Commercial laundry safety improvement outpaces national industrial averages

National survey results show across-the-board reductions in injury and illness at commercial laundries, surpassing safety improvement rates in the overall private manufacturing industry

TRSA, the leading global textile services trade association, today released results of its annual national safety survey, showing dramatic, across-the-board reductions in injuries and illness at commercial laundries. According to the Textile Services Industry Safety Report, which bases its questions on U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standards, safety improvement at commercial laundries exceeds the overall private manufacturing industry.

The report found the Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) for TRSA members dropped by 27.3 percent between 2010 and 2014. Similarly, TRSA members’ Days Away, Restricted and or Transfer Rate (DART) dropped by 25.6 percent during that same period.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over the same time period, the private manufacturing industry reduced its TRIR and DART rates by 9 percent and 8.3 percent respectively. Private manufacturing operations are similar to those found in textile processing facilities and, therefore, shares many of the textile services industry’s same safety issues and compliance mandates.

“The statistics in the latest TRSA safety report shows tremendous improvement in key indicators of worker health and safety in commercial laundries,” said Joseph Ricci, CEO of TRSA. “Along with continuing advances in hygienic cleaning processes, these safety numbers highlight our industry’s dedication to improving the health and safety of its workers and the public.”

TRSA’s survey is modeled after the OSHA “Summary of Work Related Injuries and Illnesses” Form—more commonly known as the OSHA Form 300A. From February 1 through April 30, Federal OSHA regulations require every textile services facility to publicly display a completed OSHA Form 300A for the facility from the previous year in the facility where notices to employees are commonly posted.

The survey was completed by 713 TRSA members, with all completed member surveys submitted directly to Mackay Research Group—an independent, third-party organization that specializes in providing comprehensive information on employee, operating and financial performance for trade associations.

For the past decade, SafeTRSA has provided industry-specific tools and resources to help textile service providers improve their safety performance by documenting best practices and compliance. The TRSA Safety Committee continually updates and revises the material to identify and mitigate risks in their laundry facilities and on routes. The Safety Report is available at www.SafeTRSA.org

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Can your employee social media policy stand up to court challenges?

jimdeane / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Social media policies have been tested in several recent high-profile cases. The case of Andrew Goldman, a freelance columnist for the New York Times Magazine, is almost notorious now. Goldman was suspended from the magazine for tweets to author Jennifer Weiner that were considered profane and sexist.

It’s hard to look away when such a venerable brand undergoes a minor disaster, and the issue has been discussed at length. Over at the Harvard Business Review blogs, Alexandra Samuel ponders whether or not an organization should have such a broad and vague social media policy as the Times does. After all, they claim that it isn’t even written down.

It turns out that such policies may not just be misguided, they may be illegal. In two recent court decisions, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) set precedents for what constitutes a legal social media policy. I’m certainly not a lawyer, but I’ll do my best to lay out the basics as it pertains to social media and PR professionals.

Protected and concerted

The first case concerned another major brand — Costco Wholesale. Part of a larger challenge of Costco’s employee handbook by UFCW Local 371, this case dubbed certain provisions against social media usage unlawful. In particular, the ruling stated that Costco cannot prohibit employees from posting “unauthorized” material while on company property. Also, the company’s employee handbook included broad statements prohibiting employees from using social media to discuss and debate pay, sick leave and what they thought about the company. Such prohibitions are apparently illegal under that National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), because such conversations (online or off) are considered “protected and concerted.”

The judge’s decision in the second case was a bit more nuanced. This case concerned a salesman at a car dealership who had been fired after posting two unflattering items about his employer. In the first, he posted a photo with a caption that criticized the dealership’s choice of food for an event, which led to subsequent comments by other employees. The judge deemed this discussion protected under the NLRA, and also understood that this was not why he was fired.

In another set of posts the same day, the salesman posted a photo of and sarcastic comments about a car accident at the neighboring car lot. He was apparently fired for the second set, which did not fall under the protection of the NLRA.

Still, in another case, the dealership was ordered to remove unlawful rules from its social media policy. The policy was deemed too broad and restrictive of employee communications, particularly where it concerned “courteous” language and not damaging the reputation of the dealership.

What’s in your social media policy?

Is this making you panic yet? After all, it seems that most social media policies list rules about not discussing sensitive issues like payroll or anything that will hurt the company’s image. Apparently, under the NLRA, this is illegal. Employees have a right to discuss hours, pay and other employment-related issues. And in both of these cases above, employers got in trouble with policies that were too broad and could be construed to restrict such “protected and concerted” discussions.

However, employers can ask that their employees follow appropriate laws when using social media. Posts that clearly constitute harassment and bullying are never okay and should never be condoned. Furthermore, employees must heed industry-specific laws when discussing their work online. This has been tested many times in the medical professions. Nurses and doctors have both been fired for posts that violate the privacy provisions of HIPAA. Financial sector employees can also be fired for violating industry-specific laws — and they may also face massive fines, as the recent case of a Citigroup analyst demonstrates.

Clearly, this is a far more complex issue than most business owners realize. So how do you write an enforceable, reasonable and legal social media policy? Here are five starting points:

  1. Start with your existing employee handbook and laws governing your industry. This will ensure that social media policies are consistent with current workplace culture and regulations.
  2. Engage employees in the process. Recruit employees who are active on social media to be involved in the development process. Provide social media training for everyone, to make sure that less tech-savvy employees understand enough to follow policies competently.
  3. Engage your lawyer in the process. This should go without saying, but not enough small businesses heed this advice.
  4. Keep your policy narrow. If the above examples tell us anything, it is that employers must be very specific about what behaviors are prohibited.
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. New social networks emerge and gain significant traction quite frequently. Do not base your entire policy around Facebook and Twitter.

For more information on developing quality social media policies Inc. has a great article, and Socialmedia.biz has an excellent guide. From where I sit, it seems a good place to begin is to encourage your employees to be safe, savvy and engaged participants in the social media sphere. Didactic, restrictive policies won’t necessarily protect your business or foster positive use of social media among your employees.

Photo credit: jimdeane / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND