of dangerous chemicals from one container to another. Some employees can experience irritation from detergent and chemicals in areas of broken skin that provide the proper environment for the transfer of infection or other biological hazards.
- Personal Protective Equipment – In some settings, laundry workers exposed to contaminated laundry must wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment including thick utility gloves required when sorting contaminated items along with face shields, gowns, and masks by OSHA regulations.
- Latex Allergies – Workers can experience an allergic reaction to latex material when exposed to latex products, including gloves, when sorting or handling contaminated laundry articles. If laundry workers are required to wear gloves but have a known allergic reaction to the latex material, the employer must make alternatives readily available by OSHA regulations.
- Slips, Trips, & Falls – Employees exposed to laundry room's wet floors are susceptible to slipping, tripping, and falling. To minimize the risk, the management should ensure that the floors are routinely mopped and dried in areas that tend to accumulate moisture, water, and liquids.
- Pushing and Lifting Hazards – Laundry workers can develop musculoskeletal disorders by performing daily job-related activities including lifting heavy wet laundry, pushing, reaching, and bending excessively to strain or sprain the shoulder, back or leg muscles. Employers should provide and maintain carts used by the workers to minimize the height of lifting from the cart to the machines to minimize the potential hazard of pushing and lifting musculoskeletal injury.
- Heat Stress – Some laundry areas that lack inadequate ventilation produce excessive levels of heat that could cause the employee to experience heatstroke or heat exhaustion. The excessive temperature causes excessive perspiration as the body attempts to eliminate heat that could lead to less blood circulated to the laundry worker's vital organs including their heart and brain. Heat exhaustion is known to cause nausea, blurred vision dizziness, and collapse. Heatstroke us significantly more dangerous than heat exhaustion when the body is so hot that it no longer can sweat to dissipate the high heat. Without intervention, the dangerously elevated level of heat in the body and brain can cause death nearly immediately. The employer should use spot cooling fans and provide appropriate local exhaust ventilation where necessary.
- Fire Hazard – Heat producing equipment used in laundry rooms have the potential of increasing the fire hazard, especially when lint is allowed to build up inside the exhaust tubes and lint traps. To reduce the fire hazard, employees should continuously clean accumulations of waste materials that could combust or ignite, including lint.
- Noise Exposure – Loud machinery in a laundry environment can create an occupational exposure that produces nerve damage from elevated noise levels. Many employees will experience significant job-induced hearing loss, hypertension, hearing impairment, elevated blood pressure levels, and other serious, and sometimes life-threatening, health hazards. The employer should develop a health and safety program to safeguard against dangers of hearing loss caused by noise exposure.
- Sharps Handling – In hospital settings and medical centers, the laundry worker may be exposed to sharps where the medical staff has handled and disposed needles and other sharp objects. Many of these items contain blood-borne pathogens, infection and other contaminated biogenic material. According to OSHA, needle containers must be made available in hospital laundry rooms and other areas were laundry is stored.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) details repetitive motion risk factors associated with laundry workers and dry-cleaning employees who must routinely sore and wash clothing and other articles. Additionally, statistics managed by OSHA reveal that many laundry workers work with heavy loads and handle more than two tons of laundry during their daily shift.
This excessive weight combined with repetitive body motions creates the ideal environment for developing back injuries. The forceful and frequent movements along with the forceful grip required to pull and push laundry can elevate the risk of the employee suffering injuries to their upper limbs and wrists. The need to walk and stand on hard floors during the entire shift increases the potential risk of developing fatigue and lower leg discomfort.
Laundry workers are encouraged to take proactive measures to reduce the risk factors associated with repetitive motion injuries by improving their workstation and using an appropriately high table whenever an available.
Laundry Workers' Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment data of the previous year, there were 6000 Laundry Workers at work in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that Laundry Workers in northeastern Illinois earned $11.25 per hour, or $23,400 annually, on average. These earning wages are nearly identical to the national averages. See Chart
Laundry Worker Fatalities and Injuries
Working at a job with relatively low pay in a potentially dangerous work environment makes handling laundry an exception undesirable occupation. In recent years, there were significant incidences involving injuries and death of laundry workers who were killed because they were simply performing their duties. Some of these cases include:
- Case 1: October 2015 – A Paterson, New Jersey laundry company continued to violate OSHA regulations even after a worker died in a job-related accident in 2011. OSHA fined the facility $305,000 for their failure "to address continued workplace hazards that contributed to the death of the worker in 2011 at the company's Bayshore, New York facility." That incident claimed the life of a 24-year-old worker who "was killed when he was crushed by a shuttle (a belt-like conveyor apparatus) which transports clothing from washing and dry machines. Because of this violation, the company was fined $31,500." And OSHA regional administrator stated that "it is unacceptable one company continues to neglect basic safety and health procedures, especially after experiencing a fatality."
- Case 2: Trenton, New Jersey – In 1995, an incident involving a laundry worker left the employee dead who was "struck by an ejected ring of a commercial laundry extractor. The report says that there were no reported problems with the machinery that day. But "around 3:25 PM, the victim had put a half-load of wet [items] into the extractor and turned the machine on. He sat by the machine, waiting for the last load of the date to finish its five-minute cycle (plus two minutes braking time) when suddenly, the machine flew apart." As a result, a piece of airborne metal, probably the steel ring, struck the victim [in the neck] and killed him instantly." Debris from the broken machinery "was found 50 yards away in the plant."
- Case 3: February 2016 – OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) initiated a work-related investigation after a service equipment technician working at an industrial laundry facility suffered serious injuries in October 2015. A conveyor at the laundry service facility propelled the technician into the dryer, where he became trapped. The victim succumbed to his injuries two weeks later. OSHA cited the laundry service company for "six serious safety violations."
- Case 4: April 2010 – A Tulsa, Oklahoma laundry worker was killed by an industrial clothes dryer while working at one of the nation's busiest laundry companies. The 46-year-old deceased worker had been employed by a company who was noted for their excellent safety record until this accident occurred in 2007. Six months later, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) levied a $2.75 million fine after citing serious safety rule violations. The accident occurred when the employee climbed on a conveyor belt that was moving piles of clothing into the dryer. The victim was entangled in the clothing, pulled into the heated dryer and died because of the 300° plus temperature.
- Case 5: Massachusetts – The 33-year-old hospital laundry employee lost his life in an accident involving a confined area in the laundry room. The man was using a chisel to clean plastic debris that had adhered to the dryer's interior by entering a small 40" x 25" opening. However, the dryer activated automatically and delivered 200 pounds of recently cleaned wet articles into the dryer and ran for six minutes with the door closed on a heated drying cycle. The man's injuries led to his death. The OSHA investigation revealed that the decedent had routinely cleaned the facility's dryers during the night shift and had never received safety or health training. The investigator also determined that there was no way to prohibit the dryer from activation when the employee was working inside and away from the view of coworkers.
Take the Next Step in Obtaining Financial Compensation
Our lawyers help injured Laundry Workers obtain monetary recovery under the IL Worker's Compensation Act and through civil lawsuits. We provide Free Case Reviews and a No-Win/No Fee guarantee.
Were you injured on the job or suffer and job-related illness and believe that you are entitled to receive monetary compensation? More than likely, you're right. You can probably file and obtain benefits through Worker's Compensation. However, you might also be eligible to receive additional funds through third parties that might also be at fault for your injuries.
With legal representation, your attorney can ensure that all necessary documentation is filed in the appropriate county courthouse before the Illinois statute of limitations expires in your case. Your family can hold all those at fault for your damages financially and legally accountable. You never need to make any upfront payment for legal services because our personal injury law firm accepts all compensation cases through contingency fee agreements. This agreement means your legal fees are paid only after our attorneys have negotiated an out of court settlement on your behalf or have successfully resolved your recompense case in a court of law. Our "No Win/No Fee" Guarantee means you would owe us nothing if we do not win!
Contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) today to schedule a free, no obligation case consultation to review your claim. We have assisted others with injuries and damages similar to yours, and we can help your family too. All information you share with our law office will remain confidential.