n the UK, the HSE imposes strict guidelines when it comes to protecting the safety of employees. With regards to clothing, it provides the following information: Non-disposable PPE, for example, laboratory coats, overalls or aprons, must be stored appropriately, checked and kept clean and, if faulty, repaired or replaced. If PPE may be, or has been, contaminated by blood or other body fluids, it must be removed safely before leaving the workplace and kept apart from uncontaminated PPE and ‘street’ clothes. It should be cleaned and decontaminated or, if necessary, disposed of safely.

Uniforms are not PPE as defined by the COSHH regulations but protective clothing, such as aprons, may be worn over uniforms or normal clothing to control the risk of contamination. Risk assessment should identify how uniforms or protective clothing could become contaminated and how decontamination will be carried out. There are no clear HSE guidelines on the washing of workwear but the Department of Health provides comprehensive guidance for linen processors. The NHS does provide washing guidelines for nurses’ uniforms but does not enforce or monitor them.


The Department of Health provides guidance for linen processors via the implementation of European standard EN 14065. This standard describes a Risk Analysis and

57.42 52.2 46.98 41.76 36.54 31.32 26.1 20.88 15.66 10.44


Example 1: the temperature rises to a short peak of nearly 55C, and, over the next 15 minutes, falls to 47C.

10 LCN | June 2021

Professionally qualified I

Biocontamination Control (RABC) system designed to enable linen processors to continuously assure the microbiological quality of the processed linen. It is a useful application for laundries that handle textiles used in hygiene-sensitive environments, where the elimination of the bacterial load is essential. ‘Hygiene-sensitive’ environments include: ■ Kitchens and food-processing ■ Healthcare ■ Elderly care ■ Pharmaceutical area ■ Cleanrooms

Justin Kerslake, operations director at Christeyns UK confirms: “Laundries meeting the strict RABC requirements can easily fulfil the needs of these hygiene-sensitive environments”.

Risks of washing at home Cross-contamination

One of the major risks in processing laundry is cross-contamination. To avoid cross- contamination of the workwear during handling, drying, folding, transport and storage and in compliance with RABC requirements, professional laundries strictly separate dirty and clean areas. The removal or limitation of manual activities after the washing process also guarantees the protection of the cleaned workwear. In a few cases where employees could come into contact with the linen, hygiene is guaranteed through hand washing protocols.

46.2 41.58 36.96 32.34 27.72 23.1 18.48 13.86 9.24

Scientific publications indicate that textiles can be carriers of infection, especially in times of Covid-19. Here we look at persuasive arguments why workwear should be washed in a professional laundry instead of at home

Washing at home, however, involves more risk as employees simply cannot meet these strict RABC requirements. A study by intelligence platform and consulting service GfK showed that 98% of the respondents washed their work clothes and personal laundry in the same washing machine. In addition, there is no physical separation between clean and dirty laundry areas, temperature controls are often unreliable and there is also no fixed hand washing protocol. In this context, microbes or bacteria can contaminate the personal laundry and can then end up in a working environment, where it can have an enormous impact on health safety.

Hand hygiene, surface and textile disinfection are key factors to avoid cross- contamination. In this context, European Textile Services Association (ETSA) published on its website the general recommendations from hygiene chemical and disinfection specialist Christeyns on how to minimise the risks of contamination.


Example 2: the temperature reaches only 45°C for approximately 20 minutes. [Source: investigations by Professor Dr Lutz Vossebein]

Temperature [°C]

Temperature [°C]

08:52:00 09:02:00 09:12:00 09:22:00 09:32:00 09:42:00 09:52:00 10:02:00

18:09:00 18:14:45 18:20:30 18:26:15 18:32:00 18:37:45 18:43:30 18:49:15 18:55:00 19:00:45 19:06:30 19:12:15 19:18:00 18:23:45 19:29:30 19:35:15

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