Safer Chemicals: Eliminating HHI Chemicals of Concern for Healthy Interiors at Beaumont Health System

Benefits:

  • Over $1M in annual spend dedicated to avoiding HHI-identified, chemicals of concern
  • 26% of all furnishings purchased avoid HHI chemicals of concern meeting the goals of the HHI Healthier Interiors Challenge.
  • Cost reduction of 10% on IT project from converting to new workstation system from Haworth that avoids chemicals of concern.
  • Reduction of exposure to hazardous chemicals by building occupants, patients, staff and the community.
  •  Worked with Haworth to increase furniture purchased without HHI priority chemicals from 43% of dollars spent to a new total of 63% healthy interiors furniture purchased in one year.

The Problem:

Medical furnishings can contain chemicals of concern that could pose a threat to health and the environment including halogenated flame retardants, perflourinated compounds and formaldehyde.  In response to this challenge, Beaumont Health System committed to the HHI Healthier Interiors goal of the Safer Chemical Challenge --– a goal that requires ensuring that 25% of the annual volume of freestanding furniture and medical furnishings purchases (based on cost) eliminated the intentional use of halogenated flame-retardants, formaldehyde, perfluorinated compounds and PVC (known as vinyl).  This reduces potential exposure to chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, infertility, asthma and chemical sensitivities.

The Strategy Selected:

  • Creating and sustaining change at Beaumont Health System required:
  • Systematic evaluation of recommended furnishings
  • Assessment of organization’s purchasing patterns and identification and ranking the highest volume purchases
  • Identification of furniture company partners that were able to supply alternatives that meet the HHI Healthy Interiors requirements
  • Cost analysis comparing healthier options to those previously in use
  • Collaboration with Ergonomic Assessors, Environmental Services, Safety, and Epidemiology to make best recommendations and educate end users about the value of the seating selection, recognizing that sustainability is only one lens for decision-making.

Beaumont identified desk chairs as the largest volume product category within the Healthier Interiors challenge.  Through a partnership with a furniture manufacturer and collaboration with the team of assessors, a chair was identified that met all of the specifications of the hospital and users while also avoiding the HHI-identified chemicals of concern.  The cost differential on the new chair recommendation was a .3% increase.  In addition to reducing chemicals of concern in the facility, the selection also positively impacted the less waste challenge because the manufacture allows return of this product at the end of life because the chair is 99% recyclable product.

Implementation Process:

Administration supported Beaumont’s decision to take on all HHI challenges and specifically the Healthier Interiors challenge.  The Interiors lead put together a furniture review team including representatives from WorkAbility, Environmental Services, Safety, Hospital Administration and the Interiors Department

The team met twice to review the seating alternatives.

The first task of the team was to identify current practices for purchase of furniture, fabrics and cabinetry, as outlined in the Safer Chemicals Challenge.

By identifying the biggest spend, the team prioritized their activities, which identified the office chair.  This allowed for the biggest impact and a focus on one product.

The pilot project was with Beaumont’s largest furnishings supplier, who was asked to give a detailed breakdown of chemicals of concern in each of the products purchased from them.  A high-volume item, the task chair, was identified as containing some chemicals of concern, so the team identified a healthier alternate chair, which met the goals of the challenge.  With approval from the ergonomics team, safety, environmental services, administration, epidemiology, purchasing and staff, Beaumont implemented the purchase of a new chair that does not contain the HHI-identified, chemicals of concern.  Through prioritizing this one chair and transitioning to a healthier alternate, the goals of the challenge were met and the team can continue to the next biggest spend.

Challenges and Lessons Learned:

  • Taking on the Healthier Interiors challenge was more than identifying the biggest spend and partnering with a manufacturer.  The new skill and take away is the experience and new practice of asking questions about chemicals of concern from furniture manufacturers and finishers.  The team identified tools like the new Health Product Declarations (HPD) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) which are provided by manufacturers.  With these tools, the Interior Design group is better informed and able to make the healthiest recommendations to Beaumont Health System. 
  • With a dedicated interiors team that specifies all furniture for the entire health system, the controlled process allowed for both modifying and maintaining the furniture standards that are in the best interest of staff, the environment and often contributing to cost savings.  Without an established interiors team responsible for assessment and product selection, the goals of this challenge would have been more difficult to meet.  Giving departments the responsibility of ordering their own furniture makes this goal much more difficult because of the coordinated process that is required to be able to influence purchasing at the level required to achieve the goal.

Demographic Information:

Beaumont is a regional healthcare provider that currently operates 1,728 beds at three locations. The Royal Oak campus with 1,070 beds is the 20th largest hospital in the US.  Beaumont has various medical centers, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and hundreds of affiliated doctors' offices located throughout the area. The Royal Oak facility also includes cancer, renal, vascular, heart and neuroscience centers as well as a research institute and a medical building with private practices and other Beaumont services.


Key Resources

Health Products Declaration - http://hpdcollaborative.org/

Environmental Product Declaration - http://www.environdec.com/

Health Care without Harm Safer Chemicals Page - http://noharm.org/all_regions/issues/chemicals/

Practice Greenhealth Chemicals Page - https://practicegreenhealth.org/topics/chemicals

Healthier Hospitals Initiative’s Healthier Interiors Page - http://healthierhospitals.org/hhi-challenges/safer-chemicals


The Team:

Green Team Leadership

JLL at BHS Interior Design

JLL at BHS Supply Chain

Environmental Services

Materials Management

Infection Control

Nursing

Administration

Workability

Safety

 

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