VRSA names 2020 risk management award winners

Each year, the Virginia Risk Sharing Association (VRSA) provides risk management performance awards to members at the annual meeting held each spring. Due to COVID-19, this year’s annual meeting was held virtually.

However, risk management is never put on hold, and the awards were presented to several recipients via mail this year. These awards were based on: the member loss ratio over a five-year period, achieving 100 percent completion of Risk Management Guidelines applicable to their tier, and proactive effort towards reaching their risk management goals.

Margaret A. Nichols Risk Management Leadership Award

Town of Vinton

The Margaret A. Nichols Risk Management Leadership Award is presented each year to recognize and encourage innovation in risk management by members of the pool. The award is named in honor of Margie Nichols, longtime administrator of VRSA who passed away in 2002.

This year the award goes to the Town of Vinton.

(LtR), Executive Assistant to the Chief of Police Mandie Baker, Community Programs/Facilities Director Chasity Barbour, Facilities Manager/ Project Manager Bo Herndon, HR Director Donna Collins, Interim Police Chief Fabricio Drumond, and Community Programs & Facilities Coordinator Amanda Payne. Photo: Town of Vinton

“Over the last few years, the town implemented a workplace violence deterrence and notification system for the safety of employees,” said VRSA Director of Education and Training Thomas Bullock. “This process was led by HR Director Donna Collins, who requested a physical site assessment from VRSA.”

VRSA Public Safety Specialist Gary Dillon and VRSA Senior Safety Consultant Edward Shelton conducted the assessment and provided recommendations on strengthening the town’s security and employee protection plans.

The Vinton Town Council then appropriated $100,000 in emergency funding for these upgrades, which included: the installation of bulletproof glass in areas with customer interaction, key fob-only access to specific areas of the town facilities, security cameras, and ceiling lighting with employee-controlled panic buttons – which connect directly to the police department – to alert others when they should lockdown or evacuate.

“These efforts support a safer working environment for the town’s staff and the citizens who visit the building,” said Bullock.

Risk Management Performance Awards

Alexandria Renew Enterprises

Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew) received a Risk Management Performance Award for their focus on education and training.

“AlexRenew hired a new safety coordinator, Alex Rigby, who has worked diligently with VRSA’s risk services consultants to set up training courses for staff,” said Bullock.

AlexRenew staff attended the 2019 water and wastewater authority roundtable hosted by VRSA, and regularly utilize VRSA webinars and regional trainings. Recently, VRSA risk services staff performed a mock OSHA inspection at their request, which resulted in increased awareness in hazard recognition and ultimately, a safer work environment.

Their staff have also participated in training including: Intro to OSHA, Hazard Recognition, OSHA At A Glance, Emotional Intelligence, Active Shooter, and additional employees attended an OSHA 10-Hour Construction course provided by VRSA in Manassas.

AlexRenew utilizes VRSA’s CompCare On-Call services to report workers’ compensation injuries, as well as VRSA’s panel of physicians for injured workers. AlexRenew also provides light-duty work for those injured employees.

Alexandria Renew Director of Human Resources Wendy Callahan with the VRSA Risk Management Performance Award. Photo: Alexandria Renew.
Alexandria Renew Safety Coordinator Alex Rigsby with the VRSA Risk Management Performance Award. Photo: Alexandria Renew.

Town of Floyd

The Town of Floyd also received a Risk Management Performance Award. With a five-year loss ratio of just 2 percent, the town has continued to bolster their risk management efforts.

“Town Manager Kayla Cox is focused on the safety of town employees and ensures that either she or someone from the town attend VRSA trainings and roundtable safety discussions whenever possible,” said Bullock. “She is always interested in guidance or assistance from VRSA safety consultants.”

(LtR): Public Works Staff Members Jeffrey Hale and Tyler Wood, Town Manager Kayla Cox, Public Works Staff Member Jason Slusher. Photo: Town of Floyd

This commitment is demonstrated by VRSA Senior Safety Consultant Edward Shelton conducting a hazard identification walk-through of the town’s municipal office and public works department this January. In February, Kayla attended a cyber roundtable in Radford with regional members focused on reviewing cyber challenges. Kayla continues to participate in virtual roundtables discussing issues such as COVID-19 and reopening with regional members.

Town of Grottoes

The Town of Grottoes received a Risk Management Performance Award for their commitment to risk management.  With a five-year loss ratio of 13 percent, the town has continued to bolster risk management efforts.

(LtR): Councilman Mark Keeler, Councilman Joshua Bailey, Councilwoman Jo Plaster, Town Manager Nathan Garrison, Mayor Emily Holloway, Councilman David Raynes, and Councilman C.W. Stephenson. Photo: Town of Grottoes

“VRSA staff have recognized the efforts of Town Manager Nathan Garrison for his hands-on approach to risk management,” said Bullock. “Nathan has invited VRSA safety consultants to teach two safety meetings for public works staff, as well as provided space for a regional meeting to discuss safety. He has also implemented process and practice changes that were discussed after a mock VOSH inspection.”

The town has unique exposures, such as Adventure Cave Tours; however, staff ensure that VRSA is aware of the safety measures they are taking – such as keeping numbers low and providing adequate guides.

Individual Risk Management Excellence Award Winners

Additionally, the following individuals were recognized for their personal contributions to risk management.

      • Regina Harless, Town Clerk, Town of Pearisburg, has made significant strides in the town’s risk and safety programs. Harless worked with VRSA Senior Safety Consultant Edward Shelton  to coordinate several trainings including lockout tagout, hazard communication, and OSHA At A Glance. Shelton noted that support for the risk management starts with Town Manager Todd Meredith. One example is Todd’s attendance and participation in these conversations.
(LtR): Director of Public Works Rodney Wilson, Town Clerk Regina Harless, Town Manager Todd Meredith, and Assistant Town Clerk April Williams. Photo: Town of Pearisburg

“Without Todd’s support, it would have been difficult to get everything in place,” said Harless upon receiving her award. “Rodney assisted me in working on the policy we got adopted by town council, and was very helpful with advice on what his employees needed from me. April was my right arm in helping me get the training set up, reminding departments to show up and behind the scenes tasks.  We all work as a team, and it’s a group effort.  I do care about the employees and want to ensure their safety in the workplace.  Once things calm down, I plan to start up training even if we do them remotely.  Just wanted to give everyone credit.  I truly appreciate the award.  Thanks VRSA!”

      • Michael Neese, Refuse and Recycling Manager, City of Winchester, has acted as a spark to ignite risk management within his organization. Neese pushed for lift assists to be added on trucks and provided extensive weight calculations to determine how much employees were lifting per day in order to help justify these upgrades. He also organized a “Dump Truck Rodeo” for staff, providing extensive and detailed training that tested employees for competency, safe lifting, backing, personal protective equipment and their own standard operating procedures. Additionally, Neese has promoted important VRSA training to other departments, including the VRSA Focus Four and VRSA’s online training courses.  Learn more about Neese here.
Michael Neese with the 2020 Risk Management Excellence Award. Photo: City of Winchester

Congratulations to all the 2020 award recipients and thanks for all you do to support your communities, fellow staff members and employees.