Health and Safety in Handling Linen in the Wards – Assoc Prof Dr Retneswari

Associate Professor Retneswari Masilamani, an Occupational Physician, from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine delivered a talk entitled “Health and Safety in Handling Linen in the Wards” on the 25th January 2006. This talk was held at the Bilik Bestari, Trauma and Emergency Building at University Malaya Medical Centre. This talk was organized by The Quality Services Management Unit at University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC).

It was attended by fifty ward managers and trained nurses from various wards and clinics including operation theatres and other service departments and units within University Malaya Medical Centre.

The objective of this talk was to disseminate information on safety and health issues related to the handling of linen in the ward. This talk highlighted the types of hazards that ward health personnel are exposed to and their consequences. It was pointed out that the most serious problem was the exposure to potentially infectious body fluids like blood, urine, excreta etc through the infected patients linen, bedspreads, blankets and draw sheets used in the management of patients.

This talk was mooted followed the risk assessment conducted at the Laundry Unit at University Malaya Medical Centre on the …. where it was found that a considerable number of sharp equipment and instruments including needles were sent to the laundry together with the linen received mainly from all wards, operating theatres, daycare centres etc. It was highlighted to the ward managers and nurses that such linen posed a major risk to the health of staff handling the linen at the laundry, namely infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

It was also stressed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (ACT 514), In Part VI “General Duties of Employees” that :

It shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the safety and health of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work. This clearly conveys the message that each health care worker is not only responsible for the health and safety of himself/herself but also of others who work with them in the same place or other units/departments.

This talk also included a small presentation by one of the nurses on the flow chart of how linen is handled in the ward and several issues that arose as a result of this. Finally, a discussion was held to smooth suggestions on how health care workers from different sources sending linen to the Laundry Unit could avert such incidences happening in the future. Several suggestions were made by the participants which have been documented to be relayed to the Occupational Safety and Health Committee of UMMC

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