The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases held its first annual Safety Awareness for Everyone training March 8, and by all accounts, it was a resounding success.

Designed to be accessible to everyone in the Institute-not just laboratory personnel-the training captured 652 of USAMRIID's 800 or so employees. It was directed and supported by the USAMRIID command team. "There were a few things we can do better next time, but for the first run, it definitely exceeded my expectations," said Capt. Rebecca Sutphen of USAMRIID's safety office, who organized the training with the help of division safety representatives.

To accommodate work schedules, employees could choose one of two three-hour training sessions, either morning or afternoon. Organizers provided snacks, water bottles and stress balls to make everyone comfortable. There were even door prize drawings, with each winner receiving a roadside emergency kit.

"We tried to make it entertaining," commented Sutphen. "USAMRIID has so many inspections and visits already. The whole idea was to give our employees a safety refresher while keeping things really positive." USAMRIID commander Col. John Skvorak led off each session with a brief welcome and introduction. He was followed by Rob VanAtta (Security and Operations), who covered emergency procedures; Dr. Catherine Wilhelmsen (Safety), who briefed the group on safety lessons learned; and Dr. Ellen Boudreau (Medical Division), who presented an overview of USAMRIID's Special Immunizations Program and occupational health program for laboratory employees.

A guest speaker from the Army's Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, John Penticus, rounded out the agenda with a presentation on ergonomics. Sutphen said he was "very engaging" and his presentation worked well for everyone-lab workers and office personnel alike.

To accommodate the large number of people who work at USAMRIID, Fort Detrick's new Community Activities Center in building 1520 was chosen as the SAFE training venue. "Fortunately we had good weather-that really helped the turnout," Sutphen said, adding that the March date was the "third try" for the event. Originally scheduled for February 8, it had to be rescheduled twice due to snow. In addition to the large group sessions, a key aspect of SAFE is division-led training, according to Sutphen.

To help their employees get the most out of the training, each of USAMRIID's research divisions held an additional follow-on session tailored to the specific pathogens-and associated safety issues-for that division. Suite supervisors, safety representatives and division chiefs designed the training to fit the needs of their respective group.

Sutphen's office is soliciting feedback from those who attended, in order to make next year's training even better. Employees who wish to make a comment may go to the Safety Office home page on RIID Vision and click on SAFE Campaign AAR. And for those who were unable to attend, a videotape of the training will soon be available on RIID Vision.

So far, according to Sutphen, most of the comments have been positive. Perhaps there's some truth to that old adage-in this case, the third time was indeed the charm.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16