Rogers Group's Cookeville employees pitch in for tornado relief

On March 3, a tornado with wind speeds of 166 to 200 mph hit Putnam County, Tennessee, destroying a significant portion of western Putnam County, a highly populated residential area where several subdivisions are located.

According to Rogers Group Inc. (RGI), the storm system included 10 tornadoes in middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky, which claimed 25 lives, 18 of which were in Putnam County. Several more were critically injured and are still hospitalized.

Starting the next morning, RGI employees in the Cookeville area responded to the call from officials from Putnam County and city of Cookeville for assistance with search and rescue and debris removal to aid in the rescue of the residents of this area.

RGI says its employees all worked extremely hard over many hours to assist as many as possible. They continued their efforts throughout the week with debris removal, road clearing, cooking meals, and providing needed supplies to get the area restored.

The team partnered with a local church, Central City Church, and were able to provide more than 1,200 hot meals during the week to all affected.

RGI says it will continue with assistance in recovery relief as it will be a long road back to recovery for Putnam County. Well done Rogers Group!

Partnering with a local church, RGI employees were able to feed 1,200 people a hot meal.

NSSGA pushes Young Leaders meeting to August

In response to the situation surrounding COVID-19 virus, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) announced it would reschedule its Young Leaders Annual Meeting to Aug. 2-5 in Naples. The event was originally scheduled for May 4-7.

“NSSGA and our member leadership had to make difficult decisions regarding our upcoming Young Leaders Annual Meeting,” the association posted on its website. “In an effort to protect the health of our members and staff, we are postponing the 2020 Young Leaders Annual Meeting, to be rescheduled for Aug 2-5, 2020 in Naples at the La Playa Beach & Golf Resort.”

NSSGA staff will work with currently registered attendees to either refund registration fees or transfer it to the new dates. Those who have registered will not be charged a cancellation fee if they choose to cancel.

“We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this process in the coming weeks,” the post said. “The YL Annual Meeting is an event that we look forward to every year for its unparalleled opportunities to build your professional network and advance your leadership skills.”

Aggregates industry asserts itself as an essential business, focuses on worker protection

Martin Stone Co.

Throughout the nation, aggregate producers – like so many – are grappling with the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and employees. Producers must navigate a business environment that changes not only daily, but, in some cases, hourly. New terminology such as social distancing and essential business are quickly affecting producers.

As an industry, we must continue to protect our workers, not only from a health and safety perspective, but also an economic one. Through recent days, numerous states and local governments have ordered millions of citizens to remain at home and not go to work unless providing “essential services.” The industry quickly responded, asserting its role as an essential business.

“It is imperative that the aggregates and construction industry are allowed to continue operations to perform the work necessary to build and maintain our nation’s infrastructure,” says NSSGA President & CEO Michael W. Johnson.  “State and local governments must include aggregate operations as essential to continue operation, as the aggregates industry is vital to improving public works projects that are essential for delivering much needed medical supplies, food and goods, clean water, and energy to the American people as we address this pandemic.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to President Trump urging his administration to issue guidance on quarantine and closure orders that clarify “essential infrastructure” and “essential businesses and services.” It says the federal government should recommend exemptions including, but not limited, public works construction, construction of housing, airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, nuclear, oil refining and other critical energy services, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems “provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with social distancing requirements.”

NSSGA and 22 more associations echoed the Chamber’s sentiments in a letter of their own that was sent to President Trump; Steven Munichin, Secretary, Department of the Treasury; Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security; and governors across the United States.

An “essential business”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security considers transportation systems to be part of the critical infrastructure during COVID-19 but had not clarified – at the outset – how far down the supply chain that definition goes. This put state leaders in the position of determining what each state considered to be an essential business.

On Thursday, March 19, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an executive order closing all non-essential businesses within the state. Aggregates operations were not initially included on the state’s list of essential businesses.

“We were very surprised to hear at 5 p.m. that we were to be closed by the Governor because we are ‘not life sustaining,'” says Rod Martin, president of Martin Stone Quarries and chairman of the board of the Pennsylvania Aggregates and Concrete Association (PACA). “Earlier in the week when they started with restrictions to help ‘flatten the curve,’ we were included on the list of ‘essential businesses.'”

It was soon all-hands on deck as state and national associations went to work to clarify the importance of aggregates role in building essential infrastructure.

Karen Hubacz-Kiley, chief operating officer of Bond Construction, emphasizes that – in the New England region – the aggregates industry provide materials necessary for the traction that improves safety of commuters traveling to hospitals, supermarkets, and other necessary businesses.

“Not including aggregates in the definition of essential businesses is short sighted and dangerous to the health and safety of those who must report to work,” she says. “With the mostly mild winter behind us, many cities and towns do not have a stockpile of aggregates should an emergency need arise for these materials.

“Nearly all individuals working in the aggregate business maintain more than 6 feet of separation as they are in different vehicles during processes that occur,” Hubacz-Kiley adds. “Aggregate operations can easily do their job and continue our necessary work while following all the CDC guidelines.”

Industry efforts were met with success on March 20 when Pennsylvania revised its list of essential businesses to include minerals production. Even more importantly, aggregate producers in other states will not face the same challenge: mineral production was recognized by the Department of Homeland Security as an essential business.

Protecting worker safety

As with other health and safety issues, their employees are of top concern for aggregates companies. They are focused on protecting their workers, even as they face the unique challenge presented by the coronavirus.

“The health and safety of our employees, customers, vendors, and communities is and always will be our top priority. During this time of concern, we are taking several precautionary steps to minimize staff contact while remaining accessible to all our partners. Temporarily, we are limiting non-employee visits to our offices unless it is critical in nature and has been approved in advance by a site manager,” says Darin Matson, Rogers Group Inc. president and CEO, in a statement on how the company is responding to the pandemic. “In addition, our sales teams and other customer-centric employees will only be visiting customer offices upon their specific request. This is to insure we create a business environment that protects the health of our employees and business partners, while offering the service and support you have grown to expect from Rogers Group.”

“Our employees have been encouraged to follow social distancing and personal hygiene recommendations. In addition, they have been instructed to stay home if they are sick, avoid non-essential travel, and avoid attending business-related events. We will continue to monitor this situation and take additional measures as needed,” Jaime Murguiro, president of CEMEX USA, says in a letter to customers.

“This is uncharted territory for all of us, and we all need to work diligently to protect our workers and customers,” says Bill Schmitz, vice president of quality control and sales at Gernatt Asphalt Products, Inc. “Keeping up to date with what other aggregate and hot-mix asphalt producers are doing is a great help.” Schmitz adds that the company’s management team is sharing information across the team via email. It is also posting best practices and notices at all plant entry points to stress working from a safe distance.

“Things are so dynamic that we are struggling to keep up as the mandates progress from federal, state, and local authorities,” he adds. “I am sure producers who operate across multiple state lines are struggling even more as the regulations are changing by the hour.”

“Martin Stone Quarries, as well as other operators, have taken additional steps like telling our employees they should not congregate in the break rooms, supplied employees with disinfectant spray for their vehicles, stopped accepting cash at our scales, eliminated the signing of tickets at our truck scales, and many more,” Martin notes.

While protecting their own employees, aggregate producers are also looking out for the communities in which they operate. For example, Winn Materials LLC, a StonePoint Materials Co., scoured its stocks and found excess boxes of N95 masks that it donated to the local Veterans Affair hospital.

“We recognize that these are unprecedented times for all of us,” the company posted on its LinkedIn page. “We at Winn Materials are committed to the health and safety of our team members, customers, our families, and our communities… It’s not much, but it’s something. We are all in this together. We at Winn Materials ask others to look for ways you can help in this time of need.”

UPS executive joins Vulcan’s board of directors

Vulcan Materials Co. announced the election of George Willis to its board of directors, effective immediately.  Willis will serve on the audit and safety, health and environmental affairs committees of the board. Willis is the president, U.S. Operations of UPS, a global leader in logistics, offering a broad range of solutions including transporting packages and freight, facilitating international trade, and deploying advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business.

“We are delighted to welcome George Willis to Vulcan’s Board of Directors,” said Vulcan Materials Company Chairman and CEO Tom Hill in a press release. “George has demonstrated exceptional leadership in his over 35-year career with UPS. His extensive experience with operations and logistics in a complex global business environment will provide us with invaluable insight on matters critical to our business.”

With the addition of Willis, Vulcan’s 11-member board consists of 10 independent directors.

Chief Administrative Law Judge issues order suspending hearings

Due to the risk posed by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Chief Administrative Law Judge, Stephen R. Henley, issued an Administrative Order and Notice, 2020-MIS-00006 (Chief ALJ March 19, 2020) suspending all hearings and procedural deadlines, with limited exceptions, through May 15, 2020. The order goes into effect on Monday, March 23, 2020.

According to the order, parties may petition the presiding administrative law judge (ALJ) to conduct a telephonic hearing based on compelling circumstances.

The moratorium on hearings does not include cases in which the parties have jointly agreed to a decision on the record based on stipulations of fact or a stipulated record.

All procedural deadlines in cased currently pending before the Office of Administrative Law Judges are suspended until May 15, 2020, unless otherwise ordered by the presiding ALJ.

The moratorium on procedural deadlines does not apply to cases not yet docketed so parties who need to file a request for a hearing before an ALJ must still file within the limitations period and may do so via mail.

CRH holds inaugural Women’s IMPACT Conference in Washington, D.C.

A total of 31 female leaders from across CRH’s businesses joined together in Washington, D.C. in mid-March to celebrate Women in Construction Week. The event was in the lead up to International Women’s Day as part of CRH’s inaugural Women’s IMPACT Conference. The women engaged with Congress to educate them on the issues facing the industry.

Over a two-day span, the group met with 45 representatives, senators, and chiefs of staff and lobbied Congress to discuss critical issues for the construction materials industry including workforce development, infrastructure funding, and regulatory and permitting reform.

“The conference gave us a platform to tell our story as women and construction industry professionals,” said Sheila Barkevich, hot mix asphalt (HMA) performance manager for CRH Americas Materials. “Decisions made at the federal level can directly affect our lives and businesses. It’s up to us as industry experts to help guide them to make the best decisions. To be given the opportunity make an impact with this amazing group of women was an awesome experience.”

With an estimated 1.1 million women working in construction, women now represent 9.9 percent of the industry workforce. The gender pay gap is significantly smaller in construction occupations, with women earning on average 99.1 percent of what men make. The U.S. average is 81.1 percent.

CRH has set a goal to achieve 33 percent female senior leadership by 2030, aligning with the standard set for FTSE 100 companies.

CRH brought dozens of its female leaders to Washington, D.C. for its first Women’s IMPACT Conference. Over two days, they met with 45 representatives, senators, and chiefs of staff, including Rep. Roger Williams.

Material handling accident triggers third fatality of the year

On Feb. 27, 2020, a miner died when an unsecured 20-foot x 8-foot x 1-inch steel plate standing on edge fell and struck him. The steel plate was being used to cover the end of a feeder to allow an equipment operator to build an earthen ramp to the feeder, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reports. The material handling accident marks the third fatality of 2020.

MSHA recommends the following best practices

  • Establish and discuss safe work procedures before beginning work.
  • Identify and control all hazards.
  • Task train everyone on safe job procedures and to stay clear of suspended loads.
  • Require all workers to stay out of the fall path of heavy objects/materials that have the potential of becoming off-balance while in a raised position.
  • Monitor routinely to confirm safe work procedures are followed.
  • Be aware of your environment. Factors such as wind, snow, and icy surfaces can affect the stability of an object.
  • When securing an object, identify the location of its center of gravity.

ConExpo-Con/Agg leaders say equipment industry remains optimistic, despite COVID-19 concerns

Multiple construction and construction materials industry segments converged on the Las Vegas Convention Center and Festival Grounds as they came together for ConExpo-Con/Agg & IFPE last week to unveil new technologies and products, share knowledge, network with industry peers, and buy equipment.

Registrations for the show totaled over 130,000. At the conclusion of the show, cancellations from international attendees totaled less than 1 percent.
“We refer to ConExpo-Con/Agg as the ‘heavy metal’ show, but it’s more than that. It’s also small equipment, education and technology. And that was reflected in every way this week,” said Mary Erholtz, vice president of marketing at Superior Industries and ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 show
chairperson. “Giant machines, incredible exhibits, fantastic education, and huge expectations.

Organizers of ConExpo-Con/Agg have a legacy of building and innovating on previous shows, and the 2020 gathering extends that record of success.
“This has been one of the best editions of ConExpo-Con/Agg – ever,” continued Erholtz.

Exhibitors across the show, from the Festival Grounds to North Hall to Bronze Lot to South Hall, expressed enthusiasm for the engagement they received from contractors and producers looking to purchase equipment.

According to IFPE Show Chairperson David Price, global marketing manager of HydraForce Inc., “The crowd was much better than expected under the circumstances, and, most importantly, the right buyers were on the show floor. We were very pleased with the strong showing from the 300-plus exhibitors at IFPE 2020, and we are looking forward to the 2023 show.”

Mike Ballweber, president, Doosan Bobcat echoed those sentiments, “Tuesday for us was record breaking in terms of leads and attendance at our booth, which is how we measure how successful the show is for us. We had more people to our booth on the first day than all of the 2017 show. This is a one-every-three-years show, and our dealers and customers were really excited to be here.”

With growing concerns about COVID-19, show management worked closely with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Southern Nevada Health District to make sure exhibitors, vendors, and attendees were provided with heightened cleaning services and hand sanitizers to help reduce the spread of germs and enable show participation to stay healthy onsite at the show.

“We have been pleased with the success of the overall show and attendance in our booth,” said Ingo Schiller, president and CEO of Tadano America Corp. “The management team at ConExpo-Con/Agg has been monitoring the situation, and they made a very difficult decision to close the show a
day early. We appreciate their leadership, and we look forward to ConExpo-Con/Agg 2023.”

Key metrics reflect overall quality of ConExpo-Con/Agg and IFPE 2020 attendees:
– U.S. buyer attendance increased 8 percent from the 2017 show, and total buyer attendance improved by almost 5 percent.
– Overall contractor and producer attendance grew by 14 percent.
– 6-in-7 attendees serve in a decision-making role.
– Total registered attendance reached over 130,000 for the week.
– Attendees purchased a record-breaking 75,622 tickets for education sessions at the show, a 46-percent increase from the 2017 show.

At the same time, the technological change revolutionizing these industries was pervasive across the shows’ record 2.7 million-plus net square feet of exhibits featuring 2,300-plus exhibitors from the leading U.S. and global manufacturers, from multinational giants to small firms with specialized products.

Other highlights included:
– Partnership with women in construction groups to highlight the growing role women play in the industry, including the unveiling of the world’s largest 3-D printed statute of a human to honor the growing role women play in the construction industry.
– Workforce solutions area in the Festival Lot that showcased industry recruitment best practices.
– The Tech Experience returned for a second year and focused on modern mobility, sustainability, and smart cities.
– The first-ever Fluid Power Hour for the co-located IFPE show.

ConExpo-Con/Agg ends early as COVID-19 impact widens

AEM released the following statement regarding ConExpo-Con/Agg:

Due to the growing concerns about COVID-19, the travel restrictions put in place by the President, and changing corporate travel policies that impact many of our attendees and exhibitors, we have made the decision to close ConExpo-Con/Aagg & IFPE one day early, closing on Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m.

We made this decision based on conversations with our AEM officers and other leadership, several top exhibitors, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the office of the Nevada Governor.

As we have said from early February when the first news of COVID-19 became available, we were committed to monitoring the situation daily and keeping our top priority focused on the health and safety of all participants at ConExpo-Con/Agg & IFPE 2020, including attendees, exhibitors, vendors, staff, industry partners, and others involved in the show.

After 5 p.m. on March 13, we will begin to dismantle booths and begin the scheduled process of removing equipment from the show floor.

We thank our exhibitors, attendees, vendors and the City of Las Vegas for its support throughout this week.

Final attendance numbers will be available soon.

Vulcan’s Quarry Crusher Run Series raises funds for its local communities

In less than a decade, Vulcan Materials Co.’s Quarry Crusher Run Series has drawn more than 13,000 racers and raised over $500,000 for its local communities. Importantly, the race events also provide an opportunity for community members to enter an aggregate operation, learn what happens behind the gates, and understand how its products are used throughout the community.

“A lot of people run or walk just to come out to a quarry and see what’s behind those gates. People are curious, so it’s like a big open house for us, and we love sharing our story with our neighbors in the community,” says Carol Landrum, manager of community and government relations, Southeast Division, Vulcan Materials Co. “Nothing helps people understand our business better than letting them see it for themselves.”

“It’s that ‘aha’ moment when you enter a quarry,” adds Jaime Lomas, race director. “It’s not something that people often get to see.”

To learn more or sign up for Quarry Crusher Run Series, visit its website. Watch for more background on the event in the Good Neighbors column in the April issue of Rock Products.

Editor’s note: The March run was canceled due to concerns with COVID-19.