“The reduction of microbial counts to a level free of bacteria, viruses and other disease-producing organisms and free of pathogens in significant numbers to cause human illness.”
--Definition of “hygienically clean,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Created a decade ago only for launderers serving healthcare providers, laundry certification now applies to facilities serving every industry, thanks to TRSA’s independent Hygienically Clean program. In addition to healthcare and generic designations, specialty certifications cover:
- Food Safety (for food manufacturing and processing)
- Food Service (restaurants, cafeterias, banquet facilities, etc,)
- Hospitality (hotels, other lodging)
Launderers who certify receive the benefits of increased efficiency, better-trained staffs and elevated consumer confidence that results from third-party verification. Implementation of Best Practices is critical to achieving certification. With these in place, a laundry is prepared to prove cleanliness, as the facility’s staff and physical plant are ready to face inspection.
- Create a Quality Assurance Manual unique and specific to your enterprise. Include procedures for these components in your service chain:
- Textile pick-up and transport to laundry facility;
- Identification and separation of soiled linens and textiles;
- Variety of wash chemistry and agents to be utilized;
- Comprehensive listingof facility equipment, specifying schedules for equipment maintenance and calibration;
- Personnel names and/or titles assigned to various tasks;
- Contingency plans in the event of equipment or power failure, Acts of God; plant disruption
- Sanitary storage and transport of product in return to client;
- Define implementation measures for compliance with OSHA and other Federal and local safety standards.
- For serving healthcare and hospitality customers, ensure separation of “soiled” and “clean” areas of your facility, as well as all means of conveyance—trucks, tubs, carts, conveyor belts and bins. For serving other industries, functional separation is not a must, but cross-contamination still must be prevented.
- Review and be familiar withwash chemistry practices, especially formulas, recognizing their importance to the outcome of microbial testing.
- Maintain sanitary methods of transport, particularly in the delivery process of laundered products. Document hygienic compliance and training, identifying responsible personnel.
- Closely examine communications policies—as well as mitigation procedures—with regard to hazardous, environmental or other unexpected contingencies.
- Ensure that processes and products yield effective soil removal and microbial mitigation. Describe measures focusing on safe storage of chemicals and hazard avoidance.
- Apply for certification process and inspection, budgeting for application fees and any additional onsite preparatory expenses. A separate application must be submitted for each plant (separate facility) requesting certification. To qualify for a one-per-company filing fee, multiple plant applications must be filed simultaneously.
- Prepare facility and staff for inspection.
- The preceding implementation measures are fairly standard, with universal cross-industry relevance. However no two facilities are exactly alike, and subtle differences and demands may be unique to a particular enterprise. While OSHA regulations, CDC guidelines and universally accepted voluntary standards must be observed everywhere, local- and state-mandated rules vary regionally, so these area-specific policies must be identified and addressed in your Quality Assurance Manual.
However, demands of outsourced laundering truly diverge. Food Service (restaurants, institutions, catering) differs from Food Safety (animal processing, dairies, produce packaging, et al). Petrochemical soils from uniforms and textiles found in the Industrial/Manufacturing segments of business pose challenges and hazards completely different than the human pathogens found in linens and textiles utilized in Healthcare facilities.
Across the board, one thing is certain: TRSA’s Hygienically Clean, third-party, quantitative biological testing and certification of cleanliness not only ensures better health and human safety, it promotes higher standards throughout the laundry industry, effecting greater efficiency, better-trained personnel, and a boost in consumer/client confidence—all of which promotes increased successful trade.
While no U.S. government agency, regulatory board or agency has set an “acceptable bacterial level” for textiles, Hygienically Clean ascribes to the total microbial content standards for finished textile product hygiene established 30 years ago by the Certification Association for Professional Textile Services and used worldwide. For healthcare and hospitality, this level is 20 colony forming units (CFU) or less per square decimeter as determined by the RODAC plate test. Some bioindicators may not be present in any quantity; in the United States, their absence is determined using the USP 62 procedure.
Tunnel washers boost laundry productivity dramatically and conserve chemicals, heat and especially water. In some cases, extensive water reuse, coupled with limited infusions of fresh water, has led to bacterial growth in tunnel reuse tanks. This was uncovered via textile testing for Hygienically Clean certification, prompting laundry technicians to adjust wash chemistry to eliminate the problem. On at least three occasions, plants that were already accredited by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC) had these problems.