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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 40-44

A study to assess the awareness regarding occupational health hazards among the employees in the laundry department of a selected hospital


Department of Hospital Administration, Father Muller Medical College, Mangalore, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication8-Dec-2014

Correspondence Address:
Merlin Manuel
Department of Hospital Administration, Father Muller Medical College, Kankanady, Mangalore, Karnataka
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-9727.146423

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  Abstract 

Background: The importance of a clean environment and linen for optimal patient care has been stressed upon since the very inception of hospitals. Individuals who work in a laundry are required to be adequately informed about the physical and health hazards present in the laundry, the known risks, and what to do if an accident occurs. Every laundry worker must be trained to know the location and proper use of the available personal protective clothing and equipment. Therefore, safe environment in the laundry is essential to maintain their health, and awareness programs should be conducted. Objective of the Study: To assess the awareness regarding occupational health hazards among the employees in the Laundry Department. Materials and Methods: The research method adopted in this study is of a descriptive type. The study was conducted in the Laundry Department of the selected hospital. The sample consisted of 15 respondents. All the employees in the department were included. The tools used to collect the data were an informal interview and the check-list and observation methods. The collected data was analyzed by percentage. Result: The study reveals that a majority of the respondents were knowledgeable about the occupational health hazards and safety measures. However, very few of them were aware of the types of occupational hazards. Conclusion: Awareness of occupational health and safety among the employees is important in the laundry area; therefore, planned orientation, training programs, and proper guidance to the employees will help reduce any kind of danger involved in the job and adoption of the necessary safety measures.

Keywords: Laundry services, occupational health hazards, safety measures


How to cite this article:
Manuel M, Daphnie L, D'cunha S, Suresh S. A study to assess the awareness regarding occupational health hazards among the employees in the laundry department of a selected hospital. Muller J Med Sci Res 2015;6:40-4

How to cite this URL:
Manuel M, Daphnie L, D'cunha S, Suresh S. A study to assess the awareness regarding occupational health hazards among the employees in the laundry department of a selected hospital. Muller J Med Sci Res [serial online] 2015 [cited 2019 Aug 24];6:40-4. Available from: http://www.mjmsr.net/text.asp?2015/6/1/40/146423


  Introduction Top


The importance of a clean environment and linen for optimal patient care has been stressed upon since the very inception of hospitals. Clean bedding and clean clothes create a psychological confidence in the patients and public.

The environment where used linen and laundry is stored is susceptible to various infections and hazards. Individuals who work in a laundry are required to be adequately informed about the physical and other health hazards present in the laundry, the known risks, and what to do if an accident occurs. Every laundry worker must be trained to know the location and proper use of the available personal protective clothing and equipment. The laundry supervisor is responsible for providing information about any hazard present in the department. Therefore, a safe environment in the laundry is essential to maintain their health. Awareness programs should be conducted for the personnel, on the hazards involved while performing their jobs.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Occupational Health is defined as a multidisciplinary activity aimed at:

  • The protection and promotion of the health of workers, by preventing and controlling occupational hazards and accidents and by eliminating the occupational factors and conditions hazardous to health and safety at work.
  • The development and promotion of healthy and safe work, work environments, and work organizations.
  • Enhancement of the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of the workers and support for the development and maintenance of their working capacity, as well as professional and social development at work.
  • Enabling workers to conduct socially and economically productive lives and to contribute positively to their sustainable development. [1]


As per the Ontario Ministry of Labour; Occupational illness normally develops over a period of time because of conditions at the workplace. Such conditions might include exposure to disease-causing bacteria and viruses, for example, chemicals or dust.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, occupational illness is defined as a condition that results from exposure in a workplace to a physical, chemical or biological agent, to the extent that the normal physiological mechanisms are affected and the health of the worker is impaired. [2]

Reports of healthcare-associated diseases related to contaminated or infected linen are few, such that the overall risk of disease transmission during the laundry process is probably negligible (CDC, 2003). [3] According to the University of Santo Tomas Hospital Chicago, there have been no reported incidences of disease transmitted through hospital-provided linen. However, in context of the large volume of linen being laundered in healthcare settings, control measures and standard precautions are effective in reducing the risk of disease transmission to both patients and staff. Therefore, the purpose of standards is to protect the worker from exposure to potentially infectious materials during collection, handling, and sorting of contaminated textiles through the use of personal protective equipment, proper work practices, containment, labeling, hazard communication, and ergonomics. [4]

Soiled and / or used linen may harbor high numbers of microorganisms from the different body substances they are in contact with, such as, blood, skin, stool, urine, vomitus, sputum, and other body tissue and fluid. When contaminated with potentially infective body substances, linen can contain bacterial loads of 10 6 -10 8 CFU/100 cm 3 . There have been reports on bacteria such as Salmonella and Bacillus cereus Barrie, et al; [5] viruses such as hepatitis B; fungi such as Microsporum canis; and parasites such as scabies, being transmitted from contaminated linen to healthcare workers via direct contact and aerosol droplets of lint, generated from sorting and handling linen (CDC, 2003). [3] A study conducted by Borg and Portelli, [6] in Manila, suggested that continuous exposure to contaminated hospital linen may cause a significant rise in the possibility of infection with hepatitis A.

Objectives of the Study

This study is conducted with the intention of assessing the awareness regarding occupational health hazards among the employees in the Laundry Department of a selected multispecialty hospital.


  Materials and Methods Top


The study was carried out in the laundry attached to a tertiary care hospital. It was a descriptive study. There were 15 employees in the department. Data was collected from all 15 employees. There was no specific sampling technique, as all of them participated in the study. The study was conducted from December 2013 to January 2014, for a period of two months. The tools used to collect data were informal interviews and the checklist and observation methods. The basis for a checklist was a review of literatures and standards from various authors. The checklist included 16 questions regarding the occupational health hazard. It was divided into three parts. The first part dealt with what an occupational hazard was. It was assessed by asking questions. The second part dealt in detail with the types of occupational hazards. This was assessed through an informal interview and by asking questions. The third part dealt with awareness of the various precautionary measures, which was assessed via all the three methods. Knowledge of vaccinations and a first aid kit were assessed by asking questions, knowledge with regard to a fire extinguisher was assessed via a demonstration, and stress level awareness was assessed through an informal interview. Other precautionary measures, such as, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and handwashing, were assessed by observation. Analysis was conducted using the computer database SPSS 20 version, by applying the appropriate statistical rules. Results were presented in a tabular form.


  Result Top


Awareness of occupational safety and health play an important role in the prevention of injuries and diseases. Various programs have been implemented to increase the awareness and knowledge of occupational health hazards in the workplace of healthcare workers [Table 1].
Table 1: Awareness on occupational health hazards

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All the employees in the Laundry Department of the selected hospital were included in the study (15 employees). There were 16 questions with regard to the awareness of occupational health hazards. The questions included: Occupational health and safety, type of hazards in detail, and use of precautionary measures.

All the employees responded positively. Among them 80% of the respondents were aware of what was meant by occupational health and safety and of the occupational hazards. Only 20% of the respondents were aware of the types of occupational hazards they were facing in their work environment. Eighty percent of the respondents were aware of the diseases occurring due to their profession.

Awareness with regard to the different types of hazards showed that 53.3% were aware of the falls that could occur due to their profession, 93.3% of them were aware of hearing problems, and 20% of them were aware of and experienced headaches. In relation to chemical hazards, 93.3% of them were aware of latex allergy, 26.6% were aware of dermatitis, and 13.3% of them were aware of respiratory problems occurring due to their profession.

With regard to electrical and mechanical hazards, 46.6% of them were aware of burns and fire being the major issue and 80% of them agreed that shock incidents could occur in the department due to short circuits in the sophisticated equipments. With regard to biological hazards, 23.3% agreed that skin allergy and infections could occur in the Laundry Department. Only 13.3% of them knew about respiratory problems.

All of them had knowledge about the importance of the inspection of linen for sutures and needles and also the use of PPE. Most of them were aware that PPE was used for preventing cuts, skin abrasions, and falls. All of them followed the proper handwashing method. All were vaccinated against hepatitis B. Eighty percent were aware of the use of the first aid kit.

Handling of fire extinguishers was known to 93.3% of the employees and it was confirmed by demonstration; 33.3% of them knew the importance of regular health check-ups; 93.3% of the respondents agreed that it was necessary to report to a higher authority in case of any occupational hazard.


  Discussion Top


In a hospital sector the risk of an occupational hazard is high. Individuals who work in a laundry are required to be adequately informed about the physical and health hazards present in the laundry, the known risks, and what is to be done if an accident occurs.

Health and safety in a hospital laundry is becoming an increasingly important subject as a result of the emergence of highly infectious diseases, such as, Hepatitis and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is important that where a hazardous environment is present, the hazards must be recognized and controlled. Proper measures have to be taken in order to minimize hazards at the workplace and awareness programs about occupational health safety have to be conducted so as to educate the employees about the hazards and safety measures.

From the various reviews available on occupational health hazards and their precautions (OSHA standards, Park, Triolo, Smith et al, Lugah, et al, Sadleir [7],[8],[9],[10],[11] a list of problems were identified - physical, chemical, biological, and psychological. Precautionary measures were also identified, such as, the use of PPE, vaccinations, proper segregation, and training and education of the employees. On the basis of these reviews, researchers prepared a checklist to assess the awareness with regard to occupational health hazards, among the laundry workers.

Occupational hazards are risks to people that usually arise out of their employment. The source of these hazards is the work environment, which can include physical, chemical, biological, mechanical, and social aspects.'Environmental and occupational health issues in hospitals,' an article by Bert Sadleir, states that hospitals are large, organizationally complex, system-driven institutions, employing a large number of workers from different professional streams. They are also potentially hazardous workplaces and expose their workers to a wide range of physical, chemical, biological, ergonomical, and psychological hazards. [6]

The above study reveals that, with regard to the types of occupational health hazards, above 80% of the respondents were aware of hearing problems, latex allergy, and shock that could occur in their work environment. Fifty to eighty percent of them were aware of falls, skin allergies, and infections, and <50% were aware of headaches, respiratory problems, fire, burns, and dermatitis.

Soiled and/or used linen may harbor a high number of microorganisms from the different body substances they are in contact with, such as, blood, skin, stool, urine, vomitus, sputum, and other body tissues and fluids. A study conducted by Borg and Portelli, [6] in Manila, suggested that continuous exposure to contaminated hospital linen may cause a significant rise in the possibility of infection with hepatitis A. [12] The present study shows that only 50-80% of them were aware of infections, but all of them were aware of the importance of handwashing.

According to the University of Santo Tomas Hospital, Chicago, there have been no reported incidences of diseases transmitted through hospital-provided linens. However, in context of the large volume of linen being laundered in healthcare settings, control measures and standard precautions are effective in reducing the risk of disease transmission to both patients and staff. Therefore, the purpose of the standards is to protect the worker from exposure to potentially infectious materials during collection, handling, and sorting of contaminated textiles, through the use of personal protective equipment, proper work practices, containment, labeling, hazard communication, and ergonomics. [3] The present study also shows that there has been no incidence of disease transmitted through hospital-provided linens. Control measures and precautions, such as, proper segregation and handling, universal precautions, use of PPE, and proper maintenance of reporting of incidents, were useful to safeguard the health of the employees.


  Conclusion Top


Awareness of occupational health and safety among the employees is important in the laundry area. The work environment must be free from hazards and all employees should be aware of their health and safety. The present study reveals that a majority of them were aware of the hazards and their safety measures, but with regard to the types of hazards, their knowledge level was limited, therefore, planned orientation, training programs, and proper guidance to the employees, and adoption of the necessary safety measures will help reduce any kind of danger involved in the job.


  Acknowledgments Top


We acknowledge the Management of the Father Muller Charitable Institution for granting permission to conduct the study. We thank the in-charge and all the employees in the department for their help and cooperation throughout our study. We extend our immense gratitude toward the Department of Hospital Administration and the staff for their guidance and help.

 
  References Top

1.
WHO definition for occupational health. Available from: http://www.who.int/occupational_health/en/ [Last accessed on 2014 Jul 30].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Ontario ministry of labour. Definition for occupational health hazards. Available from: http://www.labour.gov.in.ca/english/hs/topics/healthhazards.php. [Last accessed on 2014 Aug 01].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities. Recommendations of CDC and the Healthcare Infection Control. Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC).pn.78. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/guidelines/eic_in_hcf_03.pdf. [Last accessed on 2014 Aug 01].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Guidelines for environmental infection control in health-care facilities. US Department of Health and Human Services: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2003:98-103.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Barrie D1, Hoffman PN, Wilson JA, Kramer JM. Contamination of hospital linen by Bacillus cereus. Epidemiol Infect 1994;113: 297-306.  Back to cited text no. 5
[PUBMED]    
6.
Borg MA, Portelli A. Hospital laundry workers - an at-risk group for hepatitis A. Occup Med (Lond) 1999;49:448-50.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Park K. Preventive and Social medicine. 16 th ed. Jabalpur: M/s Banarsidas Bhanot Publishers; 2000. p. 557.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Triolo PK. Occupational health hazards of hospital staff nurses. Part II: Physical, chemical, and biological stressors. AAOHN J 1989;37:274-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
[PUBMED]    
9.
Smith EM, Miller ER, Woolson RF, Brown CK. Bladder cancer risk among laundry workers, dry cleaners, and others in chemically-related occupations. J Occup Med 1985;27:295-7.  Back to cited text no. 9
[PUBMED]    
10.
Lugah V, Ganesh B, Darus A, Retneswari M, Rosnawati MR, Sujatha D. Training of occupational safety and health: knowledge among healthcare professionals in Malaysia. Singapore Med J 2010;51:586-92.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Sadleir B. Environmental and health issues in hospitals. Available from: http://www.tropmed.org/rreh/vol 1 2.html [Last accessed on 2014 Jul 30].  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Singh D, Qadri G, Kotwal M, Syed A, Jan F. Quality control in linen and laundry service at a tertiary care teaching hospital in India. Int J Health Sci (Qassim) 2009;3:33-44.  Back to cited text no. 12
    



 
 
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