P&Q Profile: US Aggregates’ Mark Scott

By |  November 18, 2020
Mark Scott and the US Aggregates Crawfordsville (Indiana) crew. Photo: US Aggregates

Mark Scott, second from right, pictured with the US Aggregates Crawfordsville (Indiana) crew. Photo: US Aggregates

What other fundamental industry changes did you pick up on?

Smart technology is available now and changed how jobs are done. My Thorntown Plant is basically done by a computer. A plant operator has a PLC and he’s running different things. He can make adjustments on the fly. That isn’t like I [originally] understood them. We turned things on and turned things off – that was it.

I came up in sand and gravel in a world dominated by draglines. I dealt with draglines most of my career. But here in the last few years, we put in a clamshell dredge because we have some deep reserves. We’re mining at Thorntown at over 130 ft. deep. I never thought we’d be able to get [below] 50 ft.

How about safety? That’s undergone some major change in the last 40 to 50 years. How did your experience with safety change?

The biggest change for US Aggregates, at least, is safety. When I arrived in 1979, safety was low on the priority list. It was production, production, production. MSHA (the Mine Safety & Health Administration) was seen as an enemy and a nuisance that we had to work around. But that has totally changed at US Aggregates.

Safety has become No. 1. We look at MHSA as a partner and somebody to keep our workforce safe rather than as an adversary. That change in safety came from the top down. [US Aggregates president John Schmidt] brought that culture in when he came from Lafarge. He hung his hat on that, and there’s been a buy-in. I didn’t think when we started that the rank-and-file guys would buy into it, but they’ve taken ownership of it.

The attitudes about safety and production are equal. You have to produce to make money for the company, but one bad accident can wipe out a year’s production.

We have annual refresher training, but a large percent of our program is run by guys at the plant. We have MSHA come in, of course, but we have different plant managers present. We try to get down to making it practical, taking the environment these guys are in every day and helping them to understand when they’re at risk in that environment. We show them ways they can mitigate risk.

Our president says: ‘You’re in the business of mitigating risk.’ How can you do that, and how can we do it better? A lot of our focus was to do it better.

One of the things I’m most proud of: In 41 years, I never had anybody have a serious accident in the plants that I’ve been a part of. You can have the greatest operation in the world and do great for the community, but one really bad accident and that’s what people remember. That’s why people say mining is not safe, although I know that not to be true.

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About the Author:

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

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