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W.R. Meadows: Protecting Employees, Customers & the Environment

As Vice President, Plant Operations at W.R. Meadows, Inc. in Hampshire, Illinois, Dave Carey is responsible for ten plants in the United States and in Canada. In this interview, Carey draws on his 20+ years of experience in the safety, health and environmental (SH&E) profession to illustrate the company’s commitment to manufacturing environmentally sound products and to protecting the safety and health of its employees and customers.

Please provide a brief overview of W.R. Meadows, Inc. and of your responsibilities as Vice President of Plant Operations.

W.R. Meadows, Inc. is a privately held company that manufactures products for use in the concrete construction industry. These products include concrete curing compounds, epoxies, asphaltic joint sealers and expansion joints.

My responsibilities as Vice-President, Plant Operations include acquisitions, divestitures, daily operations and productivity improvements at all of our plant locations. I also have primary responsibility for safety and environmental issues at all locations. I have worked at W.R. Meadows, Inc. for 15 years, and I have over twenty years of experience in the safety, health and environmental (SH&E) profession.

You are responsible for ten plants in the United States and Canada. How do you ensure that SH&E practices are effectively promoted and maintained among all locations?

We use a number of different methods to ensure that SH&E practices are effectively promoted at all locations.

The first is through regular communication with all plant locations. This is completed on a one-on-one basis and through monthly conference calls with all locations. These calls provide an opportunity to discuss problems as well as successes at the plants, and they allow individual locations to share ideas and to work together on company initiatives.

The second method used is the completion of regularly scheduled site visits to all locations. This is a comprehensive evaluation of the facilities’ operations to ensure compliance with both internal and external requirements.

Please describe W.R. Meadows, Inc.’s current SH&E staffing and resources.

Staffing includes corporate oversight (me) and plant managers at each location who take the lead in regard to SH&E issues. Compliance plans are developed at the corporate level, but they are carried out at the plant level.

What is W.R. Meadows, Inc.’s view of SH&E investment?

W.R. Meadows, Inc. views investment in SH&E as a benefit to help improve profitability and employee safety. This was evident in the development of our employee safety incentive program. Since the implementation of this program, we have seen an improvement in both our accident rate and experience modification factor. It has also helped to reduce workers’ compensation insurance costs.

W.R. Meadows, Inc. manufactures such products as pavement joint sealants, construction liquids and waterproofing/vaporproofing membranes. As Vice President of Plant Operations, what role do you play in protecting employees’ safety and health during the manufacture of these products and in protecting workers during their use?

This is an area in which a proactive approach pays dividends. On the manufacturing side, W.R. Meadows, Inc. constantly evaluates and implements new technologies to reduce employee exposure to chemicals as well as to reduce the potential for physical injury due to workstation activities. In many cases, the implementation of automation reduces the potential for injury/exposure and increases productivity. W.R. Meadows, Inc. also evaluates how its products will be used in the field. The development of Material Safety Data Sheets and having a person (me) available 24/7 to respond to questions or concerns is another way in which the company provides value-added service to its customers.

In the early 1980s, W.R. Meadows, Inc. introduced a line of environmentally friendly, water-based products called the “Green Line.” How do these products differ in quality and performance from solvent-based products, and how have your company’s customers responded to the “Green Line” over the last twenty years or so?

The “Green Line” has been well-received by our customers. Although use is limited by temperature, in general these products are equal to solvent-based coatings when comparing quality and performance. W.R. Meadows, Inc. recognized the need for products that were user-friendly (safer) and could be used in both indoor and outdoor applications. These products were developed prior to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Architectural Coatings Rule, which stipulated volatile organic compound (VOC) limits for specific product groups.

How does W.R. Meadows, Inc. comply with both U.S. and Canadian standards and regulations?

There are regulations that need to be consulted at the federal, state, and in some cases, at the local level. W.R. Meadows, Inc. uses information from the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) to monitor changes in the regulations. In addition, the company uses outside resources on an “as needed” basis. These resources provide assistance with environmental permitting, industrial hygiene and pollution control/monitoring.

W.R. Meadows, Inc.’s products and systems also meet or exceed the EPA’s standards and guidelines. What measures does the company take to continually achieve this?

W.R. Meadows, Inc. constantly evaluates its product line to determine if improvements can be made. A culture of continuous improvement applies to all of the company’s products and processes. It also tries to anticipate where the regulatory agencies are moving with respect to rules. This is accomplished through regular communication with these agencies.

W.R. Meadows, Inc.’s products have been used nationwide in airports, highways, tunnels, bridges and parking garages. What environmental and human factors must the company take into account when developing products for use in the public transportation industry?

Many of the products in W.R. Meadows, Inc.’s line must meet state and federal specifications and have a pre-approval prior to use. In addition to this requirement, W.R. Meadows, Inc. designs its products to be both user- and environmentally friendly. When developing its products, the company attempts to eliminate components that are carcinogenic, contain toxic metals or pose other risks.

You have worked for W.R. Meadows, Inc. for the last 15 years. What do you believe is the company’s most significant accomplishment of this time?

Our most significant accomplishment on the operations side of the business is the integration of new technology into existing manufacturing lines. This has resulted in improved employee safety and productivity. These integrations can be very challenging because of the age difference between the technologies.

Biography

Dave Carey has over 20 years of experience in the safety, health and environmental (SH&E) profession. Carey is currently Vice President, Plant Operations at W.R. Meadows, Inc., where he has worked for the last 15 years. In his position, Carey is responsible for ten plants in the United States and in Canada.

He is also a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) through the Academy of Certified Hazardous Materials Managers, which is affiliated with the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). Carey is also a Professional Member of the ASSE, and he served on the Society’s Board of Directors from 1999 to 2005.

He holds a bachelor degree in technical management with a concentration in project management, and he is currently pursuing a master degree in business administration. Carey’s graduate-level studies include a focus in project management.