Safety perches above all operating priorities in NRMCA program

A program unveiled at the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association’s ConcreteWorks 2019 conference is dedicated to reinforcing a culture of safety across all facets of the industry and ensure workers end their day at the plant the same way they started it—alive and healthy. ThinkFirst emphasizes thoughtful and strategic actions throughout the order production and delivery cycle, program developers note, and will lead to a decrease in injuries, illnesses and fatalities while increasing worker retention and positive workplace morale.

“This initiative will focus on the true backbone of our industry: the workforce,” says NRMCA President Mike Philipps, calling ThinkFirst “the industry’s next great program.”

ThinkFirst correctly places the priority of safety at the forefront, adds Dale Kotzea (GCC of America), who chairs the Safety, Environmental and Operations Committee (SEO). A 2017 renaming of the long-standing Operations, Environmental and Safety Committee to SEO allowed members and association staff to take a better, more focused look at safety within the industry. Certain questions became clear: Can we do more? What aren’t we doing? How do we better spread a safety message? Why isn’t safety front and center on more companies’ websites?

NRMCA’s answer was to create a coordinated, uniform, understandable and relevant industry-wide campaign. The idea had been addressed through programs and educational efforts over the years, but never before via a single encompassing message. The phrase ThinkFirst leads immediately to a question: “What is ThinkFirst?” Before anyone knows it, NRMCA contends, he or she has entered into a safety discussion—something lacking from many other slogans that speak of safety as first.

SEO members underscore the importance of ThinkFirst against a backdrop of Occupational Safety and Health Administration-tracked metrics for concrete and general industry: Over the past 10 years, levels of the agency’s most frequently-cited safety violations have barely changed, including in ready mixed concrete production and delivery. While producers continue to see annual declines in incident rates—lending validation to the notion that the industry continues to become safer—the same faults and violations occur year after year, NRMCA contends.

“Many companies in the industry have for some time had their own individual safety focus,” notes SEO Committee Vice Chairman Mike Brekken (Cemstone Products). “ThinkFirst finally creates a unified, industry-wide focus for all.”