How Lehigh Hanson is making its operations safer

By |  August 11, 2017

Lehigh Hanson advanced its safety and health initiatives over the last few years. As a result, the company has experienced a 20 percent reduction in injury rates across its more than 550 company sites.

Some of the company’s safety advancements are a tribute to the leadership of Randy Mucha, former corporate director of health and safety at Lehigh Hanson. The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association selected Mucha as its James M. Christie Safety & Health Professional of the Year for 2017 because of his work at Lehigh Hanson.

“I was honored to receive the award,” Mucha says. “To be selected and nominated for this by peers in the industry is a real honor. When you get something like this, it shows that someone outside your company saw what you did.”

Mucha retired from his position last December, and Lehigh Hanson hired Patrick James to serve in a similar capacity as vice president of environment, safety and health.

Prior to this position, James worked at Rio Tinto in health, safety and environmental functions. James plans to continue to build on the initiatives Mucha implemented at the company, along with additional program components.

Pit & Quarry recently connected with both James and Mucha to discuss how Lehigh Hanson’s safety culture has evolved in recent years.

Pit & Quarry: Looking back on your career, Randy, what motivated you to remain in a safety and health position in the aggregate industry?

Mucha

Mucha: I served in the aggregate industry as a safety and health professional for 30 years and sometimes wondered why I stayed in the business for so long. I guess the only answer is that my job was never done. I always had 10 more things to do at the end of each day, and that excited me.

Pit & Quarry: What were some specific steps Lehigh Hanson took to achieve that 20 percent reduction in injury rates across its sites?

Mucha: After HeidelbergCement acquired Lehigh Hanson and the Lehigh Cement and Hanson businesses were integrated in North America, we looked at health and safety not just as a program, but also as part of the business.

We didn’t want to be looked at as a separate department or initiative; we wanted to be part of operations. We surveyed our operations with the help of Behavioral Science Technology in 2011 and looked at different qualities of where we stood in health and safety. Out of all the topics we rated, health and safety rated high. I attribute that to our strong training.

But we suffered with regard to trust, according to the survey. I believe that was a result of three companies coming together in the acquisition and the business climate coming out of the Great Recession. There were challenges, but if you build up the whole company’s culture from the top down, your safety and health records will improve. This is especially true if you build trust.

Pit & Quarry: Were there any other initiatives that helped to boost the company’s safety records over the past decade?

Mucha: We began to celebrate HeidelbergCement Worldwide Safety Week once a year starting in 2010. We always hold this in September, as it’s a big push for us to end the year off on the right foot. We start our year with an annual training event and end the year with this safety initiative.

I would ask people to talk about a few specific safety things and then sites would have more specific discussions. Mondays we have a message from Jon Morrish, our president and CEO, and we make sure all employees hear that. Fridays we have a presentation on something family-related that employees can take home with them regarding safety.

Pit & Quarry: Patrick, what are some of your plans to enhance safety standards at Lehigh Hanson?

James

James: Randy provided a strong direction for the safety efforts at Lehigh Hanson. He built a strong platform for us to build on. In the future, we plan to continue with many of those initiatives, and we’ll review the value of implementing standardized processes and where they provide value and alignment.

Pit & Quarry: What advice can you both share on how to boost safety and health at operations?

James: One key to ensure zero harm and provide a safe workplace is to ensure worker engagement, [offer a] visible, felt leadership and mitigate risk. These areas are critical for success.

From the worker engagement standpoint, we need to have workers involved in our programs, discussions and strategic planning. Our employees are a key resource, and we need to listen to what they have to say and keep them involved. Also, visible, felt leadership means leaders in the field will lead by example through their values on safety.

Mucha: One mistake I see the industry make is that sometimes we overthink the abilities of our workers at our plants. I think [upper management] sometimes believes folks can do more things than they actually understand how to do. And this comes back to learning about the culture you have at your company.

So before you try to improve your culture, find out what your culture is by getting down to the trenches and meeting with the laborers. Too often, we say, “We know what’s best for our workers,” but we really should get their feedback.

What are they thinking about? They’re folks who are out in the field all the time, so we ought to use their experiences and input to improve safety.

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