The room was quiet until, one by one, they stood to introduce themselves.
“I started about six weeks ago,” said one employee.
“I’ve been in the industry for about 25 years,” said another.
“I’ve been with Martin Marietta for 49 years,” said Fort Dodge Mine Plant Manager Nick Reynolds to dropped jaws, audible gasps and applause.
When everyone had spoken, Indiana District HR/Safety Manager Jeff McIntosh announced that the room in which they stood, a Hilton conference room outside of St. Louis, held more than 840 combined years of underground mining experience.
“There is no ‘everyday curriculum’ for our workplace,” said McIntosh, who along with other members of the Underground Mine Safety Committee, organized this year’s Underground Mine Conference. “The experience gained in those 843 years comes with mistakes and successes, all of which will be passed along to the next generation to help make our mines safer and more efficient.”
Michael Hunt, vice president of safety and health, said the event, held for the second time since 2014, aimed to serve as a venue for representatives from each of the Company’s 14 mines to share their experiences and enhance their technical knowledge.
“We’re one of the largest underground stone producers in the United States and heavily regulated by the Mine Safety and Health Administration,” Hunt said. “It’s wise that we get this group together to network, talk about the key issues and share the practices they believe will improve the operations.”
Held in Collinsville, Illinois, over two days in late February, the conference focused on topics germane to the underground side of the industry. Company employees, an attorney who works closely with Martin Marietta and MSHA officials spoke to the group, discussing such aspects of the business as assessing roof and rib conditions, ventilation, MSHA regulatory compliance, industrial hygiene, emergency preparedness and mine communication.
Hunt said an underlying goal of the conference was to ensure that all employees view safety as a shared responsibility.
“We’ve done a great job of creating a climate where zero incidents is realistic, but there’s still work to do and there’s still a need to avoid complacency as we continue our safety journey,” he said. “Bringing together this talented group of people is one way to keep our commitment to safety highly visible and allow for a sharing of practices that can be taken home and discussed with other employees.”
Allen Hoover, a foreman at Burning Springs Mine in West Virginia, said he found the conference informative.
“Any time you can interact with people who have been in the industry for so long, it’s a learning experience,” he said. “At Burning Springs, we’ve already put into action some of the things we learned. Those few days were truly valuable.”
The conference was held with support from Chairman, President and CEO Ward Nye; Senior Vice President, Human Resources Don McCunniff; John Harman, president of the Mideast and Magnesia Specialties divisions; and Midwest Division President Bill Gahan. Four vice president-general managers attended the event.
Hunt, who along with McIntosh is a member of the Underground Mine Safety Committee, credited fellow committee members Nebraska Area Production Manager Ryan Bender, Des Moines District Vice President-General Manager Todd Clock, Ohio District Production Manager Al Dudzik and Kansas City District Manager of Underground Services Steve Johnson for their efforts to organize the conference. Safety administrators Dawn Andrews and Lorrie Long also played a vital role in planning the event, Hunt said.