Ledcor U.S. Heavy Civil and Mining: A Culture of Safety and Training

“Think Safety. Work Safely” is more than the safety slogan at Ledcor U.S. Heavy Civil and Mining, based in Reno, Nevada. It’s part of the company’s culture and its number one priority. At Ledcor, people are the most important asset which explains why safety tops the company’s list of values – safety, quality, integrity, sustainability and success.

“Ensuring employees know the best safety practices and how to follow them is a priority at Ledcor,” explained Jerry Rynearson, Ledcor Training Manager. “Both new and seasoned employees participate in career training and development which include field, classroom, computer-based and simulator training.”

A Ledcor employee safely practices operating a mining truck on a Cat Simulator mining truck system.

Culture of Safety and Training

“Ledcor’s culture of safety and training is very ingrained,” said Rynearson who has spent the last 36 years training heavy equipment operators at various companies. He explained Ledcor’s two-tier assessment training system starts with a theory class, Haul Truck 101, which focuses on safe surface mining operation practices with the fleet’s Caterpillar and Komatsu mining trucks. After completing the Haul Truck 101 assessment, employees head to the field for hands-on time to practice pre-operation mining truck inspections.

Once back in the classroom, they begin training on the Cat® Simulators Mining Truck simulator systems which were added to enhance the program last year. “We added the simulators so employees could learn and practice and maybe make mistakes without any risk to themselves or damage to our actual machines,” explained Rynearson.

“We train the importance of proper gear selection, auto retarding capabilities, downhill loaded brake use and dumping at a high wall on the simulators,” he said. “Dumping at a highwall has a safety factor for both the operators and equipment. If the truck isn’t square to the dump area, the operator could potentially drive through the berm, or the truck could unload unevenly and potentially cause damage to certain components.”

“We can teach all of those concepts on the simulators for all the mining trucks, not just the Cat trucks,” said Rynearson. He explained that Ledcor takes its mining truck safety training program one step further with the Cat Simulators’ Mining Truck Incident Response training package.

“Think Safety. Work Safely”
is more than the safety
slogan at Ledcor.
It’s part of the company’s culture
and its number one priority.

Incident Response Training

“We use the Incident Response training to train operators how to respond to engine fires, loss of brakes, loss of steering and slick roads. All the situations you would like to duplicate in the field but can’t safely duplicate,” said Rynearson. “A lot of companies just talk to their operators and tell them what to do in those situations. But you can’t see the operator’s reaction unless you’re using a simulator.”

“Simulators have made it easier to train for these situations because you’re in a controlled environment where you’re not pressured. There’s no pressure for the student, no pressure for the trainer/instructor,” added Rynearson. “You have the ability to stop everything right where you’re at and talk about it. In the real world, you can’t just stop and talk about what just went wrong or the effects of what was done incorrectly. Simulators have brought a new level of stop and talk.”

Employee and Trainer Benefits

Ledcor Lead Simulator Trainer Shelly New, a 26-year mining industry veteran, continually sees the benefits of simulator training for both employees and trainers. “Simulator training gets employees familiar with the truck’s controls and how to run them,” explained New. “Simulators also help us trainers see how people will react to the different scenarios. You can’t really say, ‘Okay, you’re on fire. What do you do?’”

New continued, “But what we can do is simulate a fire, steering loss, brake loss and slick weather conditions, basically anything that can go wrong. If the employee makes a mistake, we can go back through it with them, discuss it and explain what they need to do in the future for each of those scenarios.”

In addition to leading the simulator training program, New also assesses operators. “After simulator training, we get in the actual haul trucks with the employees in the pit,” said New. “I’m in the trucks to make sure they have all the information they need to run the truck safely. We’re in the trucks all day, every day, every week.”

Simulators have made it easier
to train for these situations
because you’re in a controlled
environment where you’re not
pressured. There’s no pressure
for the student, no pressure
for the trainer/instructor.

Value of Authentic Cat Controls

Ledcor employees also learn how to operate large wheel loaders safely and efficiently on the Cat Simulators Large Wheel Loader simulator system. “The large wheel loader simulator lines up with our loader fleet to a T,” explained Rynearson. “That’s where I see the biggest value. It’s perfect to have the exact Cat controls. Other simulator manufacturers will use generic controls which I don’t feel are conducive to muscle memory like the Cat controls.”

“Not everybody walks in knowing how the machine’s going to bend in the middle and how to act and respond to that,” said Rynearson. “On a simulator, the operator gains muscle memory and control familiarization with the Cat controls. Then when they go to the machine, they’re more confident and less intimidated.”

Time and Cost Savings

“Simulator training also allows us to increase our time in the pit because we’re not losing that time by taking a loader out of production.” Rynearson continued, “It’s much more difficult to take a loader out of the fleet to have somebody learn the controls while it’s in production than a truck. We’re also not burning fuel or wasting time when we train with the simulators.”

The mining truck simulators offer potential significant cost and time savings as well explained Rynearson. “If you were driving a real 793 truck and overheated the brakes continually and damaged them, it’s about $300,000 worth of damage and one week of downtime,” he said. “All of this is why simulator training is important to any company who owns fleets like we have.”

The Ledcor Group of Companies. Forward. Together.

Since 1947, the Ledcor Group of Companies, a privately held, employee-owned company, has been growing with its clients and partners:  Forward. Together.

With more than 800 employee shareholders, Ledcor employs more than 7,000 people across 20 offices and is one of North America’s most diversified construction companies. Serving the civil & infrastructure, oil & gas, pipeline, building, mining, power and telecommunications sectors, Ledcor also owns operations in property investment, forestry, aviation and marine transportation services.

Ledcor’s US Heavy Civil and Mining services reach across the lifespan of a mine, from facility construction to full-scale contract mining of coal, minerals, or metals, as well as mine reclamation and a wide variety of heavy civil activities. With vast long-term projects in multiple locations across Nevada and into California, the team is continuously growing along with its training programs. Ledcor’s team of five trainer/assessors provide instruction to its current employees on a variety of machinery from heavy equipment to ultra-class fleets in the Ledcor Academy.  

Due to the limited availability of experienced manpower, Ledcor plans to evolve Ledcor Academy this year and provide training opportunities for prospective employees who are not familiar with mining and equipment operations. “We are in a world of creating and developing the workforce. We find that educating our team prior to arriving on site results in a safer, more value-driven group of teammates,” explained Jerry Rynearson, Ledcor Training Manager.

To learn more, visit https://www.ledcor.com/who-we-are/locations/nevada

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