Tips and Tactics to Help Keep Your Wash-Dry-Fold Employees Fit, Pain-Free and ProductiveYour employees are the lifeblood of your wash-dry-fold service. And, as that operation grows, you’ll likely be thinking more and more about where to find the next great laundry attendant to help push that segment of your business forward.More importantly, you’ll want to ensure that your staff members stay physically healthy on the job. After all, the repetition and sometimes physically demanding nature of wash-dry-fold production work can take a toll one’s body.With that said, there are ways to do production work that are good for you, and there are ways that can cause physical ramifications. So, let’s consider those businesses that do a lot of laundry every day – drycleaners and industrial laundries.Almost all of the equipment in an industrial laundry plant is designed to eliminate as much personal contact with the laundry loads as possible, as well as to minimize individual contact with the finished product. And most drycleaning businesses exhibit similar systems and design elements. In many ways, these operations have engineered the equipment to fit their employees and how these individuals move – not so much how they work, but how they move.How can wash-dry-fold loads at your vended laundry be processed in a way that takes into consideration not only how your employees produce finished work, but also how they actually move their bodies while working? Let’s take a step-by-step look at the wash-dry-fold process.The first step is how your attendants load and unload the washing machines. Are they bending over? Anytime they’re bent over and doing any kind of lifting – even very light lifting – they are risking a potential back injury.Especially consider when they’re taking garments out of a washing machine. The items are even heavier now because they’re damp, and the employees are pulling them out. This scenario has the potential to do some serious damage to their bodies.To minimize this potential, you should train your staff on exactly how to position laundry carts near the washer openings so that they can load and unload those machines quickly and safely – without undue bending or handling too much weight from the garments.Also, vended laundry equipment manufacturers recently have been raising washer drums ever so slightly higher. Although this is mostly for marketing purposes (because it makes the machine appear larger), there is an ergonomic benefit. After all, the higher the drum level, the straighter your employees’ backs will be as they load and unload those machines. And that’s definitely healthier for such repetitive work.Once you’ve got the laundry loads washed, are your employees using carts to move them to the dryers? Or are your dryers located directly across from the washers, so they simply transfer the loads by hand? And how is your staff loading those dryers?Today, most laundries have stack dryers. At my store, I started off having my employees use the bottom dryers for wash-dry-fold loads, because these were the least-used dryers. However, I now teach them to use the top dryers. And, if I were building a plant, I would probably install only single-pocket dryers, because they are more ergonomic to load and unload. Or, I would find a way to raise the level of those bottom dryers.At my business, we use the top dryers for items where the employees are going to be doing a lot of digging and pulling. Sometimes we’ll use the bottom dryers for towels or large items that they can literally throw in, without going through them too extensively.When it comes time to unload those bottom dryers, I teach my employees to do so on their knees, versus bending over. It’s a much healthier position for addressing those lower dryer pockets.Now let’s consider the aspect of wash-dry-fold where your attendants use their bodies the most – folding. How are they positioning themselves? How is their work space? Is it large enough? Can they organize it in such a way that, for the most part, all of their movements are done with their arms and not with their entire upper body? It’s important that they try to keep their upper bodies in an upright position.The first step is to adjust your folding tables to a size where your employees’ arms can reach and move easily across the surface without bending. Fortunately, most folding tables are designed quite ergonomically. Several tables have shelves on the back of them so that your employees have a place to store folded garments out of the way, and without having to do much moving.At what height are the laundry carts? What height is the laundry at when your employees are pulling it out?Also, many attendants are constantly turning and bending into a laundry cart to pull out the next garment to fold – versus grabbing a large group of items, placing them all on the table, and working through them, where the movement is only slightly side to side, not bending and twisting for each item of clothing.In addition, how are you weighing in the laundry loads? At what height is the scale? Could it be at a more ergonomic height? That’s an easy change that can help reduce a health risk for you and your employees.Lastly, where do you store the finished products? At what level?We store all comforters on the highest shelves, because they are light and easy to handle. We place smaller loads on the bottom shelves, and the larger, heavier loads are on the middle shelves so that there is no bending.Turning and bending is a risky movement. We’ve all been told that the best way to pick something up is to bend with our knees and to keep our backs straight. Realistically, you’re never going to be able to train most attendants to bend at the knees to pick up a sock in a laundry cart. However, you can try to minimize the number of times they bend and, thus, minimize the potential health risk.What’s more, be sure to observe your employees at work and continuously share with them ergonomic and healthy laundry handling practices. They’re often not thinking about their bodies. In fact, even after a month or two on the job, many employees will still be processing laundry in ways that are detrimental to their bodies.At The Laundry Doctor, we make it a point to show our staff how laundry processing should be done. It’s one thing to build strength and specific muscles with repetitive action; however, it’s quite another to damage your body through negative and risky repetitive movement.We ask our employees to think about how they touch every garment. After all, most of our staff members are processing wash-dry-fold laundry all day, every day. If we can’t combat fatigue and bad habits in body movement, we’re going to end up losing employees because they physically won’t be able to do the work.More than 10 years of yoga training have taught me to be more mindful of how and why I move. Yoga teaches you to instinctively think about how you approach every movement.If you can train your wash-dry-fold employees to do the same, you’ll have a healthier, happier and more productive staff.
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