Establishing the right mindset for start-up

By |  March 2, 2021
Training – and retraining – employees about equipment before a start-up is critical to their safety and success. Photo: P&Q Staff

Training – and retraining – employees about equipment before a start-up is critical to their safety and success. Photo: P&Q Staff

John Sather learned a number of valuable lessons over 30-plus years working in and around aggregate operations.

One conclusion Sather made long ago is that accidents are more likely to happen when employees are rushed back into regular duties following a period of separation from their work.

Lately, there’s been an uptick in this kind of separation because COVID-19 forced some employees across the industry to the sidelines for days, weeks or, in the most severe instances, months on end. With winter nearly over, though, more employees will be headed back to operations that historically targeted early April as the stretch when production ramps up.

Still, with spring start-up descending upon producers, Sather says it’s wise to take things slowly once employees return. A slow approach at the start is for the betterment of everyone involved in the job, he argues.

“Get them engaged first,” says Sather, vice president of aggregates at Whitaker Construction Co., which is based in Brigham City, Utah. “Ask them how their time off was. What did they do? If you get people to engage in what they did with their time off, then they recognize that they all have families and kids like us. Then, remind them you want them to go home.

“That’s how I learned to engage,” Sather adds. “Let’s not do things in a hurry. Let’s do things safely.”

Safety perspectives

John Sather joined Whitaker Construction Co. in 2014. Photo: P&Q Staff

John Sather joined Whitaker Construction Co. in 2014. Photo: P&Q Staff

In Sather’s view, even the most veteran of employees may need two or three days to get back into work mode after significant time away from the job. Bobby Carroll, president of Gulf Atlantic Industrial Equipment, agrees that employees need time to get reacclimated.

So, take the necessary time to stress areas of importance before settling in for the production season.

“My No. 1 thing would be to retrain people on safety and on the operation of equipment,” Carroll says. “A lot of people forget things they need to remember with safety and how equipment operates.”

Brand-new employees may also be introduced to teams as part of a spring start-up. Make sure these team members are ready for the rigors of the job.

Photo: Matthew Fasoli


“We’ve come off quite a difficult year in 2020, and there is a lot of pressure on producers to get up and running quickly in order to meet demands for what we all hope to be a positive 2021,” says Matthew Fasoli, general manager of Luff Industries. “It’s pertinent to take your time and make sure you do all of your due diligence.”

For Mellott Company’s Jim Levy, the operational start-up process following any break includes a thorough safety meeting.

“As far as starting up the year, we’ll get the entire crew together, run down the issues we had the previous year, discuss our goals for this year and make sure the entire team is on the same page – working together to achieve those goals,” says Levy, who serves Mellott Company as vice president and general manager of crushing and service operations.

As Levy describes, a manager’s job is to set expectations. Managers, however, sometimes fail to communicate expectations in an effective way.

With aggregate operations, a failure to effectively communicate as part of a spring start-up can prove deadly.

“Make a really strong effort to communicate with your entire team, no matter what it is,” Levy says. “Identify any safety hazards.”

And, of course, make sure equipment is in good working order.

“Safety checks are an integral part of the commission,” says Tomaso Veneroso, president and CEO of AMCAST. “Safety should be addressed at the start of every day before you start plants. It’s not something that can be taken lightly. It’s done every minute of every day on every site.”

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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