Industry Raps NYC Licensing, Regulatory Bill

Posted May 15, 2015 at 2:37 pm

TRSA issued a response today to an article that appeared in Thursday’s New York Daily News on conditions in local commercial laundries and a bill aimed at regulating those businesses. The legislation would affect laundries in New York City, or those that provide textile services to New York hospitals, restaurants or other businesses, but are based outside the city’s five boroughs.

“Legislation being advanced by New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres (District 15) to license commercial laundries ignores existing safety standards, a strong record of health and safety within the commercial laundry industry and puts an unnecessary burden on the commercial laundries serving New York City,” the TRSA statement read. This regulatory effort may be the first time in which local officials have imposed direct oversight of the industry. Click here to read the full statement.

The bill, introduced in February, was highlighted in a May 14 “exclusive” article that included eyewitness accounts of unsafe and unsanitary conditions in New York’s commercial laundries. The article drew heavily on a report titled “Irresponsible Industrial Laundries: A Major Public Health Threat” which was produced by Councilman Torres and a local public affairs organization dubbed CLEAN NYC. The article did mention TRSA’s Hygienically Clean Certification program as one way laundries can demonstrate adherence to health and safety standards. Hygienically Clean relies mainly on standards endorsed or developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). However, the article said some 90% of the city’s industrial laundries (employing roughly 5,000 people) don’t participate in this, or similar programs.

David Potack, vice president of sales & marketing for Unitex Textile Rental Services, a New York healthcare operator based in Mt. Vernon, NY, said that the article and the evidence cited in the report by no means make the case that abusive conditions are widespread in New York laundries. “The report wasn’t empirical in any way,” Potack said. “It looked like a marketing piece. It wasn’t a study. We don’t accept the underlying premise. It’s irresponsible to cast such wide aspersions on hard-working small businesses, simply because they’re not certified. There is no mandatory statute requiring certifications at this point, and our position is there should not be. There are significant regulatory guidelines on the books right now that are more than sufficient to cover the fact that these facilities have to operate in a compliant manner.”

Meanwhile, the Daily News article appeared on the same day that nearly 100 TRSA member operators and supplier company executives were meeting in St. Louis at the association’s Fourth Annual Safety Summit. This industrywide event is dedicated to continuous improvement in safety and best practices (click here for details). The Summit featured presentations by speakers such as Richard Fairfax, a former deputy assistant secretary of OSHA, who praised the textile services industry’s efforts to improve its safety record. “I think over the last 10-15 years, there’s been a cultural shift in the laundry industry,” Fairfax said in an interview with Textile Services Weekly following his presentation at the Summit. “If you look at the data now – 55 serious violations over an entire year in 2014 – that’s nothing. Twenty-fifteen is still not quite halfway through, but the data looks real similar to last year. From what I’ve inspected, I think the laundry industry has come a long way.”

TRSA’s 2014 Annual Textile Services Safety Report documented improvements in safety among member laundries with across-the-board reductions in injury and illness rates. Specifically, the report found the Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) for TRSA members dropped by 29.3% between 2009-’13. Similarly, TRSA members’ Days Away, Restricted, and or Transfer Rate (DART) dropped by 27.5% during that same period. “When you look at the OSHA recordable rate as a whole, compared to other industries, it’s coming down and it’s coming down quite a bit,” Fairfax said.

Speaking of incident prevention, Potack pointed out another flaw in the New York bill in that on-premise laundries (OPLs) aren’t included in the proposal. “If sanitary conditions should be universally expected by all patients, why would hospitals that operate their own laundries be exempt from the same standards?” Potack asked. “It’s a double standard of self-operated facilities being exempt that flies in the face of the stated goal that it’s about sanitary conditions.”

TRSA’s statement noted that the proposed licensing of New York laundries is “redundant, duplicating federal and state OSHA standards and inspection protocols. It only serves to add an unnecessary tax on small businesses and employers.”

Potack agreed that the bill represents little more than a new source of revenue for the city. “This is a tax,” said Potack. “It’s a small-business tax that’s going to hurt jobs and do nothing to advance the stated purpose of the rule.”

To learn more about TRSA’s response to the New York City laundry licensing bill, contact Vice President of Government Relations Kevin Schwalb at 877.770.9274 or