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NIH Record

Safety Committees' Work Recognized

The accomplishments of the NIH institute and center safety committees were recognized recently with a celebration and reception. Dr. Richard Wyatt of the Office of Intramural Research observed that seldom at NIH has there been a celebration for the work of a committee, but the success of the safety committees is indeed something to celebrate. The committees provide a focus for safety and health issues and a means to increase the safety culture at NIH. In retrospect, Wyatt disclosed some hazardous experiences early in his career that he felt could have been avoided had safety committees been active at the time.

From skeptic to supporter was how Dr. Richard Hess of NHGRI described his evolution. As incoming chair of the NHGRI safety committee, he wondered what, if any, good could come of its efforts, and if it makes a difference. He gave examples of how NHGRI's safety committee and the institute's scientists successfully collaborated to detect potential hazards and develop ways to reduce risks for investigators. On the Internet, an NHGRI employee read about a tragic fire in a university lab. The worker realized that the cause involved a technique widely used at NIH. The information was passed on to the safety committee, which then developed a recommendation for new procedures to avoid a similar fire in NIH labs. Hess said a major duty of the committee is to perform an annual safety survey. Recently, a survey resulted in procedural changes for cold storage of flammable liquids. He also noted that the NHGRI safety committee had developed its own Web page.

NIH enjoys a safety partnership between the Office of Research Services, safety experts and researchers at the bench, craftsmen in the shops and administrators in the office, noted Stephen Ficca, NIH associate director for research services. Further enhancing the partnership are the safety committees and Safety Links program. The success of the committees relies on a management approach that empowers employees with the responsibility and the mechanism to make their worksites safer. The Occupational Safety and Health Branch, Division of Safety, ORS, coordinates the IC safety committees and Safety Links, providing the tools, expertise and guidance to support them at the grassroots level.

Each institute has a safety committee, whose chair serves as principal safety contact for the institute. In many IC's, Safety Links have been appointed as additional points of contact for fellow employees. At the ceremony, the mascot for the Safety Program was introduced — "Link," symbolizing the many links it takes to make NIH a safer place to work. Link looks like a person comprised of links of a chain, and will serve like fellow mascots Smokey Bear, Sparky the fire dog and crime dog McGruff to characterize the program.

For more information call 496-2346 or visit the Safety Link Web page at:

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