Watching your laundry workers' backs

Washing Machines

This is part two in a series on hotel laundry operations. Click here for part one: How to save, and waste, in the laundry room.

Sprains and strains are a common presence in back-of-house laundry operations. The biggest source of employee pain comes from pushing and pulling laundry carts and untangling linens before ironing. Hotels should be proactive in repairing or replacing damaged equipment to get the drop on injuries before they occur.

“Preventative maintenance always reduces injuries,” said Joseph Ricci, president & CEO of textile advocacy organization TRSA. “If an iron isn’t running properly, sheets can get stuck, and then employees will begin to work machinery improperly in order to fix the issue.”

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The good news is that new technology is always being invented to ease the loads employees bear. Ricci recommends large hotels invest in machines to break up sheets after they come out of dryers.

“For any employee, 250 pounds of sheets is a burden to break up,” Ricci said. “Beyond that, it’s inefficient. You need an entire person doing just that to handle the load. Sheets are a big problem that automation has been able to solve.”

Another opportunity to avoid wearing out employees before and after they leave the back of the house is micromanaging what goes in housekeeping carts. By outfitting carts with the bare essentials for their trip to guestrooms, hotels can speed up the room-flipping process and ease the strain of pushing overloaded carts.

The key to success with this and other laundry safety initiatives, according to Duane Newman, president of PDQ Consulting, is adapting to the specific needs of a hotel and then remaining consistent. “

Every hotel has a different set of travelers it caters to,” Newman said. “Analyze how your linen gets to the rooms that need it. Stagger housekeeping and wash scheduling.”

According to Newman, the majority of hotels schedule their linen wash cycles based on the timing of buses that bring guests to and from the property. While this is helpful during the washing process, too often room attendants are stuck unable to get into guestrooms until guests leave, letting laundry sit around, and often pile high.

Other efficiencies that Newman says hotels are sleeping on include picking the correct size sheet for a given bed. “Most king-size sheets waste a good foot of linen that is unneeded and often serves to be tucked in during the bed-making process,” Newman said. “It’s a small thing, but cutting out that foot means less linen, less wait on laundry and less injuries over time from trying to fold it.”

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