Smithsonian Receives ACOEM Corporate Health Achievement Award

With thousands of employees, visiting scientists, research fellows, interns, and volunteers, the Smithsonian uses cutting-edge programming to achieve results, ranging from its automated injury-reporting system to its use of electronic medical records and medical surveillance, ACOEM said.

The Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum and research complex, has received the 2012 Corporate Health Achievement Award (CHAA) from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). The Smithsonian received the award because of its exemplary work in integrating its health and safety programs to create a true culture of health, ACOEM said.

The Corporate Health Achievement Award (CHAA) recognizes quality occupational and environmental health programs, identifies model programs and outstanding practices with measurable results, and encourages organizational self-assessment and continuous improvement. Recipients of the annual award are judged on the strength of their health and safety programs for individual employees, their comprehensive programs to protect the environment, their strong leadership and management, and for their sustainable efforts to create an overall work culture that emphasizes healthy lifestyles and safety consciousness.

With thousands of employees, visiting scientists, research fellows, interns, and volunteers, the Smithsonian uses truly cutting-edge programming to achieve results, ranging from its automated injury-reporting system to its use of electronic medical records and medical surveillance, ACOEM said. It has a goal of zero injuries and is actively working to achieve this.

The Smithsonian’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2010-2015 includes the reiteration of the strategy to encourage and maintain an organizational culture that embraces safety, health, and wellness. “When we speak of ‘a culture of health’ we mean ‘health’ in the true sense of the word—a condition in which employees’ physical well-being is optimized by the environment and philosophy of the company they work for,” said ACOEM President Warner Hudson III, M.D. “The Smithsonian exemplifies this approach through its innovative and exemplary health, safety, and environmental programs that seek to maintain and optimize a productive, motivated, and creative workforce, and as such it is entirely fitting that its accomplishments be recognized through the CHAA.”

CHAA judges were particularly impressed with how the Smithsonian had integrated traditionally independent health protection and health promotion activities to create a synergy that enhances the overall health and well-being of the Smithsonian workforce, many of whom face unique occupational challenges. For example, individuals handling the First Ladies dress collection are made aware of the use of arsenic and lead in some of the older dresses and precautionary measure are employed as well as testing of these individuals. Similarly, some of the mineral collections contain arsenic and mercury. In the National Portrait Gallery, there are woodworking shops that construct large shipping cases, usually from hardwoods such as teak and mahogany, to transport exhibits to other museums. Because dust generated from such wood can inflict pulmonary damage, dust scavenging equipment is used to prevent respiratory problems. Across the Smithsonian, employees are trained to handle the various collections and the chemicals used for restoration, and they are under periodic medical surveillance as required by the task.

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