Each year on the job, the Environmental Services and Linen staff of Battlefords Union Hospital (BUH) moves the equivalent of about 4.5 space shuttles in weight (668,000 pounds) of linen, biohazard material and recyclables.
For nearly four and a half years - 1,571 days as of December 14, 2018 - they’ve completed this physical, high-risk-for-injury work without a single time-loss injury.
Some of the members of the Environmental Services and Linen team in North Battleford: (back row, from left) Hildur Egilson, Donna Kuhmayer, Karen Klassen, Joseph Audette, Bret Villard, Marlene Schweitzer, Ron Primas, Arthur Dumaguing, Blazenka Kolesar, Jasna Sivc; (front row, from left) Ian Couperthwaite, Jacinto Balbin, Bozana Scepanovic, Morgan Cote, Lori Dupuis and Val Polan.
“Teamwork!” came the impromptu chorus of staff voices when asked how they achieved this outstanding accomplishment.
“We work together and call for each other when we need help. None of us wants to be injured and off work,” they agreed.
Lori Dupuis, Manager of Environmental Services (ES) and Linen for the Battlefords facilities of Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), is proud of her 26-member full-time and 20-member casual staff BUH Housekeeping/Linen team. “I can’t say enough about the outstanding teamwork and commitment of the staff to working safely. Each person has taken responsibility for their own safety. They work amazingly together and keep an eye on each other to make sure they all stay injury free,” Dupuis said.
“I am very thankful that all of them are engaged and committed to the vision of Mission Zero: working toward zero injuries, zero fatalities, zero suffering,” she added.
Dupuis credits the team’s leadership under Environmental /Laundry Services Supervisor Donna Kuhmayer along with Head Housekeepers Marlene Schweitzer, Helen Woytowich, Ian Couperthwaite and Stephanie Reis as key to the time-loss injury-free achievement.
“Donna is responsive to safety concerns and works hard to eliminate hazards in the workplace,” stated Dupuis. She describes Kuhmayer as a “supervisor extraordinaire!”
Kuhmayer explained that most of the staff members’ work involves lifting, bending, twisting, pushing and pulling, along with repetitive motions of sweeping, mopping, washing and wiping.
“The work is very physical and the risk of injury is high,” said Kuhmayer. She and Dupuis point to a strong and effective safety program, including job safety analyses, hazard identification, and appropriate and ongoing safety training, for the team’s success.
“We stay ahead of all of our mandatory training,” explained Dupuis. “We do our best to ensure our staff’s training is always current. We also have great support from our local Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) team and our safety consultant Pat Waters. OH&S personnel come on site and teach management and staff the safest way of performing a new task, using new equipment, or refreshing safety skills. OH&S is always here for us and provides tremendous support,” Dupuis stated.
Staff members are encouraged to report near miss situations and do so willingly because they know their supervisor will respond right away, explained Dupuis.
Whenever staff tell Donna about an issue or identified risk, she “goes to that area right away and checks it out,” Dupuis said.
The issue gets resolved as quickly as possible. “Donna is very responsive, caring and concerned about her team members.”
“Four years with no time-loss injuries doesn’t mean we’ve had no injuries at all,” explained Kuhmayer. “We do have the odd injury, but none that have sent staff away from work through a time-loss claim,” she said.
Safety is a focus of each morning’s VisWall huddle where team members gather to discuss their work and assess their progress. Each huddle ends with Kuhmayer strongly encouraging them to “Work Safe!”
Team members are duly proud of their safety record and are encouraged to give themselves and each other a pat on the back to celebrate their success.
“It’s extra special when peers and leaders in the health field acknowledge the achievement and celebrate it with us,” Dupuis added.
The team marked its four-year time-loss-injury-free milestone with a special gathering attended by their new SHA Executive Director of Environmental Services, Kerri Cryderman.
“It meant a lot to team members that Kerri was here to recognize their achievement,” Dupuis added.
“What an honour to celebrate this achievement with the BUH team. The respect each person has for one another to work safely and respond to issues shows others that MISSION ZERO is important and achievable. Words cannot express how proud I am of this team, their commitment, and accomplishment,” said Cryderman.
The team and its success were also recognized at a recent long-service employee recognition event for SHA Battlefords staff and physicians. The heartfelt round of applause from the audience thrilled the ES team members in attendance. As they recounted their story to their fellow team members the following morning, everyone’s smile got a little brighter and each person stood a little taller with pride for a job safely done.