City cuts accident rates

Published 10:37 pm Thursday, May 26, 2011

Award: The city of Suffolk recently received an award from the Virginia Municipal League for its risk management program. Above, Peter Stephenson, chair of the VML insurance programs members supervisory board, presents the award to Suffolk risk manager Brian Parker, assistant director of human resources Jessica Stallings, risk management coordinator Lynn Dixon, and safety officer Brian Rizzo.

The city of Suffolk has received a prestigious award for risk management from the Virginia Municipal League Insurance Programs.

The city was presented with the Margaret A. Nichols Risk Management Leadership Award at the annual meeting on May 20. The recognition comes with an $8,000 grant that can be used to purchase equipment or training that contribute to the risk management program.

“This is the first time the city has won this award,” said city human resources director Ronnie Charles. “It’s the most prestigious award VML gives to local governments as it relates to risk management.”

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The award is given in honor of Margie Nichols, a long-time insurance administrator for the Virginia Municipal League who made a substantial contribution to the success of the organization, according to a press release from the VML.

Charles said the city has produced dramatic reductions in its injuries, lost days at work and days on light duty. Each of those numbers fell by half or more from 2009 to last year, he said.

In addition, the number of worker’s compensation claims has decreased significantly. Charles attributed the changes to improved training, employee awareness, safety audits and recognition of good safety practices.

For example, Charles said every employee who drives a city vehicle now attends defensive driving courses sponsored by the VML insurance program. In addition, safety audits are performed on all city facilities and activities on a regular basis.

“That’s been huge for us so we can improve what we’re doing,” Charles said. “That shows we’re focused on reducing these key metrics.”

The Virginia Municipal League especially recognized the city’s creation of a safety officer position and safety committee as factors in the improved safety. When accidents do happen, a team conducts an investigation and provides recommendations to prevent similar incidents.

“They have shown a commitment to the philosophy that nothing is so important that it can’t be done safely,” said Steve Craig, managing director of Virginia Municipal League Insurance Programs.

Craig and Charles both noted that having fewer injuries saves the taxpayer money.

“It’s a cost savings not only for the city, but also for our citizens,” Charles said.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn called the award a “tremendous honor.”

“It is a direct reflection of the determination and dedication of all city employees,” she said.

The Virginia Municipal League Insurance Programs provides automobile, property, liability and worker’s compensation coverage to more than 460 local political subdivisions across Virginia. For more information, visit