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Exit Strategies

As to be expected in a vital industry where changes in ownership and operating status regularly occur, concrete-producing companies and plants commonly

BOB ECKHARSDT

As to be expected in a vital industry where changes in ownership and operating status regularly occur, concrete-producing companies and plants commonly are bought, renovated, or closed in favor of newer facilities. Especially in a climate of continual change and constant evolution, considerations of environmental regulatory compliance, clean-up costs, and corporate as well as personal liability during transition compel companies to carefully review and document plant sales or closings. Even when a plant has operated in full compliance with company environmental rules for as long as the facility's staff can recall, no guarantee exists that environmental issues will not arise.

Currently, the recommended process for thorough evaluation utilizes a third party specializing in environmental site assessments. The contracted specialist will conduct a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) to determine whether any environmental conditions, such as hazardous materials or petroleum leak residue, exist on the property. This phase involves a site visit, a full review of company environmental and historical documents, and possibly soil or groundwater samples. Thus, records pertaining to stormwater testing, spill control plans, underground storage tank tests, state tank registration, well monitoring, and waste disposal will be examined. For concrete producing facilities, key safety-related and environmentally sensitive elements or issues typically include the following:

  • Asbestos Û primarily in plant insulation
  • Transformer PCB data
  • Battery, tire, waste, additive, rebar, or debris disposal on site from previous years, i.e., any materials buried on the grounds, including inert concrete waste, to be disclosed as evidence of working in good faith
  • Wastewater treatment systems
  • Paint lead testing
  • Erosion problems
  • Fire hazards
  • Agency notifications of violations
  • Emergency plan
  • Environmental permits
  • Wastewater runoff plan and testing history documentation
  • Spill control plan and spill history documentation

If evidence reveals that an environmental hazard may exist, a Phase II ESA is required. Phase II involves a more thorough investigation of air, water, soil and/or building materials to determine the extent of the contamination. Such proceedings assist in the necessary disclosure of environmental exposures to the purchaser as provided under CERCLA [Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund]. Additional information can be obtained by referring to ASTM standards for Phase I ESA, ASTM E1527-05, and for Phase II, ASTM E1903-97(2002).

Full-color, photographic documentation of the site grounds, property boundaries, and buildings should be retained, including all office and building contents. Also not to be overlooked in company closure documentation is a written list of office furnishings and supplies left on site.

In the course of examining structures, most environmental findings concerning potential hazards that do not directly impact the environment, e.g., lead-based paint or asbestos, require merely that the condition be disclosed Û not that the paint or asbestos be removed. The same is true for buried inert concrete waste, which may have been used as fill material to level a yard; and, rebar especially should be cited, if buried in the concrete waste.

When demolition is not involved, yet structures are to be left on site upon sale of the property, a full review of the facilities should include barricading and labeling all pits, conveyors, silos, storage bins, or other equipment where fall hazards may exist. The plant also should be carefully secured to prevent unauthorized visitors from entering the grounds. A thorough walk-through of the site should be completed to remove all tripping and fire hazards and dispose of trash. Electrical systems should be locked out at the main power source; and, other systems including gas and water supply (excluding fire-prevention systems) should be shut off as well.

If demolition is slated for a facility, a safety engineer should be involved in the development of a demolition and waste-disposal plan. Demolition procedures should adhere to ANSI/ASSE A10.6-1990 [Rev. 1998] Safety Requirements for Demolition Operations. Additionally, in 29 CFR 1926.850 through .860, OSHA details demolition regulations, which require a documented, predemolition engineering survey prior to beginning work. Further demolition requirements specifically targeting asbestos are provided in 26 CFR 1926.1101. Finally, a local demolition permit is needed.

The following checklist may be helpful for effective plant closure:

  • Notify local police and fire departments that the premises will be vacated.
  • Remove all company signs exhibiting the company name or logo.
  • Notify all rental equipment vendors, including those for postage machines, personal computers, printers, fax machines, copiers, soft drink and candy machines, mobile equipment, tools, and similar equipment.
  • Assure all files are removed from the facility.
  • Follow rental agreement evacuation and notification requirements.
  • Read gas and water meters on the last day and ensure that supply sources are closed.
  • Provide the post office a mail-forwarding address.
  • Notify all service providers, such as the city sewer and waste service provider, water and drinking water suppliers, telephone company, bottled gas provider, equipment service providers, and safety equipment supplier.
  • Walk down the facility with the landlord and make a final list of any items requiring repair. Obtain the landlord's signature on a final repair and release form.
  • Assure all storage tanks are empty and valves are shut and locked.
  • Make sure all silos and storage bins are empty in order to eliminate any engulfment hazards.
  • Lockout all electrical power main supply points.
  • Review all air permits for state or EPA notification requirements regarding closure or property-transfer.
  • Complete mandatory annual forms, such as the Tier II form, at the beginning of the next calendar year for the portion of the previous year during which the facility was occupied, plus state waste registration forms and annual storage-tank registration notifications.
  • Survey the property perimeter to assure site fencing is adequate.

Plant shutdown procedures may vary, depending on a number of factors, including whether demolition is involved or an existing operation is simply sold to another producer. Operational requirements for facility shutdown should be carefully evaluated in view of the recommendations provided herein, as careful attention is given to any issues particular to a given plant. The goal of an effective exit strategy is proper documentation and disclosure, leaving the company with a clear environmental record and a safely closed facility.

OSHA REVISITS JOB-SITE CRANE STANDARDS

Recently highlighted on several national news networks were devastating crane-incident scenes in New York, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Florida, Wyoming, and Nevada. Following the May 30 crane accident in New York Û the state's second fatal crane incident in 2008 Û Senator Hillary Clinton wrote to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Assistant Secretary of Labor Edwin Foulke Jr., contending that the agency was moving too slowly in updating its crane and derrick standard.

While the number of fatal crane incidents may not have increased, news coverage has helped generate public pressure for adequate legislation. Most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data indicate that 72 crane-related fatal occupational injuries occurred in 2006, down from an average of 78 fatalities per year from 2003 to 2005. Included in the totals are all fatalities wherein the source of injury was a crane, the secondary source of injury was a crane, or the worker activity was operating a crane. While 2007 and 2008 BLS statistics are not yet available, an unofficial site [www.craneaccidents.com] reports an increase in the number of notices regarding fatal crane incidents for 2007.

Following the broadcasts and Senator Clinton's letter, Foulke noted on June 24 that OSHA is in the final stages of developing an updated crane and derricks rule. In a key announcement Û arguably a backfiring of Senator Clinton's letter to Foulke Û OSHA reported that for two weeks, beginning on June 23, a dozen additional inspectors would conduct proactive inspections in New York City, targeting cranes, high-rise construction sites, and other grounds where fatalities and serious accidents have occurred. Additionally, ongoing inspections would continue under existing local programs, or as a result of complaints, referrals or accidents.

Still unknown are what additional crane regulations will ensue from the federal standards update. If changes are implemented, the federal standard may be expected to follow New York legislation proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Acting Building Commissioner Robert LeMandri, requiring safety meetings for construction crews prior to crane erection or dismantling. Additional training would be mandated for riggers; limits would be placed on the use of synthetic slings; and, of course, a new city permit would be required.

During concrete operations, a site safety coordinator also would be necessary, and the city is expected to deploy more of its safety inspectors to review job sites. By contrast, standards addressing fixed cranes, such as overhead cranes in production plants, are not likely to be modified.