March 1, 2010
MSHA kicks off its new safety initiative
By Kerry Clines, Senior Editor
In January, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced that recently released data reported an all-time low in the number of mining fatalities for 2009 (see “AggBeat” in the February issue of Aggregates Manager). On the heels of that announcement, at a meeting chaired by Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, MSHA announced the launch of a new outreach and enforcement initiative. The program, Rules to Live By, was designed to strengthen efforts to prevent mining fatalities.
According to an MSHA press release, the agency conducted an analysis of the 589 mining fatalities that occurred between 2000 and 2008 in order to identify the most common conditions and practices that contributed to mining deaths, as well as the most common violations of safety standards and root causes associated with these fatal accidents. The analysis identified 13 metal/non-metal safety and health standards frequently cited in fatal accident investigations. According to @IMA-NA, the e-newsletter for the Industrial Minerals Association–North America, the standards include the following:
• Operating speeds and control of equipment – 56.9101.
• Work on power circuits – 56.12017.
• Brake performance – 56.14101(a).
• Procedures during repairs or maintenance – 56.14105.
• Seat belts shall be worn by equipment operators – 56.14130(g).
• Seat belts shall be provided and worn in haul trucks – 56.14131(a).
• Machinery, equipment, and tools used beyond design – 56.14205.
• Parking procedures for unattended equipment – 56.14207.
• Safety belts and lines – 56.15005.
• Bins, hoppers, silos, tanks, and surge piles – 56.16002©.
• Persons shall stay clear of suspended loads – 56.16009.
• Barricades and warning signs – 56.20011.
• Ground support use – 57.3360.
A more detailed list of the standards is available at
The new program formally kicked off on Feb. 11 in Austin, Texas, and Feb. 12 in Charleston, W.Va. According to the press release, the initiative will roll out in two phases: industry outreach and focused inspections. During the first phase, MSHA will provide information about the causes of the targeted fatal accidents to every mine operator, labor organization, and state training grantee, as well as other stakeholders. The agency’s Web site (www.msha.gov) will provide compliance assistance materials, such as engineering suggestions and packages of safety target materials, to miners and mine operators to ensure that they have the necessary resources to address and eliminate workplace hazards.
The initiative then goes into full enforcement swing on March 15. MSHA will begin focused inspections on the 13 standards, reminding mine inspectors to carefully evaluate gravity and negligence when citing violations of those standards. According to MSHA, all mine inspectors will receive online training on inspector laptop applications specific to this initiative, enforcement summaries, and inspector tip sheets.
“While the mining community marked a record low number of mining deaths last year and has seen a significant decline in fatal mining accidents during the past 10 years, too many miners still lose their lives in preventable accidents,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in the agency’s press release. “MSHA and its stakeholders must remain committed to working together toward the ultimate goal of zero mining fatalities.”
“With the full support of the mining industry,” added Main, “Rules to Live By should make great strides in preventing fatal accidents.”
Infrastructure Investment = JOBS
Demand for aggregates was down for the fourth quarter of 2009, and the vitality of the aggregates industry remains clouded by the uncertainty created by delays surrounding reauthorization of the federal highway bill.
An Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) survey for the construction equipment manufacturing industry reinforced the outlook of a continued industry slump. According to the survey, overall business is expected to turn around slightly in 2010. Survey respondents then anticipate stronger growth going into 2011, but not enough to erase the severe business and job losses of 2009. Business in 2012 is then expected to level off.
In an association press release, AEM President Dennis Slater said he wasn’t surprised at the survey results “given the continued instability of the housing market and no long-term commitment to America’s roads, rail, airports, water distribution, and ports to move people and goods efficiently and safely, and to compete effectively in the global marketplace.”
At a press conference following an invitation-only meeting of 19 key U.S. senators, Slater relayed the direct connection between infrastructure and job creation for the construction and manufacturing industries. In a second AEM press release, Slater stated that “the single best way to bring back hundreds of thousands of good-paying, sustainable manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is to pass major long-term investments in our critical national infrastructure.”
Slater noted that senators present at the meeting are working on a new jobs creation package of legislation and recognize that rebuilding America’s infrastructure will create jobs, grow the economy, and maintain and improve our nation’s safety, environment, and international competitiveness.
“What we heard today was not only a commitment to a near-term jobs creation package, but a commitment from Senator Boxer to write a multi-year highway bill this year, and to start that process in March,” Slater stated in the press release. “We know many thorny policy issues have to be resolved before the House and Senate can come to agreement on a new multi-year highway bill, and that in the meantime — right now — Congress needs to pass some measures that can help to create jobs for Americans in the nearer term. …But as soon as that work is done, we hope that our lawmakers will turn to our nation’s long-term infrastructure investment needs. We must have a multi-year funding commitment to provide market certainty, so planners can plan and business can invest. This is how the private sector creates jobs.”
Slater added that the timely passage of a multi-year federal transportation legislation was critical for the construction equipment industry, and that without that long-term funding certainty, state and local governments wouldn’t be able to plan projects and that U.S. competitiveness against other nations was at stake.
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) said it is contacting Congressional and Administration leaders to urge them to invest in new construction activity. “If they [Congress] act now, they can save taxpayers millions on construction costs while immediately boosting employment and economic activity,” Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer, stated in an association press release.
According to Sandherr, one of the relatively few bright spots for the construction industry was the federal stimulus. “The stimulus is finally beginning to have a measurable, but limited, impact on the construction industry,” he noted. “The full impact of those investments has sadly been tempered by the inability of Congress to put a host of multi-year infrastructure funding plans in place.”
Lafarge receives conservation awards
Nine of Lafarge’s aggregates sites in the Western United States recently gained international recognition from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) for their contributions to wildlife habitat conservation. WHC President Robert Johnson congratulated Lafarge “for their commitment to a healthy natural world and connected communities.”
Six of the sites recognized are located across Colorado in Golden, Rifle, Fort Lupton, Lafayette, and two in Longmont. The other three sites are located in Sun City, Ariz.; Colgate, Wis.; and Defiance, Mo. Each site received its award in acknowledgement of its commitment to environmental stewardship and to increasing native biodiversity.
“Being chosen for environmental awards like these from the WHC is incredibly gratifying for Lafarge,” stated Sabine Hillenmeyer, vice president and general manager for Lafarge’s West US Aggregates Business Unit, in a company press release. “Lafarge takes its commitment to the environment, and to the health and safety of our employees, very seriously. We are dedicated to returning the land where we work back to the community in the same or better condition upon which it was ‘loaned’ to us. We appreciate the WHC’s acknowledgement of our efforts.”
The Holcim Portland cement plant near Penrose, Colo., has gone solar, reports CoolerPlanet.com. The plant’s 528 solar panels, rated at 100.32 kilowatts, provide about 156,200 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, or enough to run the plant’s administrative offices. This amounts to enough energy to power 14 average homes, and also enough to prevent 112 metric tons of carbon dioxide being generated by the local utility company. The panels are arranged in four units, jointly covering an area 190 feet long by 150 feet wide. Each unit contains 24 conventional solar panels made with polycrystalline silicon cells under glass inside an aluminum frame. Concrete footers support the units.
Skyonic Corp. of Austin won a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy for an industrial carbon capture plant. The statesman.com reports that the first phase of Skyonic’s Capitol SkyMine project will be located at the Capitol Aggregates Ltd. cement plant in San Antonio. The plant is targeted to capture 75,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the flue gas emitted by the cement plant and then mineralize it as baking soda, offsetting an additional 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the manufacture of benign chemical byproducts. Skyonic President Joe Jones told the newspaper that he plans to operate at a profit through the sale of the byproducts and generate more than 200 jobs in Texas.
Vulcan Materials’ Dolcito Quarry in Tarrant, Ala., received the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) Three-Star Award, the association’s highest possible recognition in the Stars of Excellence Awards program. This award recognizes facilities that received multiple, highest-level safety, community relations, and environmental awards from the NSSGA over a five-year period. Dolcito’s three stars acknowledge receipt of two community relations excellence awards and an environmental excellence award.