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Earn Trust

Janet Howard, Director, Member Engagement

“Call me if you find a needle on the floor.” 

These were words that I said to environmental services workers back in 1991 when I was hired as a waste manager in a New York City hospital. At first, they didn’t call me. But I kept saying it. Then I got a call and went up on the floors to look into it.  Over time the calls increased. I started documenting incidents of unsafe waste disposal through the Safety Committee.  A couple of times, we introduced a worker that was affected by improper waste disposal to the departmental staff that was responsible for it. Ultimately I earned approval from administration to have clinicians paged when they didn’t clean up after themselves in a patient care area or to pick up a needle if it was found on the floor. We worked to create a culture of respect – for all workers. This extended to spill response and to the use of glutaraldehyde and nurses. We worked to switch to safer materials, improve air exchanges and other engineering controls. A poster campaign helped raise awareness and put a name to a face – to see beyond “housekeeper” and “security guard.”

Every worker deserves a healthy, safe and respectful work environment. Listening, walking the floors, addressing safety issues and empowering people to make improvements in their work area – that’s what employee engagement is about when it comes to sustainability and health care. Giving recognition, providing training and taking notice of positive change – Sustainability has the power to engage. 

September marks Practice Greenhealth’s Member Engagement team’s release of an employee engagement toolkit – Use the employee engagement checklist, read our twelve case studies that highlight success in making the connection between engagement and healthier environments.

We can then take these conversations with our immediate peers and extend them to broader circles by talking about employee engagement on social media. This is an especially fruitful way to take sustainability programming to the next level: it engages folks doing this work across the “Twittersphere,” and provides for idea-sharing in a way that just wasn’t possible back when I started my journey with waste management and sustainability nearly 25 years ago.

So, as we gear up for Practice Greenhealth’s Employee Engagement toolkit release, I encourage you to have these conversations with your colleagues and teams. Additionally, I encourage you to share your ideas on social media, and start a conversation that can connect sustainability and health networks all over the world. Tell us what you’re up to, where you’re struggling, and what your successes are as we work together to create a healthier, safer environment for all. Reach out to us on Twitter using the handle @PracticeGreenhealth, and be sure to hashtag #EmployeeEngagement. Best of luck, and happy tweeting!

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