NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Wildfire Haze Affects Wellness Day

12th Annual Event Returns on Site for First Time Since 2019

NIH leaders hold up Safety, Health & Wellness Day 2023 poster outside on the lawn
A star-studded leadership team launches the 2023 Safety, Health and Wellness Day at NIH. Shown are (from l) Derek Newcomer, deputy director, DOHS; Dr. Maryland Pao, clinical director, NIMH; Dr. Susan Amara, scientific director, NIMH; Dr. Jessica McCormick-Ell, director, DOHS; Angela Luz Rosas, NIMH safety officer; Roxy Grossnickle, event chair; and Ann Huston, executive officer, NIMH.

Photo:  Marleen Van Den Neste

The 12th annual Safety, Health and Wellness Day transformed the south lawn of the Clinical Center on June 29. The widely anticipated event—held in person for the first time since 2019—provided staff an opportunity to rejuvenate their commitment to overall well-being. Sponsors included NIH’s Office of Research Services (ORS), Office of Research Facilities, occupational safety and health committee and the Laboratory Sustainability Group along with 2023 co-sponsor the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 

Staff stop at an information table under a tent at the fair.
Respiratory Safety Specialist Lola Vosfieva (seated) of DOHS offers information about proper use of masks, fit-testing and other related safety tips.

Photo:  Credit Marleen Van Den Neste

An unforeseen decline in air quality—due to smog from wildfires in Canada—required a mid-day relocation indoors and other adjustments to ensure the safety of attendees. 

As enthusiastic staff gathered to participate in a wide range of informative demonstrations and activities, the event kicked off as scheduled, offering a variety of health and wellness showcases such as chemical safety, ergonomics, heart-saving CPR training, integrated pest management, mental health awareness, nutrition, roadway safety and total worker health. Two tents had been set up to accommodate rows of booths, where institutes and other organizations shared insights on safety, health and wellness. 

A cornhole game to learn more about hazardous chemicals, displayed by Bauman and colleagues
A few game enthusiasts try their hand at “Chemical Cornhole” and learn about safety hazards from Biorisk Management Branch expert Rick Bauman (r).

Photo:  Credit Marleen Van Den Neste

One standout attraction was the “Chemical Cornhole” game presented by the ORS Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS). After successfully tossing a bean bag onto the board, participants were asked to randomly select a chemical from a bucket and place it in the correct storage container. The activity allowed employees to enhance their knowledge of chemical storage safety protocols in a fun way. 

As attendees browsed the different booths, they were able to pick up an assortment of handouts. NIMH gave away pamphlets on different mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorder and panic disorder. If the booths and handouts didn’t provide enough wellness and safety tips, attendees had the opportunity to listen to seminars and participate in demonstrations, ranging from dance and yoga classes to CPR training. 

However, as the day progressed, the deteriorating air quality became more apparent. Concern for the well-being of attendees prompted organizers to prioritize safety and shift the event to a virtual format. By noon, the booths and outdoor activities were closed, and the remainder of the event proceeded online, allowing staff to participate from the comfort of their workstations. 

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The NIH Record

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