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UPMC's Smoke-Free Shift Policy Goes Into Effect

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - No more smoking for UPMC employees and volunteers - at least not while they are on duty.

Today is the first day 62,000 people who work for UPMC will not be permitted to smoke during their entire shift, in accordance with company policy. This is UPMC's effort to create a healthy work environment.

"We have patient letters, some complaints of 'hey, I'm at Magee, I just had a baby, my nurse is coming over to pick up my baby, and she really smells of smoke,'" Lisa Bonacci, vice president of human resources at UPMC, said. "And the residue from smoking can stay on your clothing."

UPMC stresses that it does not demand workers quit altogether, just at work.

Gum, patches and other FDA-approved alternatives to cigarettes are allowed. But behaviors that cause staff to smell like smoke at work will not be tolerated. For example, smoking on breaks or on the way to work.

"Hopefully people will find ways to cope and manage that," Bonacci said. "Maybe it's a change of clothes when they get here. Maybe it's freshening up."

Violators won't necessarily be fired. It typically takes several tries to kick the habit.

"Our initial approach is to coach and counsel people," Bonacci said.

"The more rigorous laws become, and workplace policies, the more likely people will think about maybe this is my time to give it another try," Stephanie Murtaugh, senior director, Mercy Community Health, part of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, a member of Tobacco Free Allegheny, said.

UPMC announced the plan for smoke-free shifts a year ago. A little more than 10 percent of its workers smoke, a number which comes from self-reporting as part of an annual health risk assessment. This assessment also shows the numbers are down from 11 percent last year.

UPMC Taking Steps To Ban On-Duty Employees From Smoking (7/11/2013)
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