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Ready-mixed concrete production employees are exposed to an industry-unique combination of work environments. Measuring how well a ready-mix company manages these industry-specific risks and comparing its results to the rest of the industry is difficult. In general safety professionals track accidents in three categories: Personal injuries, on-road vehicular accidents and off-road vehicular accidents--to satisfy government and insurance record-keeping requirements. Various government agencies, like the U.S. Department of Transportation, OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) track accident frequency statistics, but results fail to succinctly capture the ready-mixed concrete industry's safety performance. According to Charles Rowe, vice president for CNA Insurance, Chicago, ready-mixed professionals commonly use statistics BLS compiles from an annual survey given to a selected number of businesses within an industry's Standard Classification Index (SIC) code. BLS's frequencies are based only on employee lost-time activities and don't include vehicle or equipment accidents in which no employee was injured. Benchmarking fleet safety is also difficult, because ready-mix trucks travel much shorter distances than other industry fleets. "Producers would be well served by trying to create an accident frequency rate that accurately measures their risk-management efforts," says Rowe.

Practical safety benchmarks: To that end, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) has developed an industry-specific safety benchmarking system designed to help producers monitor the effectiveness of their safety programs. Included as part of NRMCA's annual safety contest, the association's safety task force members hope to develop a statistical model that provides producers with accurate benchmarking data. Prior to 1993, NRMCA annually sponsored a safety contest that gathered some industry accident data, and honored several member companies that had commendable safety records. But the contest focused on company-wide production criteria, making it hard for large, multiple-plant ready-mix producers to gain value from entering. Since the contest honored only a few winning members, individual plants with good records were often overlooked. In revising the contest, the Operations and Equipment Maintenance Committee's Safety Task Group, led by Chairman James Woody, Chandler Concrete Co., Burlington, N.C., sought to honor the significant number of deserving producers while creating a pool of industry accident benchmarking data.

"Raising the safety consciousness of employees by recognizing their individual effort while identifying weaknesses in a company's risk management are the goals of any safety-award +program," says Bob Bozart, president of Safety Services of America, Charlotte, N.C., and a NRMCA Safety Task Force member. Benchmarking a company's accident information against an industry standard is a valuable way to measure the program's effectiveness. "For scoring this contest, we contrived the plant accident frequency rate (AFR)," says Woody. "The AFR combines the number of lost-time accidents and the number of mixer truck accidents and prorates the total incidence per 100,000 cubic yards shipped." The contest defines any accident that causes an employee to miss a complete shift of duty as a lost-time personal injury accident. A vehicular accident is defined as any on-road or off-road mixer-truck accident that causes more than $5,000 in damages, and in which the mixer driver is at fault. The plant's total accident number is divided by its annual production. The ratio provides a leveling effect that aids in the benchmarking effort. The contest honors production plants with AFR scores ranked in the upper 30%. In addition, any plant, regardless of rank, that operated during the calendar year without a reportable accident receives a certificate honoring employees' efforts. The award certificates serve as a daily reminder to the plant employees that they have accomplished something for their industry, their company and themselves.

1996 producer results: Based on data submitted for the contest, the average industry accident frequency rate was 1.353 accidents per 100,000 cubic yards shipped. The 87 responding producers indicated that their 638 plants batched 42 million cubic yards, roughly 15% of the 1996 domestic ready-mixed concrete market. Participation in the contest was voluntary. The task force encouraged members to enter each of their ready-mix plants, not just those that had a safe year. (Selective participation skews the mean accident frequency rate.) Accurate analysis of the benchmark data is compromised when producers omit entries of plants with several accidents or elect not to participate in the contest due to high accident rates. NRMCA took the confidentiality of its members' production information very seriously. After verification of the scores, all original safety contest entry blanks were shredded. The scoring spreadsheet was drafted without company and plant names. Winners were listed alphabetically without production and accident numbers.

KEYWORDS: safety