Faces of EHS

Faces of EHS: BLR’s Young Safety Professional Excellence Award Winner, Asha Roy

In this installment of Faces of EHS, we are continuing our focus on the amazing EHS professionals who won our 2020 Safety Standout Awards! This week, we’re proud to present the winner of BLR’s Young Safety Professional Excellence Award, Asha Roy, OTD, OTR/L, the Program Manager for the Safe Patient Handling and Mobility on the Workforce Safety team at Northwell Health in Lake Success, New York. Read on to meet Asha, then join us when we hold a virtual awards ceremony in June at our online summit EHS Now: An Online Educational Experience.
Asha Roy
How did you get your start in the environment, health, and safety (EHS) field?

During my training as an occupational therapist (OT), I was always dragged toward the enormous opportunity with improving occupational safety through raising awareness and appropriately adapting the work environment for staff and patient safety. As I began my career in our large organization, I realized that I would need additional skill sets to learn how to make organizational changes through influential leadership and efficient process development. This realization led me to pursue a doctorate in OT, specializing in Administration and Practice Management, from Rocky Mountain University.

Was your transition into an EHS role a natural outgrowth of your work as a clinical injury specialist?

Northwell Health had a robust rate of growth both with program offerings and with Human Resources, and employee safety has always been our organization’s top priority. With a quickly swelling number of staff, there was a need to have a dedicated division to ensure workforce safety. This need led to the formation of Northwell’s Workforce Safety Department. My clinical background and familiarity with various body injury risk factors that staff is vulnerable to while handling patients helped me with my decision to explore working in this newly formed division.

What lessons did you learn from your time in health care that have helped you in your time as an EHS professional?

  • Unique challenges each patient poses when it comes to handling
  • Lack of a standardized body of knowledge among providers
  • Insufficient applications of ergonomics principles at workplace
  • Lack of didactic and hands-on/interactive educational models for staff
  • Lack of shared mental model when it comes to practices
  • Opportunities to help establish a common methodology when it comes to identifying risk factors
  • Need to establish sustainable solutions when it comes to staff safety

What is the biggest EHS compliance challenge at your organization, and how have you managed it?

With over 70,000 employees with varying clinical and nonclinical backgrounds offering services in totally different practice settings by establishing evidence-based care models, with a focus to ensure staff and patient safety, is one of our larger challenges.

  • Customized education and processes based on each care continuum
  • Procurement of usable, safe patient-handling equipment
  • Training leaders and staff on how to identify risk factors and evaluate occurrences
  • Centralized injury evaluation and management process
  • Ongoing educational programs
  • Competency management for new hires and ongoing efforts for existing staff
  • Need for EHS to be part of the work area designing process and worksite modifications
  • Standardized communication of patients’ inability levels among providers with varying backgrounds through a common language

What do you like the most about your career in EHS?

The size of the organization presents enormous new challenges on a daily basis. However, the engaged leadership and their commitment present me with an opportunity to implement innovative ideas that are proven to be successful. The success element when something is done right in an organization with the size of ours is huge, and that is one of the most satisfying factors for me working with the focus of work safety.

What is the most difficult or frustrating part of your job?

As much as the size of the organization provides a great learning opportunity, each building has its own culture and varying leadership styles. So the constant need to evaluate and reevaluate processes at times takes longer than anticipated. I wouldn’t call it frustration, but it is certainly one of the difficult factors.

What do you see as the main emerging trends, both positive and negative, affecting the future of the EHS profession?

The constantly changing healthcare delivery model is an emerging trend. For instance, several services that were offered in a hospital setting with more resources available are now being offered in a patient’s home setting. This requires a totally different risk assessment, education, and implementation process to safely manage. As more and more organizations are realizing the relevance of appropriately designed workspaces/buildings, there is now a heightened awareness to collaborate with workforce safety professionals. This helps offer input with safety as a priority when the building blocks are being planned, helping prevent injuries through innovative and safe designs.

What’s your favorite job-related story that you like to tell others?

I started my career as an occupational therapist, and as part of the regular job responsibilities, I had to engage in various manual patient-handling tasks, such as moving patients from the hospital bed to a recliner or chair, assisting with dressing, etc. Due to the constantly challenging physical positions we had to adopt for the task, at the end of the day, we used to go home with our neck, back, and sometimes entire body sore. As I sit back and think about those days, I realize that a lift or adjusting the bed to the proper height would have prevented many of those “bad back days”—that puts a smile on my face. The opportunity to work with a team so that we can make sure that other healthcare professionals do not have such issues empowers me to continue to work in the safety field.

What advice do you have for people just entering or transitioning into the profession?

This field requires the ability to make rapid adjustments due to the constantly changing environment, regulations, demographics served, etc. However, when you are part of a team that helped establish a safety process for one particular project but you did that with some “out of the box” thinking and, as a result, the idea can be duplicated in multiple settings, you are blessed with the opportunity to help multitudes of people by ensuring their safety. If that fuels you as a person, then this is a very rewarding field to get into.

Celebrating Award Winners at EHS Now

We will further celebrate the accomplishments of our 2020 Safety Standout Award winners in a virtual awards ceremony just before the closing keynote of our new summit EHS Now: An Online Educational Experience. In addition to honoring our award winners, this online event promises a wide variety of educational sessions for environment, health, and safety managers and professionals.

This one-day, free virtual summit will take place on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (EDT). Attend all 7 sessions, choose the ones most relevant to you, or receive recordings of the sessions you are unable to attend—all at no cost! Click here to learn more and to register today.

Asha Roy, OTD, OTR/L, is Program Manager – Safe Patient Handling and Mobility on the Workforce Safety team at Northwell Health in Lake Success, New York. She began her journey in the safety field three years ago, having served previously as a healthcare professional. In this time, Asha has taken her clinical skills and translated them into a well-rounded and expansive safety career, beginning as a clinical injury specialist and advancing her education through the research and completion of best in class training programs and certificates.

In September of 2019, Asha organized a safe patient handling conference that brought together over 200 healthcare providers from the region for what many called the “hands-down best conference they ever attended.” It was a first-of-its-kind day of inclusion that brought nurses, transporters, nursing assistants, and physical and occupational therapists together to receive hands-on training, build relationships, and make the workplace safer for patients and providers alike.

Northwell Health is one of the largest healthcare delivery systems in the state of New York. As an organization, we offer an entire spectrum of care continuum to communities we serve. Staffed with over 70,000 employees with varying clinical and nonclinical backgrounds offering services in totally different practice settings by establishing evidence-based care models, with a focus to ensure staff and patient safety, is one of our larger challenges.

Would you like to be profiled in a future Faces of EHS and share your experiences, challenges, etc.? Or, do you know anyone else in EHS you think has an interesting story to tell? Write us at jscace@blr.com and cdouyard@blr.com and include your name and contact information; be sure to put “Faces of EHS” in the subject line.