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Vol. LXIII, No. 20
September 30, 2011
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First Annual Safety Day Held on Campus

Standing before a packed Natcher Bldg. auditorium, Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research, welcomed audience members to the first annual NIH Safety Day. NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak was next on stage, noting that the motto for the day, “Safe science and good science go hand-in-hand,” should serve as a reminder that in order to ensure the high quality and integrity of NIH scientists’ work, a safe and reliable workplace must be maintained.

A rock-climbing wall outside Natcher Bldg. was one of the attractions at Safety Day NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak helps kick off the inaugural NIH Safety Day on Aug. 31. Dr. Michael Gottesman

A rock-climbing wall outside Natcher Bldg. was one of the attractions at Safety Day.


NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak helps kick off the inaugural NIH Safety Day on Aug. 31.


Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research, welcomes Safety Day attendees.

Photos: Bill Branson

“Today further underscores the importance of safety at home and at work. By bringing us together in creative ways, an annual safety day will lead us all in making safety a habit every day,” he said.

Lawrence Aaron of the Office of Research Facilities seems relieved to have survived the sudden deceleration offered by the “Seatbelt Convincer

Lawrence Aaron of the Office of Research Facilities seems relieved to have survived the sudden deceleration offered by the “Seatbelt Convincer.”

Safety and health chairpersons and committee members from the institutes and centers were brought to the stage in recognition of their efforts as Tabak reminded listeners that safety at NIH requires everyone’s efforts and involvement.

Guest speaker James Welch, executive director of the Elizabeth R. Griffin Research Foundation, presented a somber tale illustrating the tragic consequences that can result from unsafe lab protocol. When 22-year-old Elizabeth Griffin, a research assistant at a primate research facility, was hit in the eye with a drop of fluid from a macaque infected with herpes B virus, prevention procedures were inadequate and she received deficient treatment following exposure. She passed away 2 months later, becoming the first known death due to ocular exposure to macaque B virus.

Marvella Gray (r), community outreach specialist with the FBI’s Baltimore field office, explains her agency’s work to a visitor.

Marvella Gray (r), community outreach specialist with the FBI’s Baltimore field office, explains her agency’s work to a visitor.

Welch told the crowd that simply knowing is not enough; individuals must put safe practices into action every day. He heralded NIH as a particularly important role model in these efforts. “NIH is a pinnacle research institute in the world and the most important thing for scientific research right now is that you demonstrate a culture of responsibility,” he said.

Welch highlighted the importance of safety training and practices in the workplace, emphasizing the impact of individuals. “If everyone in this room had on eye protection, you wouldn’t come in without it, would you?” he mused. “Workers are the key to safety, not just policies.” He also encouraged regular training rather than “random acts of training” in order to fully instill the message of safety in workers.

“In a nation and a world thirsting for health, you and everything you do here represents hope,” Welch concluded.

Dr. Margaret A. McDowell (c), a nutritionist in the Division of Nutrition Research Coordination at NIH, and her colleague Rachel Fisher, a DNRC program analyst, greet a visitor to their table at Safety Day. Sasha, a bomb-sniffing member of the NIH Police K-9 corps, performed for an appreciative crowd.

Dr. Margaret A. McDowell (c), a nutritionist in the Division of Nutrition Research Coordination at NIH, and her colleague Rachel Fisher, a DNRC program analyst, greet a visitor to their table at Safety Day.

Sasha, a bomb-sniffing member of the NIH Police K-9 corps, performed for an appreciative crowd.


Following the opening ceremony, attendees browsed dozens of booths and exhibits featuring pamphlets, pens and packets emblazoned with safety tips and emergency hotlines. A table displaying cases of live roaches and black widow spiders offered tips for bed bug protection and treatments. An OSHA booth had an array of shiny “quick cards” with facts covering everything from pandemic flu to demolition safety. The Red Cross offered disaster safety checklists, including one for pets.

Several booths offered demonstrations on noise control, allowing attendees to plug their music players into a mannequin and test the noise levels (hint: you should probably turn down the volume). Continued exposure to noise 85 decibels or louder over time will harm hearing, but lawnmowers, jackhammers and music concerts all clock in at 90 decibels and higher.

Dr. Michael Donovan, R&W fitness and wellness director, and Diana Echenique, an R&W volunteer The CIT Band performs for the Safety Day crowd, including youngsters from the NIH preschool program.

Dr. Michael Donovan, R&W fitness and wellness director, and Diana Echenique, an R&W volunteer, staff a table offering information on the NIH Health & Wellness Expo.

The CIT Band performs for the Safety Day crowd, including youngsters from the NIH preschool program.



All facets of safety were covered: Identify theft prevention on the Internet. Food safety in the home. Distracted driving on the road. Stress management in the workplace. Terrorism in the nation. And much more.

Marvella Gray (r), community outreach specialist with the FBI’s Baltimore field office, explains her agency’s work to a visitor.

The band also invited employees to join them, karaoke style.

Photo: Peter Rice

NIH’s police and fire departments were also on hand to give demonstrations and answer questions. Sasha, a dog from the K-9 unit, was a particular hit, delighting onlookers with her ability to sniff out explosives.

Breakout training sessions addressed identity theft, cyber safety and ergonomics, bringing safety, health and security together for an all-encompassing Safety Day. The NIH Police held a session on how to respond to and survive a workplace shooting. The statistics may seem shocking, with one employee killed and 25 injured in violent assaults by current or former coworkers in the U.S. each week, but reveal the importance of being prepared and recognizing indicators of potential violence.

Attendees enjoyed barbeque and the CIT Band on the sunny lawn outside of Bldg. 45, where they could also try out a rock climbing wall or get a close-up look at a fire truck before returning to work to continue putting safety into practice. NIHRecord Icon


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