Safety Evolves at the Concrete Pipe Division of CEMEX U.S. Operations

This concrete pipe manufacturer encourages employees to live safely at all times.

Fifteen years ago, the Concrete Pipe Division of CEMEX U.S. Operations (then Rinker Materials) considered safety an obligation. Over the last dozen years, however, this manufacturer of concrete pipe has changed its tune to develop sophisticated safety processes and recognize that safety is paramount. Now, the company — with 1,163 employees at 40 sites in North America — boasts a 2008 lost-time injury rate of only .34, significantly below the concrete pipe industry average of 7.5 in 2007.

“We made the transition to the belief that [safety] is our moral obligation over the last 7-10 years. It is now something that is literally integral to every person's way of thinking in our business,” explains Rich Holston, director of safety, health and environmental. “We try to drive the belief that our goal is zero and that we don't have the right to have somebody come to work and get hurt.”

During this evolution, the company decided to focus on three key principles: leadership, culture and safety management systems. When the company went under new ownership 2 years ago, the support and encouragement of Vice President Francisco Aguilera helped move things along. Holston credits Aguilera for having an important role as the company moved from a compliance-drive program to a culture and leadership-driven program and developed new metrics focusing on near-miss reporting, training to job task analysis, root cause analysis investigation and safe behavior auditing.

ZERO 4 LIFE

As part of its new safety initiative, the company adopted two new programs: Zero 4 Life and LEGACY. Zero 4 Life represents the company's commitment to eliminating injury and illnesses: the “zero” stands for zero injuries, hazards and near misses; the “4” relates to the four principles of achieving zero injuries — accountability, behavior, communication and dedication; and “life” means living safely all the time and sharing this value with family and friends.

Holston says that Zero 4 Life represents the company's vision for the safety culture. “We want our employees to be able to go their entire lives without injury or incident that could cause them harm,” he said.

The Concrete Pipe Division of CEMEX also developed a training course for leaders called LEGACY to offer training on critical safety leadership behaviors, safety management, establishing accountability, communications, educating and motivating employees to work safely, applying discipline equitably, setting an example and actively caring for the work force. Company management members take a 2-day training course, and other employees take the 4-hour, online e-LEGACY version.

“It's very participative, and focused on our obligation as managers to look at safety as an integral part of what we do,” Holston says of the LEGACY program.

CEMEX's reward and recognition program has evolved over the last decade as well, transitioning from passive to action participation. The company also features a safety leadership award program; a written safety, health and environmental management system; health fairs; health screenings; weekly safety meetings that often include at-home safety topics; a list of critical safety rules that identifies key industry hazards; a pit hazards manual; kiln guidelines; and much more.

“If I were to encourage companies to get better, to embrace safety, I would suggest they take it one step and one day at a time, improve on one thing and then improve on another,” Holston says. “Recognize it's a process you'll probably never be able to complete. You'll never be able to sit back and say, ‘We're there.’ But you will be able at one point in time to say, ‘We feel good about where we're going.’”

Next: Medtronic Inc.

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