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Survey by European Textile Services Association (ETSA): Washing workwear at home puts employee safety at risk

According to the survey 93% of all respondents consider their workwear to be clean once it is washed. But a visually clean result may only be superficially clean, leaving residue of hazardous materials.

The GfK survey “Consumer behavior while washing workwear at home” commissioned by the European Textile Services Association (ETSA), was conducted in Belgium, Germany, Poland and the UK. The survey were participated by 400 respondents.

The survey shows that on average 80% of respondents indicate they take care of all workwear laundering at home although it may affect the protective qualities of workwear such as flameretardancy or antistatic abilities, and therefore jeopardize the safety of the wearer.

Workwear are washed often together with personal laundry

The survey shows that workwear are washed often together with personal laundry, most probably leaving residue of hazardous materials to home textiles. This is done by almost 60 % of the respondents (58 %). 68% of respondents use washing softeners and 58% use stain removers. These domestic products can damage the protective properties of workwear, such as flameretardancy or antistatic abilities. And although many bacteria abound in public transport, 50% of those surveyed wear their workwear travelling to and from the workplace.    

According to European legislation, employers are legally responsible for the occupational health and safety of their employees. Employers appear to rely too easily on their employees for the care and maintenance of the workwear.

Employers check workwear "from time to time"

40% of survey participants repair their workwear themselves. Almost half of the respondents (47%) say that employers only check the state of their workwear “from time to time”. However, this inspection, either performed by the employer or the employee, mainly covers visual workwear damage, often resulting in a premature replacement.

Although the number of washes can reduce the protective properties of workwear (e.g. chemical repellent garments need to be retreated regularly), consumers don’t keep track of the maintenance history of each garment.

Shortly about the research:
The GfK survey “Consumer behaviour while washing workwear at home” commissioned by the European Textile Services Association (ETSA), was conducted in Belgium, Germany, Poland and the UK. In each country approximately 400 respondents were interviewed via an online survey and face-to-face interviews. The respondents came from different industry sectors. The study has been published in three parts. The last part of the survey was published in November 2014.

For additional information about the survey please visit ETSA’s website.