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Laundry workers face high risk of accident and occupational disease

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According to the National Statistics Annual Business Inquiry 2006, the dry cleaning and laundry industry employs around 39,000 people. This covers everything from independent dry cleaners to industrial laundries and onsite laundering facilities in the health and hospitality sectors.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the majority of laundry accidents are caused by four main factors. Firstly, manual handling, which accounts for over a third of all injuries; slips and trips which make up a quarter of injuries; being hit by falling objects and coming into contact with moving machinery. These four causes account for almost 90 per cent of all reported injuries.

The main types of injuries suffered by laundry workers are musculoskeletal issues such as back complaints; work related upper limb disorders caused by repetitive work; respiratory problems, occupational dermatitis and noise induced hearing loss.

The HSE says that many laundry machinery accidents are caused by defective or missing guards and that serious accidents, and even fatalities, have occurred due to defective interlocking mechanisms and guards.

There are various other issues putting laundry workers at risk of ill health too. Legionella is one of them; according to the HSE, their inspectors have found poor maintenance standards in dry cleaners’ water cooling towers leading to the development of this potentially deadly problem.

The dangers of exposure to contaminated laundry and solvents

Exposure to contaminated laundry is another issue. Materials from hospitals and factories using chemicals for example will both present a high risk from uncontrolled exposure.

Exposure to perchloroethylene, a dry cleaning solvent, can be very dangerous and measures must be in place to control and monitor it. An emergency plan must be devised to deal with accidental solvent spills.

Claiming compensation for laundry accidents

If you have been injured in a laundry accident, or have suffered ill health after working in the laundering industry, and your employer is found to be negligent because they have not complied with Health and Safety legislation, you could have a case for a compensation claim.

Whether you have endured a serious accident, or have been diagnosed with an occupational illness such as asthma, dermatitis or hearing loss, you should take legal advice.

At Stephensons, we have specialist solicitors with specific expertise in pursuing claims for industrial accidents and workplace diseases. To find out whether you have a claim, call 01616 966 229. Our experts are on hand to answer your questions and will let you know straight away if you have a viable case.

By personal injury solicitor and Stephensons’ Partner, Kate Sweeney