In a busy outpatient medical facility like yours, staff routinely interacts with a wide variety of medical linens that are exposed to contaminants, including lab coats, scrubs, towels, patient apparel, and floor mats, just to name a few. Improper laundry handling can expose staff and patients to bloodborne pathogens, and other hazards that could have been avoided. Between visits from your medical laundry service provider, it’s vital that your teams follow several precautions to protect all of the patients and healthcare workers in your practice.
Read through the information below to get a complete understanding of how you should be handling your soiled linens between visits from your medical linen and laundry service provider.
Medical Linen Providers Help Control Outpatient Facility Infectious Diseases
Contaminated laundry includes any that has been soiled with blood or ANY other potentially infectious material. To effectively prevent and control infectious diseases, it’s essential to follow safe material handling practices in between pickups and deliveries from your medical linen and laundry service provider.
Proper Contaminated Linen & Laundry Handling in Outpatient Medical Facilities
- Contaminated medical linens should be handled as little as possible with minimal agitation to prevent generating contaminated lint aerosols.
- Contaminated medical linens should be bagged at the location in which it’s used, such as a patient’s room, surgical area, or laboratory. Never rinse or sort contaminated laundry outside of designated areas—OSHA prohibits this.
- Wet contaminated medical linens should be placed in a biohazard labeled container at the location of use.
- If wet contaminated medical linen poses any reasonable risk of soak-through or leakage from its container or bag, it should be placed in a plastic leak-proof bag for containment and transportation.
- Contaminated medical linens have to be transported in properly labeled bags or containers or a red or orange biohazard labeled bag. Whether your facility uses labeling, color-coding, or another method, it’s vital that all of your staff fully understand your system. This is true whether you’re transporting laundry within your own facility or laundry is being transported by another provider such as Nixon Medical.
- Facilities that use OSHA’s Universal Precautions when handling soiled medical linens can make use of alternative labeling or color-coding as long as all staff are able to recognize those containers as requiring compliance with Universal Precautions. If your facility does not follow OSHA’s Universal Precautions, contaminated laundry should be contained in red bags marked with the biohazard symbol.
- Contaminated medical linens that are stored in bags can be transported by cart or chute. Laundry chutes must be appropriately designed, maintained, and used for the health safety of everyone in your outpatient facility. The piston-like action of a laundry bag traveling in a chute can propel microbial contaminants into the air, spreading germs throughout your facility.
- DO NOT hold contaminated laundry bags close to your body or squeeze them when carrying them. This is to avoid accidental punctures from any improperly discarded syringes or other sharps.
- Always use proper storage solutions and follow proper guidelines for your laundry inventory system and storage area.
A Note About Single-Use & Disposable Medical Linens
When facing a regional outbreak or other large influx of patients, it can be tempting to stock up on disposable or single-use linens and garments to supplement your regular medical linen and laundry services. These products can be convenient in an emergency but should not be used as a replacement for your standard medical linens.
Ensure that any disposable products you purchase follow the same FDA regulations required for all other medical linens. It’s also important to consider the expense of disposable items, such as gowns and drapes, and the impact these items will have on your facility’s medical waste management costs and needs. Compared to an off-site service with scheduled pickups, such as Nixon Medical, the costs of depending on disposable products can quickly become prohibitive.
Put Your Medical Laundry Needs in Expert Hands
Give your staff the knowledge, training, and tools they need to prevent infectious diseases from spreading in your outpatient medical facility. All of the best practices discussed above, as well as those in our previous blog, Ways to Control Infectious Outbreaks in Your Outpatient Facility, can be combined with Nixon Medical’s professional laundry and linen services, including emergency support from your Route Service Representative and next-day emergency deliveries and pickups. Contact us today to discuss the needs of your outpatient medical facility.