P&Q University Lesson 13: Safety & the Environment

By |  November 7, 2015
Photo by Kevin Yanik

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Building an Environmental Management System (EMS) might sound like an overwhelming task for a smaller organization, but it doesn’t have to be. Taken in steps it’s a job that small- and medium-sized organizations can tackle. Let’s take you through the task’s basic steps:

■ Plan: Identifying environmental aspects and establishing goals
■ Do: Training and operational controls
■ Check: Monitoring and corrective action
■ Act: Progress reviews and making needed changes to the EMS


Time and resources are limited in any organization, and it’s important to use resources wisely. The information below illustrates 10 steps in the EMS planning process. Taking the time to figure out what needs to be done, how to do it, and who must be involved will pay big dividends down the road.

Step 1. Define organization’s goals for EMS. The first step in EMS planning is to decide why you are pursuing development of an EMS. Are you trying to improve your environmental performance? For example, are you trying to comply with regulations or to prevent pollution? Write your goals down and refer to them frequently as you move forward.

As you design and implement the EMS, ask how this task will help you to achieve your goals? This is a good time to define the project’s scope. Is there one location or multiple locations? If more than one, should we pilot the EMS at one location and implement it at other locations later?

Step 2. Secure top management commitment. One of the most critical steps in the planning process is gaining top management’s commitment.

Management must first understand the benefits and what it will take to put an EMS in place. To develop this understanding, explain the strengths and limitations of your current approach and how those limitations can affect the organization’s financial and environmental performance.

Management also has a role in ensuring that the goals for the EMS are clear and consistent with other organizational goals. Management’s commitment should be communicated across the organization.

Step 3. Select an EMS champion. Not all small- or medium-sized organizations have the luxury of choosing among multiple candidates, but your choice of project champion is critical. The champion should have the necessary authority, an understanding of the organization, and project management skills. The champion should be a “systems thinker” (ISO 9000 or ISO 14001 experience can be a plus, but is not necessary), should have the time to commit to the EMS-building process and must have top management’s support.

Step 4. Build an implementation team. A team with representatives from key management functions (such as engineering, finance, human resources, production and/or service) can identify and assess issues, opportunities and existing processes. Include contractors, suppliers or other external parties as part of the project team, where appropriate. The team will need to meet regularly, especially in the early stages of the project. A cross-functional team can help to ensure that procedures are practical and effective and can build commitment to and “ownership” of the EMS.

Step 5. Hold kickoff meeting. Once the team has been selected, hold a kickoff meeting to discuss the organization’s objectives in implementing an EMS, the initial steps that need to be taken, and the roles of team members. If possible, get top management to describe its commitment to the EMS at this meeting. The kickoff meeting is also a good opportunity to provide some EMS training for team members. Follow up the meeting with a communication to all employees.

Step 6. Conduct preliminary review. The next step is for the team to conduct a preliminary review of your current compliance and other environmental programs and systems, and to compare these against the criteria for your EMS. Evaluate your organization’s structure, procedures, policies, environmental impacts, training programs and other factors.

Step 7. Prepare budget and schedule. Based on the results of the preliminary review, prepare a project plan and budget. The plan should describe in detail what key actions are needed, who will be responsible, what resources are needed, and when the work will be completed. Keep the plan flexible, but set some stretch goals. Think about how you will maintain project focus and momentum over time. Look for potential “early successes” that can help to build momentum and reinforce the benefits of the EMS.

Step 8. Secure resources, assistance. The plan and budget should be reviewed and approved by top management. In some cases, outside funding or other types of assistance may be necessary.

Step 9. Involve employees. Ownership will be greatly enhanced by meaningful employee involvement in the development process. Employees are a great source of knowledge on environmental, health and safety issues, as well as the effectiveness of current processes and procedures. They can help the project team in drafting procedures.

Step 10. Monitor and communicate progress. As you build the EMS, regularly monitor progress in relation to your goals and project plan and communicate that progress throughout the organization. Communicate accomplishments and describe what happens next. Build on small successes. Keep top management informed and engaged.


This stage describes a logical sequence for planning and implementing EMS elements and explains how this sequence is important in building an effective program.

A few hints to keep in mind as you go:
■ You may already have some EMS elements in place, as indicated by the review that you performed earlier.
■ Make sure to build links between elements. The effectiveness of your EMS depends as much on the strength of its links as it does on the strength of the individual elements.
■ For many EMS elements, you will need to design and implement a process. In these cases, you should consider documenting the process in the form of a procedure.

Step 1. Identify legal and other requirements. A first step in the building process is to understand legal and other requirements that apply to your products, activities and services. It is important to understand compliance obligations and how these obligations affect the overall design. For example, you might have an operation that’s covered by an air quality permit or results in the generation of regulated wastes. Your program should ensure that legal requirements are addressed.

Step 2. Identify environmental aspects and related products, operations and activities. Once you understand legal requirements, you should assess how your organization interacts with the environment. Identify environmental aspects and impacts and determine which are significant. Some environmental aspects may be regulated, while others may not be.

For example, if you identify the generation of a particular air emission as a significant environmental aspect, it would help to know which operations generate such air emissions. It might also help to know whether these air emissions are monitored or measured in some manner.

Step 3. Define views of interested parties. Gather information on the views of your stakeholders, or interested parties. Stakeholders may include neighbors, interest groups, customers and others. Their views might show how your organization affects the environment, how well you are meeting environmental obligations, and whether your organization is a good neighbor, among other things. Because you have already assessed the legal and environmental aspects, you should be in a good position to have a meaningful dialogue with these stakeholders.

Step 4. Prepare environmental policy. At this point, you should have a sound basis for developing – or amending – an environmental policy. Using the information developed in the previous three steps, your organization can prepare a policy that addresses the key issues. You should understand how well you are currently managing key issues.

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Step 5. Define key roles and responsibilities. Once the environmental policy has been written, you can begin to define key roles and responsibilities. At this stage, focus on “higher-level” responsibilities, such as the roles and responsibilities of senior management, key functional leaders and environmental staff (if one exists). Once the key roles and responsibilities have been defined, gather the input of these individuals to establish objectives and targets. Responsibilities for other jobs or functions will be identified later.

Step 6. Establish objectives and targets. Objectives should be consistent with your environmental policy, pertinent legal requirements, environmental aspects and impacts, and the views of interested parties. This information will help you to determine the relevant functions within the organization for achieving objectives and targets. For example, if you set an objective to reduce hazardous waste generation by 10 percent this year, you should know which parts of the organization can achieve this objective.

Step 7. Develop environmental management programs and identify operational controls, monitoring and measurement needs. This brings us to one of the most challenging – and potentially most valuable – steps. You are ready to tackle several EMS elements simultaneously. You should have a head start on this step because you identified operations and activities related to the significant environmental aspects, as well as existing control and monitoring processes, several steps ago.

One reason for combining these steps is that they can often overlap significantly. For example, your environmental management program for maintaining compliance with regulations could consist of a number of existing operational controls and monitoring activities. Achieving an objective might require a feasibility study or the implementation of certain “new” operational controls.

Compile a list of your operational control and monitoring needs. As you develop your environmental management program, ask yourself the following questions:
■ How do we control this operation or activity now?
■ Are these controls adequate to meet our objectives and to ensure compliance?
■ If additional controls are needed, what types of controls make sense?
■ What type of monitoring/measurement is needed to track our progress and to ensure that operational controls are implemented as designed?

This process is usually iterative. You might need to revisit your management programs, operational controls and monitoring processes over time to ensure they are consistent and up to date.

Step 8. Establish corrective action, document control and records management processes. By this point, your EMS will begin to generate some documents (procedures and forms) and records (demonstrating that processes are being carried out). You will need an effective way to manage these records. Establish procedures for corrective/preventive action, document control and records management. These three processes are essentially system maintenance functions. You will need a process to correct problems when they occur and to manage records, such as monitoring activities.

Step 9. Establish operational controls and monitoring processes. Refer to the list of operational control and monitoring needs from Step 7. Use a template for the development of work instructions or standard operating procedures. Employees who work in relevant operations or activities can provide support here.

Step 10. Define job-specific roles and responsibilities. Roles and responsibilities should address the specific operational controls and monitoring processes discussed above. You might want to document these in a responsibility matrix or some other form that is easily communicated to employees.

Step 11. Plan and conduct initial employee awareness. Initial employee awareness training should be conducted to promote understanding of the organization’s EMS efforts and the progress made to date. As a first step, train employees on the environmental policy and other elements of the EMS. Discuss the environmental impacts of their activities, any new or modified procedures, the organization’s objectives and targets, as well as their EMS responsibilities. If you have contractors or others who are not employees of your organization at your site, consider whether these individuals should be included in these EMS awareness sessions.

Step 12. Establish other system-level procedures. Some system-level procedures (such as the procedures for identification of environmental aspects) were developed at earlier stages of the process. At this point, you can establish any other procedures required for the EMS.

These additional system-level procedures might include:
■ Employee training and awareness.
■ Internal and external communication.
■ Emergency preparedness and response.
■ EMS auditing.
■ Management review.

Step 13. Prepare EMS documentation (manual). Once you have established roles and responsibilities and defined all of your system-level procedures, preparing the EMS manual should be a relatively simple matter. The manual should summarize the results of your efforts. It should describe the processes developed and define the roles and responsibilities, as well as other EMS elements. It is important to describe the links among system elements and provide direction to other system documents. Keep the manual simple – there is no need to provide great detail on any particular system process.

Step 14. Plan and conduct specific employee training. Once the procedures and other system documentation have been prepared, you are ready to conduct specific employee EMS training. As a first step, identify specific training needs.

Employee training should be designed to ensure understanding of:
■ Key system processes.
■ Operational controls related to their specific jobs.
■ Any monitoring or measurement for which they are responsible.


EMS should be built on the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” model so that environmental matters are systematically identified, controlled, and monitored. Using this approach will help to ensure that performance improves over time and that your goals for implementing an EMS in the first place are met. By this time, sufficient processes should be in place to begin to check your EMS. One approach is as follows:

Conduct internal audits. Once internal auditors have been selected and trained, you should design and initiate the internal auditing process. Many organizations find that it is easier to start with smaller, more frequent audits than to audit the entire EMS at once. These early audits can serve as a learning tool. Audit records should be managed in accordance with the records management process. Once the audit results are known, use the corrective and preventive action process to address any problems.


Identify problems and act to resolve them. One approach is as follows:

Conduct management reviews. Use the results of your internal audits (along with other information) to conduct management reviews. Management should consider the need for any changes and assign any necessary changes. Such assignments should be consistent with previously established roles and responsibilities.

After acting on the results of management review, tasks performed in the “Plan” stage should be revisited, thus continuing the “full circle” process.


Aggregate and construction companies who want to thrive in coming years need to learn as much as they can about how to define “sustainable construction” and how the term “green” is related to sustainability. A quickly building trend across all types of construction is to evaluate aggregate producers and construction companies based on their sustainable and environmentally beneficial practices. Results of the evaluation can mean the difference between winning and losing a contract bid.

Companies in all types of construction are winning or losing contracts based on whether or not they can document their sustainable practices and if they’re part of an industry or national “green” program. The movement is global and gains more momentum every day.

John Best, general manager of the aggregate division for McLanahan Corp. in Hollidaysburg, Pa., says the terms “sustainability” and “green” have significantly different meanings but are generally intertwined.

“The term ‘green’ seems more appropriate when discussing environmental issues,” Best says. “Sustainability is all about cost-effectiveness. However, being green is a significant element of sustainability and longevity of the industry and resource. Construction businesses are finding a growing demand for verification that their resources are being utilized to the best effect. That expectation encompasses construction materials, employees and recruitment practices.”

To begin to illustrate his point, Best notes that a company’s equipment evaluations are key to both sustainability and green practices. Equipment that is sufficient may not always be the most cost-effective or beneficial to the environment.

“Equipment may be undersized or not accomplishing what operators expect it will,” Best says. “A quicker, cheaper solution to a task isn’t necessarily the most cost-effective or environmentally beneficial. More sophisticated equipment could result in reduced labor, improved product quality and added value to a business. On the other hand, a simple change to a work process could mean significant savings in time and energy.”

“The United Parcel Service recently evaluated their trucks and employee routes,” Best continues. “One of the company’s officers determined that not making left-hand turns along the route would save several different kinds of resources. That’s the kind of evaluation construction companies should complete. Not just touching the surface, but encompassing every aspect of the business.”

Brian Barlow, president and CEO of Barlow Strategic Sales and Marketing in Ft. Wayne, Ind., says companies employing sustainable and environmentally conscious practices are seen as having added value, which greatly impacts bid awards. Companies seeking contractors look favorably on those who have taken time to develop sustainable and environmentally responsible practices.


Many large construction companies have developed a company-wide sustainable program that’s organized and directed by employees whose sole purpose is to fine tune and track company activities.

“When a company says it’s using sustainable and green practices, there has to be documentation of those claims,” Barlow says. “A nonprofit Canadian company, SERA (Socially Environmentally Responsible Aggregate), began offering a point system in 2011 that aggregate companies in Ontario could use to obtain certification in regard to sustainability. The standardization of that certification makes it easy for developers to assess a contractor’s sustainable practices rather than complete a lengthy and costly evaluation process,” Barlow says.

“About 14 years ago, the Green Building Council implemented a point system that’s now used in 90 countries to certify the quality of energy efficient and environmentally friendly buildings. What’s been done with green building is what we’re now seeing in aggregate construction. Companies can use a sustainability point system for every aspect of their business.”

Photo by Zach Mentz

Photo by Zach Mentz

The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association provides sustainability information on its website at www.nssga.org/sustainability to address the definition of sustainability in the industry, as well as provide other supportive materials.

The National Ready Mix Concrete Association uses Green-Star to certify ready-mix plants and train certifiers. Benefits of the program include favored status, improved profits, increased efficiency, community goodwill and reduction of liability and risk.

Barlow notes that an Indiana concrete business recently won a six- to eight-month project because it had completed the Green-Star certification. The company had a somewhat longer haul, but was perceived as more efficient and environmentally aware because of its certification.

“We’re beginning to see this kind of thing more and more in every industry,” Barlow says.


Greenroads is a sustainability rating system for roadway design and construction. It is applicable to all roadway projects, including new, reconstruction and rehabilitation (even overlays), and bridges. The rating system can be used for any type of road construction project.

Greenroads began in the University of Washington’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2007. Originally, it was Martina Soderlund’s master’s thesis in the construction and transportation area of the department. Much credit has been given to Soderlund and her original ideas, which are still quite evident in today’s version of the rating system.

Steve Muench, a University of Washington assistant professor at the time, served as Soderlund’s adviser and carries forward the effort as the rating system continues to evolve and mature. Jeralee Anderson, a Ph.D. student, is now the principal researcher involved. Other help on specific credits or ideas has come from a number of people at the university, including graduate students, undergraduate students, professors and staff.

Greenroads is a collection of sustainability best practices, called “credits,” that relates to roadway design and construction. Achieving these credits can earn points toward a total score for the project, and, in general, this Greenroads score can be used as an indicator of sustainability for the roadway. Four different certification levels are available depending upon total score on a voluntary basis.

Michelle Keil, sustainable development engagement manager at Caterpillar Inc., says there is an increasing move to focus on the full lifecycle impact of every type of construction project.

“Whether it’s mining, road building or any other type of construction, the economic sector is definitely moving toward understanding the economic, environmental and social impacts of that project,” Keil says. “Sustainability doesn’t just mean efficiency of the construction company. It also encompasses impacts such as dust, noise and traffic on a community. All those things will be considered upstream when developers review bid submissions.”


Part of the process of developing a sustainability program involves identifying where the company fits in the project “value chain.” Keil notes that learning from other like companies and how they have addressed sustainability issues can be helpful to companies at all levels. Reviewing the full cycle of the project and identifying what aspects of a project impact a company and which aspects the company can impact also helps in organizing a sustainability plan.

“A quarry or aggregate company may not have much to do with a decision to install motion control sensors in a building for energy efficiency,” Keil says. Where they can have an impact on that segment of a project is in producing the materials used for construction as efficiently and cleanly as possible with the least possible environmental impact.”

Retaining talent is currently seen as a highly valuable sustainable practice. Companies want to ensure employees have necessary skills to complete a quality product. They also want to make the most of investments of time and money in developing employees.

“People want to work for companies with good reputations, companies known for doing good things,” Keil says. “Having a reputation as a good company to work for is more likely to appeal to potential employees, customers or community members who see that as a concern. Studies have shown that skilled equipment operators work much more efficiently and safely than unskilled workers. Learning the fine points of operating a machine can result in 20 to 30 percent better work quality, lowered fuel costs and reduced labor. That all affects the company’s bottom line.”

Managing impact on the community where the construction company operates and where a construction project is completed is also important. Efficient management of dust, noise and traffic is perceived as an important aspect of environmental responsibility.

“Larger companies, especially global players in the construction industry, are going to approach sustainability in a pretty sophisticated manner,“ Keil says. “They’re going to consider the impact of overall sustainability on their reputation in the industry and the value it adds to their business. In those companies, you’ll see a significant focus on efficiency and safety in the production process.

“Because they are able to dedicate staff to development of a sustainability program, larger companies are likely to implement those kinds of activities in a fairly short time,” Keil continues. “Smaller companies that don’t have the wherewithal to add that kind of staff will probably take a longer period to organize their program.”

Smaller companies may also struggle with “connecting the dots” in regard to how to add value to their business with sustainable practices. Tying sustainable practices they do implement to marketing efforts can expedite recognition for their efforts from the industry, their community and potential consumers.

“Some small companies may perceive the sustainability trend as a threat to their business,” Keil says. “They may struggle with developing a strategic focus for identifying and utilizing sustainable practices. It’s important for companies at that level to recognize that they may miss opportunities for obtaining bids and for improving their production if they choose not to explore the potential positive impacts of sustainable practices.”

Keil adds that company owners may miss a vision for the opportunity in production efficiency and added value when they review their options for implementing sustainable and environmentally responsible practices.

“Sustainability isn’t just about greenhouse gases,” Keil says. “We’re way beyond that.”


Why do injuries and fatalities occur in the workplace? Or, perhaps a better question would be, why do the same injuries and fatalities continue to occur?

When you analyze this closely, you realize that unsafe acts are typically the underlying cause to all injuries and fatalities that occur in the workplace. But if the same injuries continue to occur, the aggregates industry should be able to prevent them simply by not repeating the same mistakes.

“Unsafe acts are a large contributor to unsafe conditions,” says Sam Scribe, owner of Catamount Consulting Pennsylvania. “We have the ability to mitigate risk, but we will not remove it completely. The primary problem is people are risk takers.

“We learned this as soon as we started riding bicycles. We learn the safe procedures, get them down pat and ride with no hands. Then, we turn 16 and transition from pedal bikes to automobiles. We are still risk takers, but in less forgiving conditions. Our vehicles can be maintained in great condition, but then equipment failure can occur.”

The challenge to managing unsafe acts is people, Scribe adds. People are all different, and rules can only serve as a baseline. Instilling consistency in behavior and culture in an organization where more items are viewed as unacceptable is the key to managing unsafe acts.


Regulatory agencies, such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), work to prevent unsafe conditions and keep companies on a baseline with monetary consequences. But these organizations have minimal control over unsafe acts.

Simply understanding the rules and assuring that proper workplace examinations are conducted regularly can achieve compliance with MSHA and OSHA. This is not to say compliance with MSHA and OSHA doesn’t lead to safer work environments. The point is that producers can be in compliance with the rules. But if they fail to assure proper training among their employees to understand unsafe acts, then failure to follow proper procedure is unacceptable.

Photo by Zach Mentz

Photo by Zach Mentz

Citations and injuries are expensive consequences to a producer’s bottom line. Proper education among owners, supervisors and employees to assure understanding of the company’s expectations is key to avoiding both.

“Driving is one of the most dangerous things most of us do daily,” says Ron Witt, a Catamount Consulting trainer. “It’s a fact. Yet those of us who drive climb into our vehicles without hesitation. In fact, we may even bring a coffee with us, tune our radio, eat breakfast or text someone.

“Not all of us do all of these things, but if you do and the results of these activities are good, over time we tend to start thinking of the activity as safe,” Witt continues. “If you think about it, why do we still find workers killed in confined spaces, machinery entanglements or falls from elevations? The absence of injuries during risky activities makes most of us think that activity is something we can handle. The more you handle it, the safer it becomes. At least that’s our perception.”

This is not to say employees can’t become very good at very risky activities, Witt adds.

“We can,” he says. “But most of those who do don’t think of what they are doing as safe. We, the average worker tend to believe that the dangerous things we used to do are now safe because we somehow have mastered them. Bad thinking on our part.”

This is true, Witt says, because risk is real.

“There is nothing safe about the work we are asked to do every day,” he says. “In fact, in most cases, someone died recently doing this work. That’s how dangerous [and] risky our work really is.

“Now, this is not to say we are all doomed. Ask yourself, have the results we experience been because we have used the tested and proven technology available to us, [including] lockout/tag-out, monitors and properly done inspections? Do we train ourselves or our workers for the specific tasks we need to do? Do we evaluate our dangerous work before we send ourselves out there?”


The ability to analyze risks effectively is key for employees to keep themselves and others safe. People have a tendency to become complacent and overlook risky situations over time. This is common in the aggregates industry, where an it-won’t-happen-to-me mentality often prevails.

Risk analysis isn’t a tool today’s generation uses as effectively as previous generations did. Young people have different levels of exposure to risk than previous generations. In previous generations, kids learned from doing.

Today, it can be argued that kids aren’t given the same opportunities to learn from experience. This lack of experience sends people into the workforce who aren’t able to adequately assess the risk in situations. And it’s a mistake to teach people no risk exists.

As an example, consider backup cameras on vehicles. Giving operators false security by suggesting backup cameras will prevent them from backing into or over an object can lead them to inadequately assess a situation.

This is when complacency sets in and incidents occur. People have to realize the risk involved when backing up a vehicle with blind spots and take the necessary precautions to conduct the task safely.

Risk analysis in industry is generally defined as Job Safety Analysis (JSA). JSA is the process of looking at an assigned task, determining what could go wrong and making the necessary adjustments to decrease risk prior to starting the task.

Let’s look at this analogy through a common task, incurring risks such as rigging. If the task is to rig a piece of equipment from the ground to the roof of a building, the number one risk analyzed in a JSA would be the equipment falling due to equipment failure.

A simple solution to the analyzed risk would be to assure no personnel are permitted under the equipment being lifted through the use of perimeter barriers and tag lines.

Accidents by definition are unplanned events – unexpected releases of stored energy generally resulting in harm, damage or loss. Through proper risk analysis, planning and training, accidents should never occur on a jobsite.

Proper planning and communications through the chain of command are vital to the functionality of a company. A team is needed to develop a culture. To develop a team, you have to develop good communication.

Fatigue management

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Operator fatigue creates a host of potential problems for an aggregates operation. From safety concerns to lost production, the effects can be damaging. So it’s wise for producers to have a fatigue-management system in place. Caterpillar Global Mining, for example, announced an alliance agreement with Seeing Machines Ltd. to deliver and support operator fatigue monitoring technology through Caterpillar dealers.

Seeing Machines, headquartered in Canberra, Australia, has developed fatigue-monitoring systems using patented, cutting-edge, eye-tracking technology to detect operator fatigue and distraction, and to alert the mine controller and the machine operator.

The alliance with Seeing Machines is a natural progression of Caterpillar Global Mining’s work to mitigate fatigue risks in mining activities. Caterpillar continues to raise awareness and industry understanding of the implications of 24/7 shift work on equipment operator performance, distraction and fatigue through industry training programs such as “Managing a Mining Lifestyle,” and through partnerships with industry organizations and research universities.


One out of five people in the world currently works hours that fall outside the traditional workday. Those who have long hours, work nights or maintain irregular shifts face different challenges than day workers. Shift work affects sleep, alertness, health, and family and social lives.

Human alertness has a daily rhythm – measurably higher during the day and lower during the night. People also tend to get drowsy after lunch. It’s important to be aware of and manage these challenges.

In another collaboration, Caterpillar worked with Circadian Technologies Inc., an international firm that helps companies manage shift work and extended hours, to develop a DVD to help machine operators and their families better cope with the lifestyle required of those in the mining industry.

The video provides practical solutions for easing the adjustment and day-to-day challenges associated with mining lifestyles. The video serves as a powerful tool for improving the physical and psychological well-being of heavy equipment operators – increasing safety, morale and performance.


Fatigue is one of the leading causes of injury at the workplace and at home. Operating mobile equipment while fatigued can be fatal to you and others and is as dangerous as operating while impaired owing to drugs and alcohol. Performing work duties while fatigued can lead to:

■ Getting injured from equipment pinch-points, or being hit by mobile equipment from not paying attention to the work environment.
■ Poor understanding of operating instructions.
■ Erroneous readings of process controls and gauges.
■ Poor response time to emergency incidents and near misses.
■ Short cuts or poor work performance owing to not enough energy to do the job correctly.
■ Inability to handle multiple tasks at the same time.

Listed below are tips and pointers to help ensure you arrive at the workplace alert every day and ready to work.

■ Periodically rotate jobs – keep it fresh. Set up a job rotation schedule if the work is mundane and not stimulating.
■ Limit coffee and artificial stimulants. Ingesting these stimulants throws off the body’s natural ability to stay alert and focused.
■ Eat a balanced diet and drink enough fluids to stay hydrated, ensuring a fair balance of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins.
■ Sleep a minimum of seven hours per day and strive for work/life balance, allowing adequate time to recharge for the next workday.
■ Exercise and stretch your muscles each morning before starting work. This allows for better blood flow, which supplies oxygen.
■ Drink plenty of water, particularly in hot working environments.

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Photo by Kevin Yanik


Safety culture can be thought of as the values, beliefs, perceptions and normal behaviors that are shared by employees. Whether it is intentional or not, every organization has a safety culture. The questions are whether the safety culture is what we want it to be and what can we do to change it.

In a positive safety culture:
■ Communication is open at all levels of the organization and feedback is seen as vital to improving safety processes.
■ Individuals at all levels focus on what can be done to prevent injuries or illnesses.
■ There is a commitment to safety regardless of all other concerns in the business.
■ People and their well-being are valued. The focus is on protecting people, not the bottom line.
■ All personnel, especially senior managers, demonstrate their commitment to safety by following all safety processes and procedures, just as they instruct their employees to do.

In a negative safety culture:
■ Communication is not open at all levels. Employees do not openly communicate with upper management.
■ Safety rules are used to discipline employees.
■ Management may not follow safety rules (for example, not wearing hearing protection or other personal protective equipment, as they are supposed to).
■ Production demands require less focus on safety.
■ Management’s concern is not for the well-being of the employees, but rather for a good safety “record.”


Near misses are leading indicators in the workplace that must be identified and investigated to reduce overall incidents. Near-miss incidents are situations that did not result in personal injury or property damage but had the potential to do so. To get to the root cause of a near-miss incident, they must be treated with the same attention to detail as if the event actually occurred.

■ If near misses are identified and corrected, future incidents may be prevented.
■ Near misses are an inexpensive opportunity to make changes in the workplace before something more severe occurs.
■ For near-miss reporting to be effective, there must be a system in place to collect the data, initiate proper root cause analysis, institute corrective action and follow up to make sure corrective actions were effective.
■ In order to gain employee participation, near-miss reporting must not be punished.


Heat stress (also known as “thermal strain”) is a variety of health-related illnesses caused by excessive exposure to heat on the human body. Heat stress is a combination of heat generated by the human body and heat gained from the environment. In mining, environmental heat stress is caused by hot weather, working in the sun, near underground hot strata, furnaces, kilns or other heat sources.

Heat stress also depends upon the type of clothing worn (especially protective clothing), humidity in the environment, and the miner’s workload. These factors affect miners’ deep body temperature, heart rate, sweating and sweat evaporation rate.

Heat stress increases the risk of accidents and heat-related illnesses or injuries. Miners who take medications that regulate blood pressure, thyroid, or kidney function are especially at risk. Drinking caffeinated beverages increases risk because they act as a diuretic.

Heat-related illnesses include heat collapse (fainting), heat fatigue, heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, a medical emergency that can rapidly lead to death. Each of these conditions can be prevented by appropriate engineering controls, as well as acclimatization (climatic conditioning), frequent rest breaks, adequate water intake (with electrolytes), and responsible supervision.

Photo by Kevin Yanik

Photo by Kevin Yanik


■ Acclimatization – The time period required for a person to adjust to environmental working conditions. When a miner has not worked under heat stress conditions in two weeks or more, heat acclimatization usually takes five to seven days. Employees should work 50 percent of the workload the first day back and gradually work up to 100 percent on the last day. Miners who are not acclimated or are physically unfit are more at risk for heat stress than acclimatized, fit miners.

■ Deep body temperature – A measurement of the body core temperature, which is the temperature of the internal organs of the human body. Normal body core temperature is 98.6 degrees. Various organizations of health scientists (including NIOSH, WHO, and ACGIH) recommend that the deep body temperature, when exposed to prolonged heat and work, should not exceed 100.4 degrees.

■ Dry bulb temperature – The ambient air temperature reading on a dry bulb thermometer. A dry bulb thermometer is an ordinary mercury thermometer and is not dependent on humidity.

■ Electrolyte – Any substance that changes into an ion when dissolved in a solution. Salts essential to the human body are electrolytes and are lost when sweating. Both water and electrolytes must be replaced to avoid or relieve heat stress.

■ Globe temperature – The air temperature inside a hollow metal or thin copper globe that is painted black. The globe temperature is measured by a thermometer inside the center of the globe. The globe temperature measures the effect of direct exposure to radiant heat, such as the sun. In direct sunlight the globe temperature may be as much as 30 degrees higher than the dry bulb temperature.

■ Heat cramps – Painful muscle spasms that occur among those who sweat profusely in heat and drink large quantities of water, but do not adequately replace the body’s salt loss. Drinking large quantities of water tends to dilute the body’s fluids, while the body continues to lose salt. Shortly thereafter, the low salt level in the muscles causes painful cramps. The affected muscles may be part of the arms, legs, or abdomen, but tired muscles (those used in performing the work) are usually the ones most susceptible to cramps. It can occur despite drinking large quantities of liquids, since water, sodas and alcoholic beverages generally lack the needed salts (electrolytes). Lightly salted liquids or sports drinks can relieve or prevent these cramps. Salt tablets irritate the stomach and should not be used.

■ Heat exhaustion – A condition caused by the loss of large amounts of fluid by sweating, sometimes with excessive loss of salt. A miner suffering from heat exhaustion still sweats but experiences extreme weakness or fatigue, nausea, or headache. The victim may vomit or lose consciousness. Skin is clammy and moist, complexion is pale or flushed, and body temperature is normal or only slightly elevated. Resting in a cool place and drinking an ample supply of water or sports drinks will usually lead to recovery.

■ Heat rash – Heat rash is likely to occur in hot, humid environments where sweat is not easily removed from the surface of the skin by evaporation and the skin remains wet most of the time. The sweat ducts become plugged, and a skin rash soon appears. Miners can help prevent this condition by resting in a cool place part of each day and by regularly bathing and drying the skin.

■ Heat stroke – When the body’s temperature regulatory system is overtaxed or fails and the body core temperature rises above 104 degrees. This is a medical emergency and can result in death within minutes if not treated. A heat stroke victim’s skin is hot, usually dry, and red or spotted. The victim may be mentally confused, delirious, or possibly in convulsions or unconscious. First aid efforts include lowering the body temperature by loosening tight clothing, removing the victim to a cool area, and placing the victim in cool water or sponging the body with cool water. Seek medical attention immediately.

■ Wet bulb temperature – The air temperature measured by a thermometer whose mercury bulb or other sensing element is covered with a sleeve or wick soaked in water. As the water evaporates, the wet bulb temperature drops below the dry bulb temperature and the wet bulb temperature approximates the evaporative cooling effect of perspiration on the human body. The wet bulb temperature helps assess heat stress under conditions where radiant heat and air velocity are not important factors. A temperature of 82.4 degrees is the upper limit for moderate physical work; but when the wet bulb temperature increases, physical performance may decrease.

■ Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) Index – A calculated number that indicates the combined effects of air temperature, direct radiant heat source, and the evaporative cooling effect of perspiration in contact with moving air. The WBGT is used for indoor and outdoor exposures with and without solar load.

MSHA has no standards or regulations that specifically address heat stress and that can be cited for enforcement purposes. However, the agency requires mine operators to make sufficient potable (drinkable) water available to miners, and requires operators to provide equipment to protect miners from hazards in the work environment. Also, MSHA requires appropriate hazard training for all miners and that an individual capable of providing first aid be available on all shifts.

Vehicle safety

The aggregates industry is full of tough applications that require durable machines. Unscheduled downtime is not acceptable. Products must maximize uptime and productivity. Maintaining a safe work environment in the quarry and aggregate industry is critical. Inadequate walkways or scaffolding, poor housekeeping, lack of training, and operator fatigue often cause injuries.

1. Wear seat belts. Seat belts are an essential safety feature for quarry and aggregate jobsites. It is important to remember they hold operators in the seat and help contain them inside the rollover protection structure (ROPS) in a collision or tip-over event, when used properly. The seat assembly, which includes the seat belt and mounting hardware, should be inspected regularly as required during the pre-shift walk around and as instructed in the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual. When inspecting seat belt:

■ Check the seat belt mounting hardware for wear or for damage. Replace any mounting hardware that is worn or damaged. Make sure the mounting bolts are tight.
■ Check the buckle for wear or for damage. If the buckle is worn or damaged, replace the seat belt.
■ Inspect the seat belt for webbing that is worn or frayed. Replace the seat belt if the seat belt is worn or frayed.
■ Check the label for date of installation and replace after three years service life.
■ Consult your dealer for the replacement of the seat belt and the mounting hardware.

2. Ensure operator visibility. Lack of adequate visibility can be a serious hazard on quarry sites. Factors such as difficult light conditions, fatigue, dust, dirt, wind, rain, snow, reverse operation or pile height can cause complications seeing other vehicles, people, roadways and other important hazards.

If at any point during the shift visibility is significantly reduced or eliminated, stop the equipment until it improves and contact your supervisor. Poor visibility can lead to injury or death of an individual and severe damage to the jobsite facilities or equipment. Visually scan the jobsite at all times and inform management and other operators of any unsafe visibility areas or conditions. Clean mirrors and windows at the beginning and end of each shift, as well as during breaks, and tell management about any cracked or broken windows or mirrors. Water down the haul roads and blast sites to reduce airborne dirt and dust. Park the machine with clear visibility of adjacent equipment.

3. Always wear personal protective equipment. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is designed to protect employees from workplace hazards that could cause serious injuries or illnesses. Consult your jobsite safety coordinator or supervisor for the required PPE needed for your job.

Common PPE for quarry and aggregate operations includes hard hats, eye protection, high-visibility vests, steel toed safety boots, gloves, hearing protection and task appropriate respiratory protection for which you have been medically cleared and test fitted.

4. Adhere to legally required site-specific training. Knowledge is power. Training makes employees aware of hazards and supports a “safety culture” at the jobsite. Ensure all applicable employees are certified and approved as required by the government regulations to be on the jobsite.

In addition, all employees should complete any required site-specific mine safety courses prior to work beginning. (i.e., fall protection, confined spaces, etc). Consult with your site safety representative if you have any questions.

5. Respect mobile equipment right of way. Traffic flow creates a potential danger area for daily operators and jobsite visitors. All traffic and directional signs must be in good working condition. Ensure all employees and visitors are trained on the proper traffic flow and abide by the rules set forth by the site. For instance, some jobsites have a left-hand traffic pattern, which allows better visibility of the ditch line and is safer in wet conditions. Right of way determines which vehicle moves first when two or more pieces of equipment are in the same area at the same time. Right of way should be pre-determined by the site management and communicated to all individuals using the haul roads.

6. Recognize highwall hazards. Highwall safety is important for any quarry and aggregate employee. Conduct hazard recognition highwall safety training in which employees must identify the following during the examination: cracking, rutting, loose ground, sloughage and large rocks causing obstacles. If material needs to be dumped over a berm, it should be done while maintaining the safety height requirements. Safety berm heights should be a minimum of half the wheel height of the largest piece of equipment working on the site. Communicate any changes that occur throughout the day on the highwall to the following shift.

Loose material should also be scaled prior to performing work. Remember to position shovels and trucks so that the cabs swing away from the highwall when loading.

7. Conduct walk around inspections of your machine. Walk around inspections only take a few minutes and are one of the best ways to prevent mechanical problems and avoid safety hazards. Details are provided in the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual, which should be kept in the cab of the machine. Operators must understand the importance of completing the checks and supervisors must allow time for a thorough evaluation. Look for equipment damage, leaks, cuts, cracks, rubbing, debris and excessive wear. Do not limit the examinations to the start of the day.

Perform a walk around every time you get off the machine and again at the end of a shift. Pass along all relevant information to other operators and ensure new observations are clearly communicated to a supervisor for proper maintenance.

8. Avoid slips and falls. Poor footing conditions may cause slips and falls from equipment. Use extreme caution when maneuvering on or near loose material. Organizing the work area is the best way to avoid slips and falls and make it clear that others are expected to do the same. For secure footing, slip-resistant shoes or boots should be worn.

Consider conditions that often lead to slips such as rain, mud, steep terrain, debris and use three points of contact when mounting and dismounting. Make sure the platform is free of tools, gloves and loose objects. Position your equipment when parking to safely dismount via manufacturer designed mounting and dismounting points.

9. Maintain a safe travel distance between machines. Do not risk safety for production! Operators running equipment on the jobsite should remain a safe traveling distance from other machines. Weather conditions may cause slick roads or poor visibility. Having additional space between machines is recommended to avoid accidents. Any number of variables can cause a person to brake, turn, stop or lose control of a vehicle. Uphill and downhill slopes are also areas of concern. Ensure a safe travel distance (Example: two times – the required stopping distance, a guideline to be determined by each site) is maintained at all times on the haul roads and employees are trained and aware of the site rules. Never follow a machine so close that it puts you outside their visibility zone.

Photo by Zach Mentz

Photo by Zach Mentz

10. Make a commitment to training. Practice makes perfect. New operators should be properly trained before starting work on a jobsite. An operator who is not properly trained is a hazard to everyone on a quarry site. Operators must understand the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual before putting the machine to work.

To create a safe work zone, it is important all employees understand the common communication practices used on the jobsite. Train employees on jobsite communication, such as:
■ Keeping track of others in the work zone and letting them know where you are at all times.
■ Establishing eye contact before entering a work zone.
■ Creating two-way communication before entering a work zone.
■ Informing co-workers when leaving a work zone.

Handheld tool safety

Handheld tool safety practices should be followed to reduce serious and disabling injuries in the workplace. Most accidents occur in the workplace owing to the use of incorrect handheld tools to perform work. Defective handheld tools can cause serious injuries. Handheld tools can be used safely if you follow these guidelines:

■ Always inspect handheld tools prior to use. Make sure to remove any defective tool from service.
■ Select the correct tool for the job. Do not use a tool for anything other than its intended purpose.
■ If you see a co-worker using a hand tool incorrectly, stop them and suggest the correct method.


Contributors to this chapter include the following, in alphabetical order:

Caterpillar Inc.

Scott McKenna
Catamount Consulting

Mine Safety & Health Administration

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Lesson 13 Quiz

1. What are the four main parts of an Environmental Management System (EMS)?

2. What is the implementation stage of an EMS called?

3. What should aggregates producers do once all EMS documentation is in place?

4. What is the difference between “green” and “sustainability”?

5. What is one of the biggest challenges to managing unsafe acts?

6. Why should coffee and artificial stimulants be limited for aggregate producers’ employees?

7. Besides hard hats, eye protection, gloves and steel-toed safety boots, what are three other common personal protective equipment items for quarry and aggregate operations?

8. What’s one of the best ways to prevent mechanical problems and avoid safety hazards?


Click here for the quiz answers.

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