Q. What does OSHA mean by the term “contaminated laundry?”
A. Contaminated laundry means laundry which has been soiled with blood or other potentially infectious materials or may contain sharps.
Q. How should contaminated laundry be handled?
A. Contaminated laundry shall be handled as little as possible with a minimum of agitation. Contaminated laundry shall be bagged or containerized at the location where it was used and shall not be sorted or rinsed in the location of use. Other requirements include:
Contaminated laundry shall be placed and transported in bags or containers labeled or color-coded in accordance with paragraph (g)(1)(i) of the standard. When a facility utilizes Universal Precautions in the handling of all soiled laundry, alternative labeling or color-coding is sufficient if it permits all employees to recognize the containers as requiring compliance with Universal Precautions.
Whenever contaminated laundry is wet and presents a reasonable likelihood of soak-through or leakage from the bag or container, the laundry shall be placed and transported in bags or containers which prevent soak-through and/or leakage of fluids to the exterior.
The employer shall ensure that employees who have contact with contaminated laundry wear protective gloves and other appropriate personal protective equipment.
When a facility ships contaminated laundry off-site to a second facility which does not utilize Universal Precautions in the handling of all laundry, the facility generating the contaminated laundry must place such laundry in bags or containers which are labeled or color-coded in accordance with paragraph (g)(1)(i) of the standard.
Q. Are employees allowed to take their protective equipment home and launder it?
A. Employees are not permitted to take their protective equipment home and launder it. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide, launder, repair, replace, and dispose of personal protective equipment.
Q. Do employers have to buy a washer and dryer to clean employees personal protective equipment?
A. There is no OSHA requirement stipulating that employers must purchase a washer and dryer to launder protective clothing. It is an option that employers may consider. Another option is to contract out the laundering of protective clothing. Finally, employers may choose to use disposable personal protective clothing and equipment.
Q. Are there guidelines to be followed when laundering personal protective equipment? What water temperature and detergent types are acceptable?
A. The decontamination and laundering of protective clothing should be handled by washing and drying the garments according to the clothing manufacturers instructions.