They take to the streets at 2 a.m., costumed bodies moving synchronously to the rhythm of goatskin drums, cowbells and whistles. The party rages through sunrise and well into the late morning. Near its conclusion, those with the most passion in their dance and the most flair in their dress are honored.
Exactly why they do it is the subject of much debate, but what is clear is that the Junkanoo Parade, an event that occurs multiple times throughout the year, has evolved into a staple of Bahamian life that helps define a proud and fun-loving people.
As Bradley Woodside will tell you, however, it’s just one element of the vibrant Bahamian culture and not nearly the most important.
“Grand Bahama is a small island, so we all know each other here,” he says. “(Southeast Division President) Joe Reilly feels it when he comes. (Production Manager) Ken Caldwell and (HR/Safety Manager) Tim Hurst feel it when they come. It’s a sense of family and a sense of well-being and it contributes greatly to our safety record.”
In September, the limestone quarry surpassed 1 million work hours without a lost-time incident. On Jan. 14, the team, along with Reilly, Caldwell, Hurst (seen at left) and other district and division leaders, celebrated the achievement with a luncheon.
Woodside, mobile shop supervisor at Bahama Rock, says the event never would have occurred had the team not evolved among a people who place so much focus on family and community.
“We’re always looking out for one another because there is no forgiveness in the shop. One little slip could mean your life,” he says. “When you’re as close as we all are, it’s easier to stop someone without fear of making them angry. That makes things safer.”
Chris Culmer, the operation’s assistant plant manager, has worked at the site for 27 years. He says the team there has always been safety conscious, but that a true safety culture didn’t take hold until after Martin Marietta took ownership of the quarry in 1995.
“When people first heard that accidents were preventable, they could not accept it. To them, this was a false statement,” Culmer says. “But from that time and until now, we’ve worked at it and we’ve preached it to everyone. Today, our people truly believe that accidents are preventable and they demonstrate it every day.”
Part of the Southeast Division’s Offshore District, Bahama Rock is one of two Company operations outside of the United States, where federal agencies like MSHA have no jurisdiction. Still, the site’s team is held to the same standards and practices to which all other Company locations are held, a practice that Maintenance Manager Andrew Davenport says means much.
“We do it because we’re part of Martin Marietta. There’s no difference between a person working here and a person working in the States,” he says. “We’re all people and every single one of us can get hurt.”
Plant Manager Lance Brown, who has led the Bahama Rock team since late 2015, said his most immediate goal is to help see the team through to another safety milestone: 500,000 consecutive hours without a reportable injury. Currently, they’re working on a streak in excess of 413,780 hours.
“The pressure to reach 500,000 is all on these guys and they’re rising to the challenge,” Brown says. “I’m just here to make sure they have the proper tools, the proper training and the necessary information to help keep them safe.”
While Martin Marietta’s safety focus at the island operation has been successful, the truly important impact is seen beyond the Company’s walls, employees say.
“When you drive around here, you see people building houses and small buildings and there’s hardly any PPE in sight,” Davenport says. “But when you drive by a Martin employee’s home, he’s mowing his lawn in work boots and safety glasses and he’s preaching the safety message to his children.
“I’m happy that we’re safe at work, but I’m proud that we’re taking it home with us and helping the next generation grow up safer.”