What Does OSHA Say About Home vs. Industrial Laundry?

As you may know, there two main program types when it comes to obtaining arc rated and flame resistant (AR / FR) clothing – Managed Direct Purchase with Home Laundry and Uniform Rental with Industrial Laundry. When you have one supplier telling you that their program is the best and safest solution and another telling you the opposite, where do you turn? A good place to start is with OSHA.

What does OSHA say about how we can launder AR / FR clothing? Can it be washed at home or should it be laundered by an industrial laundry provider? The truth is, OSHA has no preference. What matters to OSHA is that the garment is clean and in good condition before it’s used.

Let’s hear directly from Scott Margolin, VP of Technical, as he quotes directly from the standard to provide more clarity:

OSHA explicitly states in the ruling that

“the final rule does not require employers to launder protective clothing for employees” (p. 287). Further, OSHA neither “impose[s] the cost of laundering on employers” nor expects the requirements to generate “additional cost to employees [and, by extension, employers] over that of laundering normal (that is, non-flame-resistant) clothing” .

(p. 287)

OSHA is equally clear that the responsibility for caring for and maintaining AR / FR clothing “rests squarely with the employer.” Despite suggestions otherwise, use of a rental program does not absolve the employer from liability or the requirement to ensure proper laundering and fitness for use; the OSHA requirement is the same regardless of acquisition or laundering method.

Accordingly, companies cannot “sell liability” by outsourcing washing or care to a service provider. As the employer, if you lease or rent your PPE, you are still responsible for making sure they are clean and in good repair. That’s true whether they are laundered industrially, leased, or home laundered.

The truth is that the vast majority of AR / FR clothing globally is home laundered and has been for a very long time. Plus, as many as 50% of employees in industrial laundry programs do not utilize the service, meaning garments in the field may be unwashed and uninspected – not to mention cleaning costs wasted.

No matter what program type is chosen, understand that according to OSHA’s final rule, the employer is still responsible for making sure garments are clean and in good repair prior to use. The bottom line: contrary to what you may hear, rental programs with industrial laundry are not necessary, neither to protect AR / FR performance nor to comply with industry standards.

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