Whalen wins state Public Risk Manager of Year honor

Contributed To The Press • Jan 9, 2016 at 11:17 PM

Kevin Whalen, director of operations and risk manager at First TN Human Resource Agency, was named Public Risk Manager of the Year at the 2015 TN Public Risk Management Association Annual Conference.

Risk Managers from across the state are nominated for this award including those employed in state and county agencies, school districts and universities.

Whalen has 30-plus years of management experience. Graduating with his B.S. from Arizona State University in 1981, he began his management career, which consisted of retail, manufacturing and hospitality management.

After graduating from East Tennessee State University with a Masters of Public Administration Degree in 2004, Whalen began working with FTHRA in December 2005.

FTHRA is a nonprofit agency that provides quality-of-life services to people in need in Northeast Tennessee. Services provided include rural transportation, Meals on Wheels, adult day care, shelter for domestic violence victims, foster grandparent program, senior employment & volunteer services, in-home personal care and community corrections.

Whalen’s first position at FTHRA was as the director of Family Services Institute. He was in charge of five programs that provided services annually to more than 600 individuals.

Whalen was named operations director in 2010, and risk management was added to his role at FTHRA in 2013.

“Operations/Risk Manager was a position that needed someone to step in and help with the basic operations of the organization,” Whalen said. “I am an organized person with experience in the hospitality industry, manufacturing and others. I believe in safety and have always looked for hazards in the workplace.”

The PRIMA Risk Manager of the Year award is voted on by a board established by the Tennessee Public Risk and Insurance Management Association. The Tennessee Municipal League’s Loss Control Consultant, Judy Housley, nominated Whalen.

“Kevin has brought this agency together under one safety program and also addresses the very difficult exposures,” said Housley. “He has made a difference in the safety of the agency’s employees and the safety to the public served.”

Even with the diverse risks that accompany the various programs at FTHRA, Whalen has succeeded in identifying and addressing these safety and liability issues. Over the last 3 years, FTHRA has reduced Workers Comp injury claims by 54 percent, lost time accidents by 40 percent, and the number of liability claims by 73 percent.

“One of the biggest changes I see in our agency is upper management’s willingness to think about the hazards that expose staff and clients to risk,” Whalen said. “We talk about it in director’s meetings and employee training sessions, while keeping an open mind toward safety suggestions and ways to provide services more efficiently.”

Whalen formed an active Safety Committee in the fall of 2013. This committee quickly developed safety guidelines, policies and procedures and developed the first FTHRA safety slogan, “Be a Hero — Score an Accident Zero.”

“On the human side, we all want to be able to go home at the end of a workday and function just the way we did when we came to work that day. No one wants to come back home after a workplace injury and be unable to live a normal life. We all want to be able to take care of our loved ones after our workday is completed,” Whalen said.

Whalen has implemented an emergency-preparedness plan, safety-training library, bomb- threat procedures, OSHA compliance plans and quarterly safety hero awards, among others.

Even while spearheading these changes, Whalen continues to praise his co-workers for the success FTHRA has achieved.

“This award is not about me,” Whalen said. “It is about teamwork, training, and buy-in from staff and management.

“This is all about looking out for each other while we go about our daily business. No magic plan, no overbearing rules, just caring about ourselves, our co-workers and our clients while we help those around us to stay safe as we work together.”

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