Safety manager draws from well of experiences
Kelly C. Hinnant, is the new safety and occupational health manager for the U.S. Army Garrison. The former field artillery and infantry officer brings to the table a wealth of experience to include 33 years of civil service. He succeeded the now-retired Tim Lawrence. (photo by T. Anthony Bell) (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT GREGG-ADAMS, Va. – Kelly C. Hinnant hates to see pain and suffering.

So much so, he decided to take up prevention as a livelihood.

His concern for the welfare of others has led him to his new position as the U.S. Army Garrison’s safety and occupational health manager.

Hinnant, who has worked in the Garrison Safety Office since 2008, was selected amongst many for the position following the retirement of predecessor Tim Lawrence.

“I’m glad to be here,” he said of his new title. “I will continue to build on what I’ve been working at since I arrived.”

The 60-year-old Hinnant grew up in Hampton, about 90 minutes east of Fort Gregg-Adams. He has always leaned heavily toward community service endeavors.

“Personally, I think I’ve always been a caring person,” he said, as if his resume isn’t evidence enough. “I was a Cub Scout, Eagle Scout, a volunteer firefighter, police officer and Soldier. It’s caring about my fellow man. I don’t want to see people in pain, whether its physical or emotional.”

To the contrary, Hinnant has been a firsthand witness to pain and injuries as a safety specialist. He recounted several tragic incidents -- one in which a law enforcement officer accidentally shot another – that serve as cautionary markers, underscoring the fact that many could have been avoided.

“Everybody has had a loss of a coworker, fellow Soldier or family member,” said the married father of four boys. “If it’s not due to natural causes, then it probably could’ve been prevented. It may not be the (fault) of the individual who lost his or her life or became severely injured; it could be something someone else was doing or a faulty piece of equipment that had a design flaw or something else.”

The knowledge accumulated over the years as a safety specialist is the impetus for Hinnant’s work today in furthering accident prevention efforts, and therefore, the needless loss of lives and materiel.

“What we do is inform the garrison commander of any trends, analysis and accident prevention measures that are occurring,” said the former field artillery and infantry officer. “Safety, like nearly all programs, is a commander’s program, but there are those of us – safety professionals – who take that information, determine how it affects us here and implement preventative measures accordingly.”

As a safety manager, Hinnant is saddled with a plethora of programs to oversee. They include those for confined space; respiratory protection; ergonomics; explosives; and driver training to name a few.

On top of that, the work environments here – varying greatly between office and industrial – add layers of complexity to the mission. Appropriately, managers must operate in a heightened, preventative mindset, he said.

“The overarching goal is to prevent accidents and even near-misses,” said Hinnant.

Employees are critical to avoiding accidents at any level and their compliance is often the difference between success and failure, said Hinnant.

“Every employee has a role in safety,” said the 33-year-civil-servant. “Every employee is bound to follow the rules and work safely. Supervisors have the responsibilities of providing their employees a safe and healthy work location.”

Employee responsibility as it pertains to work environment is a delicate balance, Hinnant said. If one employee is not working safely and is injured as a result, he or she will become absent from the workplace. The remaining employees will sometimes make detrimental adjustments that degrade the safe work environment, warranting corrective action.

“Not only can you have an injury or death, but now the other employees are having to pick up the slack because one person is not there to work,” he said. “So, one absence can cause them to do more, which may affect their work performance as well as their safety. When people try to do more, they take shortcuts. It’s a vicious cycle.”

In Hinnant’s pursuance of his new duties, he is working through a personnel shortage. In addition to Lawrence’s retirement, longtime safety specialist Karen Sheffield concluded her career. Their departures have left an experience deficit. Hinnant is urging consideration and patience.

“We’re a small office and we’re rebuilding,” he said. “We’ve had 75 years of experience walk out of the door in a one-month period. Building the bench is going to take a while.”

Despite the staffing issues, Hinnant said he remains committed to improving the installation’s safety program.

“My goal is to make an impact,” he said. “I don’t think of a zero-accident mentality, but if I can assist people in changing their mindset about safety, it’s all for the better.”

For more about the installation safety program, call 804-765-3132 or visit