NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 27, 2020) Industrial Hygienist Paul Burress from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, Safety Office, is the employee of the month for April 2020.
Burress is being recognized for his outstanding performance supporting the Nashville District during the COVID-19 pandemic. His efforts to keep staff informed and safe have been instrumental in ensuring operations continued in as safe a manner as possible.
“Industrial Hygienists everywhere anticipate, recognize, evaluate and control hazards with a focus on occupational health related hazards (chemical, biological, radiation, noise, etc.),” said Burress. “Basically anything that one might ingest, inhale or be exposed to from a distance that might cause harm now or in the future.” He said the most challenging part of his work is: “Navigating all the special permissions and approvals. There are many great people assisting me in tackling these issues though so, it is bearable.”
Burress graduated from Florida State University (FSU) with a B.S. in Chemistry and the University of South Florida where he earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health. He started working with the Nashville District two years ago, and prior to that, served two years in the same role with the VA Medical Center in Nashville. In his twenty four years at FSU, he served as the Senior Health Physicist and Radiation Safety Officer, the Asst. Director of Employee Health and Safety for the University, and the Interim Safety & Security Director for the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
Burress’ favorite aspect about his job is: “Supporting those working in the field and having the ability to do the best I can at a job worth doing. The folks in the field have been very helpful and hospitable in supporting these efforts, which makes it even better.”
Don Busbice, Paul Burress’ supervisor said: “Paul is our subject matter expert . . . he can deliver the message to the command, leadership, and the person sitting at the furthest lock we have…Paul has the innate ability to discuss and implement change by his communication skills, they are outstanding.” Busbice continued: “He is the smartest guy in the room for COVID-19 risk mitigation.”
When asked about how he felt about winning the award Burress said: “My feelings were mixed. I am grateful for the acknowledgement since I know that it really reflects the entire Safety team’s efforts but I am not big on individual awards. I honestly feel honored to be here at this point in my career. This is the best organization that I have ever worked for and the best team that I have worked with, in my office and at our project sites.”
Buress was born in Annapolis Md. and is a “Navy brat” and a Navy veteran. He spent most of his childhood living on the edges of the Everglades in Fla. near Miami and then in Ft. Myers where his parents owned a small marina. He joined the Navy and was stationed in Key West to work with the Seabees before Nuclear Propulsion training in Orlando, Fla. He served as a commissioning crew member of the USS Key West fast attack submarine and was later sent to SCUBA school in Panama City, Fla. Burress said: “After I got out of the Navy I spent a few decades in Florida before moving to Tennessee about 4 years ago. So, my Florida ties are pretty solid, but I honestly feel more like Tennessee is home than anywhere else I have ever lived.”
Burress’ wife Cindy is a nurse and the Asst. Vice President at HCA Healthcare in Brentwood, Tenn. where she oversees divisions along the east coast and in Utah, Nevada, California and Alaska. His son Steven is a student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and is a sports fanatic with an interest in business and finance.
Lt. Col Sonny Avichal, Nashville District commander, said: “Paul is not only a wealth of knowledge, but he's always assessable to provide information to supervisors and employees.” Avichal continued: “The Nashville District couldn't be luckier to have him on our team, especially during this unknown time of high stress with COVID-19. His number one concern is the safety and health of every Nashville District team member.”