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Co-Workers Have Bright Idea To Help Deaf Laundry Worker

February 10, 2007

Staff Writer

The washing machines at Community Hospital are larger than life. So are the alarms that ring when those washers finish a cycle or experience mechanical problems.

But those ear-piercing alarms mean nothing to employee Arnold Freeze. He is deaf.

For three years, Freeze has had to depend on his sense of touch to determine if the washers are finished washing or out of balance. Freeze said it slowed him down.

“I kept telling my boss there has to be a better way,” he said through an interpreter.

Then his colleagues put their heads together and the light came on — literally. The hospital’s engineering department purchased a $49 emergency light kit and wired it to the washing machines’ alarm systems. Now Freeze can have his back to the washers and see the light out of the corner of his eye.

“They finally got it,” Freeze signed, smiling broadly. “It is such a relief for me.”

There’s nothing trivial about keeping more than a ton of laundry a day on schedule, said Dick Schillhahn, distributive services manager and Freeze’s supervisor.

“We go through about 3,800 to 3,900 pounds of laundry a day,” Shillhahn said. “We did 100,000 pounds in January.”

Freeze starts out his day by gathering soiled linens, sorting them into cloth-lined tubs that are weighed to reach 130 pounds per load. The cloth bags are mechanically lifted to the front of the 8-foot-high washers. Freeze loads them while covered in protective gear to avoid contamination by the soiled items. The washed items are unloaded in an adjoining room to prevent recontamination.

Freeze said he thanks his colleagues every day for the lights, but Shillhahn said it has created another problem. Freeze is a day ahead on the washing and those who have the time-consuming job of drying, ironing and folding are having trouble keeping up.

“I’ve had to ask him to slow down,” Shillhahn said.

Contact this reporter at (937)328-0347 or kbaker@coxohio.com

http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/hp/content/oh/story/news/local/2007/02/09/sns021007laundrylight.html

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