Putting safety first
For Lafarge’s Calera Quarry, safety is more than a priority…it’s a way of life.
All aggregate operations must adhere to strict safety rules and regulations as set forth by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), but Lafarge chooses to take safety one step further. The company expects its operations to not only meet MSHA rules and regulations, but exceed them.
On June 22, during its annual Safety Day, Calera Quarry in central Alabama became a member of an elite group of Lafarge operations. “Our annual Safety Day was especially important this year,” says Rory Smith, plant manager at Calera Quarry. “It was a celebration that our quarry was inducted into Lafarge’s Health & Safety Excellence Club. To become a member of that club, you have to meet very strict requirements. The lost-time incident frequency has to be zero. The total incident frequency rate has to be a very low number based on 1 million man hours. There are many business units in Lafarge, and to date, a very small percentage of those have achieved this award.”
Making it safe
“Our safety culture and safety philosophy can be summed up in a few words — take the time to do it right,” Smith says. He does it right and has a lot to be proud of at Calera Quarry — the operation has eight years without a lost-time accident and two years without a reportable injury.
“The crew is like a family,” Smith says. “We have a program we call the Green Hand/Gold Hand program. It’s not required that everyone participate, but we’ve had 100 percent participation at the quarry.”
Green Hands, the new hires, wear a green sticker on their hard hats; Gold Hands, individuals who have completed all their training and passed a probationary period of 18 months of employment without any reportable incidents, wear a gold sticker. “The idea is that Green Hands need a mentor they can go to when they have questions, concerns, or whatever,” Smith explains. “All they have to do is look for a gold sticker on a hard hat and they know that’s someone they can go to. This has been a good program for some time at Lafarge.”
In addition to reporting any accidents that occur, employees report all near misses as well. “If we witness anything that could have happened, or did happen but there was no property damage or personal injury, we especially want to know about these because they are freebies,” Smith says. “They’re lessons that we learn without having to pay a price. We don’t do this to lay blame or assess discipline, though. We share the information with other quarries within our company. It may save somebody else from incurring the same type of incident and maybe having to pay a price.”
Smith adds that permits are required for certain activities — working at heights, working in confined spaces, and hot work. Employees working at heights must be trained specifically for that, and must demonstrate knowledge of and competency in the wearing of fall protection equipment. Working in confined spaces and hot work often times requires an attendant and monitoring equipment.
“The permit process gives us, as management, an opportunity to ensure proper job hazard analyses are done and that the individuals performing the tasks have the proper training and knowledge of the materials that they are going to be using,” Smith adds.
Customer trucks are the wild card in the mix, according to Smith. “Customer trucks are why we’re here,” he says, “but truth be known, we don’t know a whole lot about those guys — what kind of training they may or may not have had; whether they are approved or authorized to be behind the wheel of the truck; what they may or may not be under the influence of that particular day. While they are subject to every rule or regulation of MSHA and every one of ours, they offer significant challenges. We have to witness them doing something before we can correct it, and sometimes that’s too late, so we treat those guys like rattlesnakes. If we want to enter an area where truck drivers are moving about, it’s incumbent upon us to make eye contact with them and confirm that they see us.”
Color coding helps create a safer environment. All company employees wear lime green safety vests, while visitors and contractors wear orange. This allows individuals to be identified from a distance.
Every vehicle under 1 ton in size is required to be equipped with a safety whip that extends approximately 8 feet above the ground, Smith says. This allows the vehicle to be seen when driving around high berms and stockpiles. Emergency flashers are also required when moving about the property.
Working areas in and around excavation are constantly inspected for falling or loose materials sloughing from the banks and walls, according to Smith. Stockpiles are kept pushed down from the top to avoid undercuts in the material.
“Our best safety tool against becoming involved with any kind of ground control issue is inspection and avoidance,” Smith says. “We back into parking spots so that we’re looking forward when we’re ready to leave. All our production equipment and yard loaders have CB radios, as do our control rooms, so that communication is not a problem. We employ bucket scales on all our end loaders, even the pit loader, to ensure that we don’t overload equipment. Our production equipment is also equipped with back-up cameras for additional safety.”
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