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Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

  • 1.  Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 8 days ago
    ". . . having E-Stops that actually meet "ambulance chaser shysters' " safety reset standards etc ... I personally am wary of glamorizing those specific possibly inferior e-stop configurations a bit too much. ... I feel that some responsibility should fall on the customer."
    Michael Walsh

         I don't want to hijack another post so I've elected to use a comment made on a previous post about emergency stop buttons on washers and create a new post.  I enjoy most of the comments of Michael and truly respect his ingenuity as well as those of Larry A. However, I think they are wrong in failing to point out the risks of operating front load washers without a safety shutoff.
         The dangers are real and truly heartbreaking. The arm of a child, and also another man, being ripped off. A young man accused of attempted murder of his sister by closing the door on a washer. A young girl sliced from head to toe by residual broken glass stuck in the rubber gasket as rescue authorities broke the glass door to pull her out of a rotating washing machine. Let's not say that any of these injuries "should fall on the customer." We're the owners, make the money and should have the knowledge and desire to provide a safe as possible place for our customers.
         The inconvenience of sometimes making refunds because of improper pressing of a stop
    button every now and then pales in comparison to the real pain of the history of serious injuries that have resulted from incidents in the Laundromat business when an ability to stop a washer was missing.
         The dangers have increased significantly since our industry has moved more and more to larger capacity washers. Too much of an attractive draw or nuisance for youth to play inside these jumbo round playthings. Every major manufacturer, that I know about, has emergency stop buttons installed on all their industrial and OPL washers. Why not on coin and card models?
         The rumor is that at least one major appliance manufacturer refused to build large capacity washers because of the potential for injury and the potential of serious lawsuits on large capacity washers. A second rumor suggests that some manufacturers are afraid of the costs of being forced to retrofit their old models if they acknowledge the problem. A third rumor is that equipment buyers might object to a button that random children could push and lose the vending credit on the wash cycle. The button might be a nuisance. Really?
         Some might want to dispute the merits of this contribution to this forum and others may just want to accept the risk of potentially risky installations or equipment. That's up to each owner to decide.
         Here is my advice to every Laundromat owner:
         1.  Only buy washers that have a front mounted emergency stop button, OR
         2.  Have the electrical supply delivered through "pigtails" that can be unplugged
    immediately behind your washers. Clearly label and display a notice that in an emergency the washers can be unplugged, OR
         3.  Install an emergency on/off switch behind every washer with a clear notice to use in case of emergency.
         Items 2 and 3 can be retrofitted to any existing Laundromat. May not be attractive or inexpensive to retrofit but it provides a level of safety you should employ as an empathetic operator. It's the right thing to do.
         Too many Laundromat builders and equipment installers use the cheapest methods to accomplish their contracts. Too many owners just want the cheapest price on their contracts. Lack of knowledge, arrogance and penny-pinching add to the problem of safety.
         Really don't want to hear from those of you who believe your minimum wage employee will respond correctly in case of every emergency. Tell me they never use the restroom, make a mistake, take their legally required 15 minute breaks, can always find the right electrical breaker or work in only a partially attended Laundromat.
         The attorney who brings the lawsuit against you will not be an "ambulance chaser shyster" but an advocate bringing to light this very real safety problem in our business and looking to take as much of your money as he can. Good luck getting an insurance policy after one of these lawsuits. Just my opinion at the moment.


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    Larry Larsen
    www.Laundromat123.com
    Most Valuable Distributor
    & Expert Witness
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  • 2.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 8 days ago
      |   view attached
    Larry L,

    We may disagree about how best to reasonably maximize customer safety but that doesn't mean that safety is unimportant to either of us.

    "The arm of a child, and also another man, being ripped off. A young man accused of attempted murder of his sister by closing the door on a washer. A young girl sliced from head to toe by residual broken glass stuck in the rubber gasket as rescue authorities broke the glass door to pull her out of a rotating washing machine."  Larry L.

    In your examples of washer injuries (above), what was the approximate age of the washers involved?  (Thirty years ago, washers did not have the sophisticated door lock systems that are available today.)  Were E Stops available in the above situations?  If so, did E Stop use mitigate any injuries?  If not available, would E Stops have mitigated any injuries had they been available?

    In my laundromat, all washers have triple door switches to assure that the loading door is closed, latched and locked.  These door switches are visually inspected whenever a front panel is removed.  A failure of any 1 of these switches will cause an immediate cycle abort thus shutting off the washer at the moment of failure.  An E Stop, at best, would be pushed several seconds after a washer failure becomes apparent.

    Each washer has an individual circuit breaker located in a panel on the end of the bulkhead.  Each circuit breaker is clearly labeled to correspond with the number of the washer.  The circuit breaker panel is not screwed shut or locked and is easily assessible by all employees or a customer.  All electrical wiring meets local code and washers are installed per manufacturer's instructions.

    My laundromat is fully attended.  We don't allow horse-play, sitting on tables, running, playing with or in carts, or even swearing.  We don't allow the washing of shop rags or items that may have gasoline residue due to the risk of explosion.  Given all these safety STANDARDS that we employ every single day; I think the risk of unintentional injury from a washer is extremely low.  This seems to have been proven true by the fact that I've never, in over 50 years and owning multiple laundromats, had a single customer washer-related injury.  Today's high quality washers like Huebsch, Speed Queen, Dexter, Continental and Wascomat all have safety door lock systems that work automatically.  In the case of my Huebsch washers, any door failure results in an immediate cycle abort.

    From the standpoint of owner liability, each of us is responsible for maintaining all of our equipment to original factory specifications.  This means, never, permanently bypass safety switches and never allow the customer to use or "test" a machine that is not in full compliance with specs and codes.

    In business, we are often confronted with choices and options.  One brand of washers offers E Stops and another brand doesn't.  Which brand do we buy?  On the surface, the choice may seem obvious but when we contemplate the difference between E Stop or none a little deeper; there are plenty of legitimate considerations that go beyond customer safety.  How often will the E Stop button be misused?  What must happen to correct a misuse?  How often will a customer be inconvenienced by an E Stop that was pressed prior to her arrival?  How likely is the E Stop to actually prevent a washer related injury?  Will someone be near the washer at the exact moment when an emergency (injury prone) incident occurs?  What factors may contribute to an emergency incident - washer failure, customer misuse, customer neglect, intentional injury or intentional suicide?




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    Larry Adamski
    Muskegon Laundromat
    Muskegon, Michigan
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  • 3.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 8 days ago
    Larry A.,
         All but one of the washers were involved were of modern vintage. Various brand and sizes.
         You are an exception to how much attention to placed on the care of your Laundromat. Again, regional differences play a little different tune. I've seen thousands of Laundromats and none have well marked unlocked  breakers panels built into the bulkhead. In SoCal the electrical panels are located in locked back rooms or the panels and locked. In your case, a sign advising of the location of the breakers might be sufficient for safety. You also have well supervision staff and repair people. Good for you. Maybe not a seating. table in front of the panel.
         Do you think you are the average or exceptional owner? I know where I would place you with 50 years of successful and safe operation. You're smarter and more involved in the operation of your Laundromat than the average owner.
         Do you remember a while back someone posted a video of a small child being placed in a washer, a parent closing the washer door and the machine starting? Panic ensued and was only stopped when an attendant intervened. As to the other injuries I mentioned they range in age from young to adult.
         Here's one hypothetical example of an incident that could show a need for an emergency shutoff. Your neighborhood suffers a local power outage. After a time, the bled down solenoid allows the door to be opened. The customer removes her clothes. The power comes back on later with the door still open. A teenager comes inside the store and playfully climbs inside the drum. His friend closes the door. What happens? Does the washer attempt to complete its unfinished cycle?
         A Dad takes his ten year old son to your Laundromat, He puts in dollar coins but the machine doesn't start. He thinks the washer is out of order. His boy sees his Dad move the clothes to another washer. "What's going on Daddy?" He asks. Dad says "the washer is broken." The son climbs inside the washer to play and the Dad slams the door to surprise play with his son. The dollar coin that was stuck in the drop mechanism drops and triggers the last needed signal to start. The door looks and the machine starts. Now what happens? Would an emergency stop button avoid a tragedy?
         These things happen enough that manufacturers are putting emergency stop buttons on their washers or owners could solve by placing well marked panels or switches in their bulkheads. Why do you think they are doing this? This is a real concern that all manufactures can solve by a well designed emergency stop button or a well written set of installation instructions. The factories have emergency stop features on home models, industrial and OPL, so someone must see a need.

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    Larry Larsen
    www.Laundromat123.com
    Most Valuable Distributor
    & Expert Witness
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  • 4.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 8 days ago
    Edited by Paulie B 8 days ago
    When the emergency stop buttons first came out, I thought it was safety overkill.

    I was concerned that kids would go down the line and stop every washer by pushing that shiny red button. Then I learned that you can set a delay on the stop button which most kids won't figure out.

    Over time, I came to realize that E stop buttons are necessary because all kinds of dumb things happen in laundromats.
    Equipment breaks down very often, sometimes causing hazards. Especially if the mat owner doesn't care or doesn't pay attention to the details.
    Customers do dumb things, attendants do dumb things, and owners also do dumb things (such as bypassing safety controls like sail switches).
    So we can't rely on even 3 door safety switches. We must have the ability to QUICKLY shut down a dangerous machine!

    In NYC, we are mandated to either have individual breakers right behind the washer, or the breaker panel must be out in the open within 40 feet (I think it's 40 feet. Could be slightly different). Why do you think they mandate this? Because they know that people have been gravely injured.
    If a breaker is behind, slightly above and within view of each washer, I think that is an excellent way to stop a washer without kids ever messing with the machines.

    I believe it is our duty to protect the public to the best of our abilities from any tragedy that may arise in our mats.
    Yes, they are rare, but why mess with potential danger? If you feel you are not likely to get into a car accident, then why wear your seatbelt?
    Why pay for liability insurance?

    The public is just itching to pounce with lawsuits, but what's more is....Does your conscience really want to have a person gravely injured in your mat that you could have prevented?
    If you don't care about that, then care about the fact that a tragedy like getting an arm ripped off in your mat, and all the bad publicity comes with it, will kill your business.

    I remember a kid on Long Island who got his arm ripped off in an extractor. There was a blood line on the walls all around the store at the height of the extractor's door opening.

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    Paulie B
    Multiple Mat Owner since 1976
    New York City, NY
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  • 5.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 8 days ago
    Edited by MICHAEL WALSH 8 days ago
    Since I was quoted a bit out of context ... I feel compelled to reply.  My main point is that manufacturing, distributors, & owners can get lulled into a path of treating every size & every g-force level washer & door opening size with the mindset that "cost is irrelevant" since horrific incidents can happen.  Larry L brings out multiple scenarios of the triple switch lock mechanism working but actually can make the situation worse unless a "fail safe E-Stop with the required code reset process" is within a second pushed by the astute customer who actually read & acts on what the "red button" is mainly for etc.  Unplugging like I have on the back of my washers would cause a delay.  Same applies to circuit breakers within 40'.   I get the responsibility to MITIGATE  on the part of us owners.  The problem I have is that we don't all agree on the details & within reason conundrum on with what are the best mitigation factors.  Does a STOP either via button or breaker automatically stop the current RPM ... does the printed circuit board associated with the just delay the door's ability to open ... & does not help a quicker RPM slowdown at all?   Is the modern day inverter set up to make the RPM go quickly to zero via offloading to a resistor bank???

    In some ways there is a disservice to the public whenever we mislead or allow misleading of them in subtle & not so subtle ways ... that they don't have responsibility ON THEIR PART ALSO ... since Larry A pointed out to a possibility of a potential "hard to prove" self inflicted scenario.  May it is a failure of the family structure ... failure of our education system ... media bias against some businesses ...  bad judicial precedents ... a culture thing ...

    In previous discussions ... I believe I made a remark stating somewhat along the line of "good luck having the manufacturer taking responsibility" for any injury.  I am pretty sure their specific engineers & lawyers will try to make the "professional" case that it was the lowly operator who did not do enough diligence maintenance wise ... their design not being the fault.

    Paulie B ... you made a rightful plea in defense of the customer for the extractor accident.  That is why the engineer I used ... who specializes in current safety control insisted on every control being Safety Certified such as the Safety Certified Banner Engineering over 800 pound pull latch, the Phoenix Contact Safety Certified PLC Relay used with very precise fail safe expert programming configuration.  Also the VFD config & wiring makes door or lid open during motion an impossibility at an improper time.  My mindset was that no expense or thoroughness was too much to make sure the general public is protected from such an accident.   Does that mean I advocate smaller washers with small doors on them with low rpm ... lower g-force to be required to have that same extensive level of protection & incur the accompanying expense per brand new washers or modifying of existing current washers ... no ...

    This  "protect the customer" could extend to another question "are we always successful protecting every customer totally" including harm from a deranged attacker out of nowhere ... some lawyer can always make a lopsided emotional drama moment in the courtroom.  I just had a "flashback of a painful memory" when some young police officer advised me a few years back.  That the only thing I could do as an owner is have a private security company be on premise on duty 24 hours 7 days a week.  That is when the police were called when the "no longer currently there" block away emergency shelter that included what appeared to be big city thug types was in that close of proximity to us.  Did I agree with him??? ... just because he was not thinking about the reality of costs ... it did not mean that I did not rule out the actual expense reality with his approach.  That was the time we were invaded "occupied" by sixteen at once ... all large males ... not washing or drying clothes ... many of them who had come from our nation's largest metro areas.

    I did not mean to imply that all attorneys are ambulance chasing shysters.  Some may lean that way though it can appear.

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    MICHAEL WALSH www.kingkoin.com
    King Koin Laundry, Car n Dog Wash
    Bismarck ND
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  • 6.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 8 days ago
    Edited by DEWARD STOUT 8 days ago

    Gentlemen;

    An interesting situation could arise about this topic and how to consider it.

    Larry A my friend and everyone else.  You might actually run through this scenario. Time it and see how long it would actually take to complete the tasks properly.

    Have each and every one of your employees be timed on this. And mix it up if you are training as a group, so no one has the advantage.

    Your 3rd washer in that picture furtherest away from the end cap.

    1. Have them walk over to the washer.
    2. Have them identify the washer #.
    3. Walk over to the end cap where the panel is. No coaching.
    4. Have the people who are occupying the table move with their children and carts, baskets, etc that is blocking the area.
    5. Move the table.
    6. Open the panel door.
    7. Find the correct breaker. No coaching.
    8. Shut it off.

    How long did this process take in seconds?

    Now double this time when you put panic from customers and staff involved.

    Maybe an emergency stop button on the machine or behind it like Paully B suggested is a good idea.

    Michael;

    Yes, we should do all we can. However, sometimes insurance companies (Yours & Theirs) will put you out of business after the event has happened. 



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    DEWARD STOUT
    Hurricane Laundromat & Storage
    Hurricane UT
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  • 7.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 7 days ago
    Edited by LARRY ADAMSKI 7 days ago
    Guys,

    My COO and CFO are currently preparing a fire extinguisher training session for all employees.   I am going to expand the scope of this training to include emergency washer shut down.

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    Larry Adamski
    Muskegon Laundromat
    Muskegon, Michigan
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  • 8.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 7 days ago
    Not my public words but our friend Larry L's:  "larger capacity" "jumbo round playthings"  Deward makes the valid point on breaker or unplug speed vs E-stop.  My concern is somewhat the additional delay that is not even at present connected to the actual drum speed.  Another test besides Deward's could be to see how long it takes for full spin to stop without any "external resistor bank" braking action like is set up on each of my extractors?  Is the time delay from the capacitor on the door lock PCB tailored to both the tumbling & the potential top RPM highest g-force situation?

    I am not advocating no door locks ...  but the reality is that door locks (delay before opening) can increase the chances of an actual death occurring.  That is as Larry L mentions as a result of the almost on the floor installed "jumbo round plaything" incidents of "gross customer neglect" of a young-in crawling into or being put inside.  E-stop or unplug may stop quick enough for the tumble or worse yet from a potential full spin speed ... or maybe not.

    The extractors not upgraded to a much higher level of safety (albeit more OEM & end buyer expense) ... & now being sold mostly to "food processing plants" or other "non self service formats" may possibly be acceptable to OSHA because of control of the "training process" ... not sure on that?!  As seen on the controls of the Boeing Jets being pulled from service ... learning curve required for adept usage of controls & maintenance of that learning curve .... can even come into the picture.  Don't underestimate what some judicial branch positioned lawyers can potentially pull out of their hats at the  appointed moment.  Heck ... they might even have good intentions in mind with their "to some people honorable & valiant" efforts.  Of course I must be the horribly mean bad guy for implying that some of them may have a "shyster" tendency.

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    MICHAEL WALSH www.kingkoin.com
    King Koin Laundry, Car n Dog Wash
    Bismarck ND
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  • 9.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 7 days ago
    Michael just brought up a very good point. An emergency disconnect would allow the door to unlock without the normal time delay thus allowing someone to put their hand inside.

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    Curt Harrington
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  • 10.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 7 days ago
    Curt,
         Not sure you are correct. I believe most washer models have a safety feature to protect during an unscheduled power interruption. It does not allow the door to be opened immediately on a loss of power. They have a bleed down solenoid or other safety feature. which retains enough power to hold the door shut until the washer has theoretically stopped rotating.

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    Larry Larsen
    www.Laundromat123.com
    Most Valuable Distributor
    & Expert Witness
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  • 11.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 7 days ago
    I was not aware of that. Thanks. I have Alliance equipment.
    I have been thinking about this for quite a while. I would not be happy if something bad were to happen in my place.
    You would think an aftermarket kit would be available.

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    Curt Harrington
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  • 12.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 6 days ago
    Curt & Larry L,

    I am aware of the most likely "capacitor holding enough power" to maintain a lock solenoid engagement ... in the event of a sudden utility company outage.  The point made was for that possibility of what Larry L suggests via some gross customer neglect situations where a child is put in the washer ... unexpected take off or whatever.  The delay that occurs may make it even more likely of death because of the time before the door can open.  I would think that tumble could also be lethal ... granted not as likely.  During the delay ... is there anything that causes the washer to slow down faster such as an off load to a resistor bank.   Operators with washing machines regardless of age may want to notice if the set amount of time ... more criticals seconds ... before the door can be opened potentially putting the said child more at risk for death.  Is the more more dangerous RPM related to the number of delay seconds???

    I just think that it is a mistake for insurance companies & law makers to put too much faith in solutions that can potentially create an even greater tragedy via the inability to minimize the door lock delay time.

    It seems like washers have tended to have a wait 30 seconds (even a sign stating that?) before attempting to open the door???  Or is it much less time nowadays because of an ultramodern ability to come to a complete stop before door unlocks???  If so ... how many sometimes "critical to save a life fewer seconds" is the current delay times???

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    MICHAEL WALSH www.kingkoin.com
    King Koin Laundry, Car n Dog Wash
    Bismarck ND
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  • 13.  RE: Do Your Washers Need An Emergency Stop Button?

    Posted 5 days ago
    Dexter has a delay of 2 min with an audible alarm. I don't think it is there because of the spin slow down. I thought it was so the water could drain. If i shut off the power on my Huebch washers they delay also.

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    CHRIS MIRISCIOTTA
    Canon Coin Laundry
    Canonsburg PA
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