They’re walking the tracks just after sunrise in Texas when Midlothian Cement’s Distribution Leadman Randy Daniel anchors his feet shoulder length apart, grabs hold of the rail switch and gives it a solid pull.
The bar shifts about 45 degrees before he has to push just a little bit harder, but Daniel is a big man and in no time, the task is complete.
“That was pretty good,” said Southeast Division HR/Safety Manager Joe Davis, “but I’ve seen switches like this that are so well lubricated you can literally turn them with one hand.”
The men walk another mile down the track, testing about a half-dozen switches over the next hour. None would draw any attention during an MSHA inspection.
Overall, Davis praises Daniel for the condition of the cement operation’s tracks. Still, he makes note of the minor difficulty with the switch because it’s precisely the type of field condition the Safety Audit Team is looking for.
“We’re out here to be more thorough and more stringent than any MSHA or OSHA inspector would be,” says Michael Hunt, vice president of safety and health. “This team is about helping our operations continue to move to a world-class mentality. MSHA and OSHA standards are just where we’ve set our baseline.”
Led by Hunt, the Audit Team consists of seven safety professionals from across the company. Together, they plan to audit more than a dozen operations before the end of 2017.
“The idea came directly from (Chairman and CEO) Ward Nye, who is constantly challenging us to define what world-class safety looks like at Martin Marietta,” Hunt says. “From there, it moved to the division presidents, who have each shown tremendous support for this team.”
Focusing on operations with a higher number of citations than traditional Martin Marietta locations as well as Magnesia Specialties operations, underground mines, and cement, ready mix and asphalt sites that are held to greater inspection standards, the Audit Team moves through a location, searching for any and all conditions that could potentially create a safety hazard.
While they’re strict and call attention to even the smallest of concerns, the team is also fair and quick to point out aspects of an operation that exceed expectation.
A second element of each audit focuses less on day-to-day safety conditions and more on a site’s overall safety culture.
Employees at each location take a survey designed to measure their opinions on various aspects of the operation, including management, commitment and leadership; policies and procedures; employee involvement and ownership; communication; workplace conditions; and visitor and contractor management.
At the conclusion of the audit, the results of the survey are presented to each team along with detailed notes about what was found during the physical examination of the site. Site leadership is then provided a document with suggestions to make the operation safer and more efficient.
Dirk Cox, plant manager at Midlothian Cement, speaks highly of his operation’s audit, which took place over the course of three days earlier this year.
“I expected a group of professionals to come in here and open our eyes to safety issues that we just weren’t seeing. Mission accomplished,” he says. “They were cooperative and fair. They pointed out both the good and bad and provided us with plenty of opportunities to learn.”
As the Audit Team continues its work this year, it – just like the operations it aims to assist – will continue to evolve and improve. Hunt says he’s looking forward to that process and is keeping his eye on the future.
“This is really about making sure all of our people go home safely at the end of the day,” he says. “As we move forward with this program, I’m hopeful that we’ll eventually have more than one team performing audits throughout the year with each further championing our safety message.”