AggMan of the Year 2010
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way,”
— John Maxwell, international leadership guru
By Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
The AggMan of the Year 2010, Louis Griesemer, epitomizes Maxwell’s characterization of leadership. Throughout his 33-year tenure in the aggregates industry, Griesemer has demonstrated an ability to identify key issues, formulate strategic initiatives, and hold the crucial conversations necessary to influence their outcome.
“As a long-time leader of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), including being a past chairman of the board, Louis Griesemer embodies an unusual characteristic of effective leadership; humble command,” says Joy Wilson, NSSGA’s president and CEO. “Louis applies his values of free enterprise, economic innovation, environment, safety, health, and community responsibility to his company, his state and national associations, and our country. In selecting Louis, Aggregates Manager is honoring a leader who, in essence, embodies NSSGA’s sustainability principles. Congratulations on the AggMan of the Year award to an esteemed Show-Me State producer who every day continues to help move the ball quietly down the field toward improved compliance and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) enforcement consistency.”
Starting with safety
Griesemer, currently president and CEO of Springfield, Mo.-based Springfield Underground, joined the family business in 1977. His father formed the company in 1946 with an open pit operation and moved the site underground eight years later. The youngest of 14 children, Louis was hired into the family business by his brother, John, who is 26 years older than him. “A lot of people confused me for the third generation,” Griesemer says. He began his career armed with summer experience in both the business’ mining side and warehouse operation and an engineering degree in applied mathematics and computer science. “The economy in 1977 was very like what we have now. There weren’t a lot of jobs available,” Griesemer recalls. “I thought I’d work for the family business for a temporary basis and move on. It got busy in 1978 and 1979, and I never really looked back after that.”
Griesemer’s entry into the aggregates industry coincided with the passage of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, and some of his first responsibilities included compliance with the new regulation and oversight of safety programming. “That had a great effect on me,” he says, explaining that he believes it is a good starting point for anyone who aspires to serve in a production supervisory or management role: “The first thing you ought to do is have to be the safety guy, because it becomes job one.”
While the industry valued safety prior to regulation, Griesemer says the workplace culture has evolved significantly since that time. “During the last 30 years, the industry has gone through a complete paradigm shift in how it views what are and what are not acceptable risks,” he says. “The culture of safety is dominant in our industry now.”
And, sometimes, that culture can create a tension with MSHA, the agency charged with overseeing safety. The challenge is two-fold: operators who have embraced safety balk at what they consider to be the agency’s current citation-oriented approach — particularly when they have strong safety records — and operators are frustrated that the importance of creating a behavior-based safety culture is ignored by regulators.
“I’m not denying that there are still problem operations out there, but most of us have a good safety culture, great programs in place, and try to do more than what the regulations require,” Griesemer says. “From our perspective, some of the things we are experiencing have little to do with safety and more to do with citations and regulations. It’s not just about guards on conveyors and tail pulleys, it’s about workforce attitudes. You have to instill that safety awareness from top to bottom and get the buy in at the front lines where guys are doing the work. That hasn’t been the emphasis from the regulators. They still focus on the mechanical systems, paperwork, and making sure you’ve got the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. I understand you need to have the documentation and it needs to be right, but the culture is where safety happens.”
Expanding the sphere of influence
Improving safety requires all parties to be as well educated as possible on what types of investments will yield the safest behaviors. To that end, both the association and the regulatory agency renewed their Alliance commitment.
“The re-signing of a new and broadened Alliance agreement between MSHA and NSSGA is attributable to a great extent to the leadership of Committee Chair Louis Griesemer,” says Joe Casper, NSSGA vice president for safety services. “An MSHA-certified safety trainer, Louis has astutely deployed the diligence and leadership needed for advancing the Alliance’s work. And, because of this dedication, our industry is better positioned to further reduce injuries and illnesses and continue to — where appropriate — forge a stronger rapport between regulator and regulated on behalf of worker safety and health.”