MSHA cancels Program Policy Letter on escapeways

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced the cancellation of a proposed Program Policy Letter on escapeways and refuges in underground metal and non-metal mines.

The proposed Program Policy Letter was published in the Federal Register on July 29, 2019, (84 FR 36623) for public comment.  In October 2019, MSHA held a public stakeholder meeting to give the public additional opportunity to provide feedback.  After reviewing the comments, MSHA has determined that the proposed clarification is not needed.

The Notice of Cancellation can be viewed on May 26, 2020, at the Office of the Federal Register’s Public Inspection Desk.

Foundation established by former Ash Grove Cement president funds relief efforts

The Sunderland Foundation gave The Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO) a $100,000 gift, the Ozarks Independent reports. In turn, the CFO has passed over $1 million in COVID-19 grants.

In its latest round of donations includes grants to the following:

  • Boys & Girls Club of Springfield for food, supplies and virtual programming opportunities.
  • O-STEAM to support the use of 3D printers to make face shields for emergency workers.
  • People Helping People for food pantry expenses.
  • Shepherd’s Nook Food Pantry for food pantry expenses.
  • Ministerial Alliance of the Hermann Area to assist low-income families with COVID-19 emergency expenses.
  • Mountain Grove Love Food Center for food distribution.
  • NAMI for virtual support-group expenses and mental health responders.

The Sutherland Foundation was established in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, who served as the president of Ash Grove Cement Co. for 33 years.

CalPortland named Energy Star Partner 16th time

CalPortland announced that it has once again been awarded the 2020 Energy Star Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award for continued leadership and superior contributions to Energy Star by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

“CalPortland is proud to receive the 2020 Energy Star Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award,” said CalPortland President/CEO Allen Hamblen in a press release. The award is the highest honor among Energy Star awards.

“Finding new and innovative solutions to create energy efficiencies has become an integral part of our company culture, and we are honored to celebrate our employees’ ongoing efforts by achieving this tremendous award for the 16th consecutive year,” Hamblen added. “CalPortland remains committed to reducing emissions and reducing our company’s environmental footprint by contributing to the circular economy.”

CalPortland has been an Energy Star Partner since 1996 and says it remains dedicated to demonstrating and promoting energy efficiency within the company and to other companies in the construction materials industry. The 2020 national award is the sixteenth consecutive Energy Star Partner of the Year Award for CalPortland; a feat that has never been matched by any other industrial company.

Since 2003, CalPortland’s energy management efforts have reduced the company’s overall energy intensity by 16.5 percent, avoiding $135 million in unnecessary energy costs. Key 2019 accomplishments include:

  • Reducing the carbon footprint and embodied energy of its cement products by developing for the market blended cements.
  • Advancing energy efficiency and emission reductions through extensive upgrades to the company’s mobile fleet, rail operations, and cement plants, amounting to significant expenditures in capital efficiency projects.
  • Working with the leadership of the national cement, concrete, and asphalt trade associations to increase industry involvement in energy management and Energy Star.
  • Earning Energy Star certification for the eighth consecutive time for the Rillito Cement Plant.
  • Incorporating strategic elements in the corporate energy program by using Energy Star’s cement plant certification, Challenge for Industry, and Treasure Hunt campaign.
  • Focusing on community engagement and in-person education by reaching more than 136,000 individuals on good energy management best practices and Energy Star.
  • Incorporating energy management and Energy Star into the company’s corporate-wide professional development training program through videos, an intranet site, new employee orientation, and regular employee engagements.

“I salute the 2020 Energy Star award winners,” said Anne Idsal, EPA principal deputy assistant administrator for air and radiation. “These leaders demonstrate how energy efficiency drives economic competitiveness in tandem with environmental protection.”

LafargeHolcim revises its 2020 guidance in response to the global pandemic

While construction materials markets have been more resilient than many others, LafargeHolcim reports that it is now experiencing disruptions in operations in various countries.

In China, the recovery of the construction sector has started and all its plants outside of Hubei Province are operating. The company forecasts the market demand to further recover and to supply 70 percent of last year’s volume in April 2020.

In most of the other key markets, however, the construction sector is disrupted, and it forecasts significant volume declines in April and May, with a significant negative impact on its business in the second quarter.

“Currently the development of the Coronavirus pandemic and its implications for the business are volatile and very different from country to country,” the company said in a press release. “In order to mitigate the financial impact of the situation, we have launched the action plan ‘HEALTH, COST & CASH’ for immediate execution in all countries.”

Key objectives include the following:

  • Reduction of CAPEX by at least $416 million compared to 2019;
  • Reduction in fixed cost by $312 million in 2020;
  • Realization of reduction of energy prices and full review of all third-party products and services; and
  • Reduction of net working capital at least in line with level of activity.

Based on a significantly strengthened balance sheet, LafargeHolcim has liquidity of $8.3 billion as of March 26, 2020.

“Due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, the guidance for 2020 is no longer valid,” it notes. “While the implementation of the action plan ‘HEALTH, COST & CASH’ is in full execution, the dynamic, volatile development of the Coronavirus pandemic makes it currently no longer possible to fully evaluate its impact on the performance of LafargeHolcim in 2020. We will provide a more comprehensive business update at the first quarter 2020 results release on April 30, 2020.”

Infrastructure investment can jump start the economy

To date, Congress has approved three aid packages, including the most recent $2 trillion package, trying to offset the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. economy. While House and Senate leaders appear to have different opinions on the need for a fourth package, numerous organizations say infrastructure investment is another option to jumpstart the economy while addressing significant transportation needs.

President Trump signaled his approval for an infrastructure package after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi raised the issue during an appearance on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ program earlier today. He weighed in on Twitter, noting “With interest rates for the United States being at zero, this is the time to do our decades long awaited infrastructure bill. It should be very big and bold, $2 trillion, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our country! Phase 4.”

While the legislative and executive branches may not yet be in agreement about infrastructure spending as part of a fourth stimulus package, numerous groups say this typically bipartisan issue would benefit the economy.

Transportation Construction Coalition

The Transportation Construction Coalition spelled out its argument for infrastructure spending in a letter to Congress’ majority and minority leaders in House and Senate.

“While there are diverse and well-intended views on how federal policy can stabilize and resuscitate the U.S. economy during times of crisis, there are few initiatives that can match the combination of immediate and long-term benefits of increased infrastructure,” the TCC writes. “The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee last July demonstrated infrastructure legislation focused on providing tangible outcomes can also garner overwhelming bipartisan support. The Committee’s unanimous approval of a five-year reauthorization of the federal highway program offers a proactive and meaningful path forward for Congress to deliver an urgently needed economic boost.”

The World Economic Forum

The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association recently shared a post from the World Economic Forum titled: Why infrastructure is the only way to fight a COVID-19 recession in the US.

“When monetary policy isn’t enough, a country must turn towards fiscal policy,” WEC writes. “Right now, reviving the lagging US infrastructure sector may be the best approach: infrastructure creates economic growth, 5G cellular infrastructure will allow for faster data rates, a better electric grid allows us to drive electric cars, and new roads reduce congestion and commute times.”

The report notes that the US is 30 years behind on its infrastructure. Its three-point solution includes consolidating government authority to execute infrastructure projects, prioritizing projects using data-driven decision-making process, and harnessing innovation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution to improve construction technology.

The Conference Board

The Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board has a similar message. In a recent Solutions Brief, it notes that such an option is a pressing 2020 issue to address economic slowdowns.

“As we face this crisis, we need world-leading infrastructure to facilitate the global competitiveness of U.S. businesses and create opportunities for all Americans to prosper,” says CED President Lori Esposito Murray. “A bold commitment to infrastructure investment now will super-charge the U.S. economy and help us pull ourselves out of this downturn.”

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.”

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.

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.