Environmental Services and Housekeeping (ESH) employees who work in our hospitals, long-term care homes, and in community service facilities helps keep our healthcare workplaces clean, sanitary and free from bacteria. Sometimes we overlook the important role they play in our workplaces.
ESH workers should always exercise the precautionary principle which basically states, “When the health of humans and the environment is at stake, it may not be necessary to wait for scientific certainty to take protective action”. In other words, when evidence gives us good reason to believe that an activity, technology, or substance may be harmful, we should act to prevent harm. If we always wait for scientific certainty, people may suffer and die and the natural world may suffer irreversible damage.
Health and safety is an important issue for ESH workers. These employees may use strong cleaning products and chemicals that need to be handled properly. Thankfully, many programs have been created to educate workers about the dangers of these chemicals, such as WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) training.
But managing cleaning products is not the only challenge ESH workers need to grapple with. A growing concern for these employees is workplace injuries, particularly musculoskeletal problems that occur from heavy, and often unsafe, lifting. They may move furniture, large laundry bags, big carts and mattresses without assistance.
Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. If their manager asks them to carry a large piece of furniture, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help from their co-workers. If they are carrying laundry from one end of the building to another, they shouldn’t place too much linen in one bag. Keep it light. Your back will thank you for it!
Another issue of growing concern is workplace violence. Sometimes patients, clients or residents physically assault ESH staff for reasons that may be beyond their control. That means these workers need to know if a patient has the potential to be abusive, to ensure they are aware and prepared.
SEIU Healthcare encourages all ESH employees to serve on their Health & Safety Committee. This is an excellent place to report incidents and ask for follow-up.
Celebrate and Win: Crossword Puzzle Challenge
Remember, health and safety is important for every employee in every workplace. Together, we're celebrating Environmental Services & Housekeeping Week with a fun challenge that’s open to all members. Just complete and send us the crossword puzzle here (click here for a printable copy) and you will be entered into a draw to win one of three $50 Pre-Paid VISA cards. If you need help with the answers, you can find most of them on this webpage.
Once you have successfully completed the puzzle, you can mail it to our head office, fax it to 905-695-1768 or scan and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Just remember to include your name, mailing address, phone number, email address and membership number to verify your eligibility. Limit – one entry per member. The deadline to submit your completed crossword puzzle is September 21.
If you have any questions about this contest, please contact the MRC at 1-877-672-7348.