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Going green can also improve worker safety—Medical Environment Update, June 2012

Green initiatives in the healthcare environment offer the obvious perks: financial savings, smaller footprint, and the organizational camaraderie of making a difference in the environment. And the June issue of Medical Environment Update [1] reports on how environmentally sound practices can also spruce up the culture of safety, including worker safety, in healthcare facilities.

Here is an excerpt:

Even small changes can have a large impact. According to the EPA, hospitals generate approximately 7,000 tons of waste per day (there are no waste statistics for nonhospital settings), much of which is considered infectious, hazardous, or solid waste. Healthcare facilities also use mercury in some medical devices, in addition to other materials with toxic effects such as PVC, DEHP, cleaning materials, heavy metals in electronics, and pesticides; all this is in addition to consuming large amounts of energy and water.

Furthermore, a report published by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in the February 2011 issue of Archives of Surgery showed that as much as 90% of what ends up as red bag waste in surgical suites does not meet the guidelines for red bag waste. Although hazardous waste makes up only 24% of all waste, it accounts for 86% of the cost, meaning healthcare facilities could save a significant amount of money simply by educating healthcare workers and making sustainability a priority in their facility.

Beyond the potential financial savings, green initiatives can involve workers in making their workplace safer and more enjoyable while minimizing their risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens or chemicals, says Janet Brown, director of sustainable operations at Practice Greenhealth in Reston, Va. Many healthcare facilities are ­moving environmental stewardship from an initiative to a strategic plan that involves all areas of the ­facility.

The remainder of the article addresses:

Also, included in the June issue:

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