Workers Want to Ban Unsafe Towels – LeCanadian
(NC) — Industrial workers are speaking up about the contamination in their laundered shop towels. This health risk is unnecessary, they say, especially since there are cleaner, safer alternatives.
The results of a recent survey of manufacturing workers show that nearly four in five workers want to ban laundered shop towels from the workplace if, after the laundering process are not 100 percent free of hazardous materials, such as lead and cadmium.
Harris Interactive conducted this online survey for Kimberly-Clark Professional. It targeted production floor employees in the United States who use shop towels every day in industries like automotive, aviation, printing, food and beverage processing, as well as metals and equipment manufacturing. If you are unfamiliar with this serious hazard, here’s the problem:
Shop towels are used in manufacturing to wipe machines, parts and equipment, and then washed by industrial launderers for re-use. The towels are delivered by launderers, used throughout the day, and then collected, washed and sent out again for delivery to other companies. However, the laundering process may not remove all contaminants like metal residue, grease and oil. Laundered shop towels can become a health risk to workers when metal residues transfer from the towels and are potentially ingested when workers touch or wipe their faces.
There is a concern for workers because long-term exposure to heavy metals has been associated with cancer, reproductive issues, kidney disease, lung and skin disease, and nervous system damage. A recent study of laundered shop towels conducted by Gradient, an environmental and risk science consulting firm, found 100 percent of the towels tested contained heavy metal residue.
The Harris Interactive survey found that 44 percent of workers are not aware of the danger of laundered shop towels. More than one of every three admitted to bringing the towels home and 18 percent used them for personal hygiene and first aid.
“This survey demonstrates an urgent need to educate manufacturing workers about the safety issues related to use of laundered shop towels,” says Tim Reader, a research scientist at Kimberly-Clark Professional.
What Workers Can Do
The survey found that if workers knew the risks, many would:
• Ask for a safer alternative. Nearly four in five workers said shop towels should be banned if they are not free of hazardous materials after laundering.
• Take greater safety precautions. Sixty-nine percent of workers do not clean their hands after every shop towel use.
• Raise the issue with a safety manager, employer or union. Seventy-one percent of workers say it’s the duty of employers to keep them informed.
What Your Company Can Do
Safer towel alternatives do exist, Reader says, pointing to a product line called WypAll Wipers that are already the solution on many shop floors.
For additional information on this issue, go to www.TheDirtOnShopTowels.com. If you prefer an immediate discussion call (888) 346-4652, or follow @KCProf_NA on Twitter.