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MIA and OSHA collaborate for shop safety

December 1, 2007
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The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has entered into a formal alliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Among several initiatives being taken by the two organizations is a series of seminars for stone fabricators. One session this year was held at Alpha Professional Tools’ facility in Oakland, NJ. The first speaker at the event was Bob Kulick, Area Director of OSHA’s office in Avanel, NJ, who offered some background on the organization.


In an industry first, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) has entered into a formal alliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Among several initiatives being taken by the two organizations is a series of seminars for stone fabricators. These one-day sessions educate stoneworking professionals on OSHA standards, and they are specifically geared towards the stone industry. In addition to classroom instruction, a shop “walk-through” educates participants on specific hazards within a stoneworking facility that can be cited by OSHA. Earlier this year, Stone World documented one of these OSHA/MIA presentations, which took place at the facilities of Alpha Professional Tools in Oakland, NJ.

The next speaker was Lou Lento, a Compliance Assistance Specialist with OSHA’s office in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Speaking on the issue of enforcement, Lento said, “OSHA cannot do an inspection without cause,” and he listed four OSHA inspection priorities: imminent danger; catastrophes and fatal accidents; complaints and referrals; and programmed inspections.

Understanding OSHA

The first speaker at the event was Bob Kulick, Area Director of OSHA’s office in Avanel, NJ, who offered some background on the organization. “The reason that we are funded is to avoid worker injury, illness and death,” he said, adding that OSHA has a relatively small staff. “We have only 1,200 compliance officers nationwide. If you compared that to all of the industries that we oversee, it would take 75 years to inspect all of the companies out there.” OSHA was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970, and the organization was authorized to conduct workplace inspections to determine whether employers are complying with standards issued by the agency. The next speaker was Lou Lento, a Compliance Assistance Specialist with OSHA’s office in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, and he explained that when OSHA came into being, employers “officially” became responsible for upholding safety standards in the workplace. “Employees are considered to be responsible, but they cannot be cited by OSHA,” Lento said. “The employer is responsible, and must ensure that employees comply with safety and health standards.” Speaking on the issue of enforcement, Lento said, “OSHA cannot do an inspection without cause,” and he listed four OSHA inspection priorities: 1. Imminent danger - a situation that may cause death or serious harm to the exposed employees. 2. Catastrophes and fatal accidents - death or the hospitalization of three or more employees must be reported to OSHA within eight hours. 3. Complaints and referrals - formal employee complaints, referrals from other agencies, etc. regarding employees exposed to imminent danger or safety/health hazards. 4. Programmed inspections - Site Specific Targeting (SST) aimed at high-hazard industries. A total of 14,000 employers are on this list nationwide. Lento also presented some eye-opening numbers to the audience: • An average of 16 people die at work every day - more than 5,000 deaths per year. • More than one young worker dies per week - an average of 75 per year. • A total of 14% of workers state that their greatest concern is workplace health and safety.

A presentation on silica exposure in the stone industry was made by Mike Yarnell, a Compliance Assistance Specialist with OSHA’s office in Avenel, NJ. To avoid silicosis in the workplace, Yarnell encouraged stoneworking companies to monitor their employees’ exposure to silica by conducting air sampling - typically using a sampling pump that hangs at the collar.

Silica in the stone industry

A presentation on silica exposure in the stone industry was made by Mike Yarnell, a Compliance Assistance Specialist with OSHA’s office in Avenel, NJ. Yarnell explained that crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite and many other minerals, and this is the main area of concern. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a total of 1.7 to 2 million U.S. workers are exposed to silica, including over 100,000 workers in high-risk jobs such as quarrying, tunneling, rock drilling and stone cutting. Yarnell explained that there are three types of silicosis: • Acute - occurs after a few months or as long as two years, following exposure to extremely high concentrations of respirable crystalline silica. Symptoms include severe disabling shortness of breath, weakness and weight loss, which often leads to death. • Chronic - the most common. Occurs after 15 to 20 years of moderate to low exposure. Symptoms may or may not be obvious, and chest x-rays are needed to determine if lung damage has occurred. Progression leads to shortness of breath. In later stages, the worker experiences fatigue, extreme shortness of breath, chest pain or respiratory failure. • Accelerated - can occur after five to 10 years of high exposure. Symptoms include severe shortness of breath, weakness and weight loss. The onset of symptoms takes longer than in acute silicosis. In reciting some of the facts on silica as it relates to silicosis and the stone industry, Yarnell explained that respirable silica dust can enter the lungs and cause the formation of scar tissue, thus reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. Since silicosis affects lung function, afflicted workers are more susceptible to lung infections such as TB. Smoking causes lung damage and adds to the damage that is caused by breathing silica dust. Perhaps most noteworthy, there is no cure for silicosis. To avoid silicosis in the workplace, Yarnell encouraged stoneworking companies to monitor their employees’ exposure to silica by conducting air sampling - typically using a sampling pump that hangs at the collar. If overexposures exist, Yarnell said that mandatory respiratory protection is a temporary fix, followed by engineering controls that permanently lower silica levels below OSHA’s limits. The limits cited by OSHA are as follows: • Quartz - (mg/cu.m)-10/(% silica +2) • Cristobalite - ½ the calculated quartz formula • Tridymite - ½ the calculated quartz formula In addition to overexposure, OSHA violations involving silica can include a lack of engineering controls and respirators. He said that a range of controls can be found at www.osha.gov or www.cdc.gov/niosh. Moreover, Yarnell said that clothing can be a factor, so it may be advisable to maintain a changing room where workers can remove their affected garments. Workers should also be trained on how to use and clean their respirators, and they should be monitored to make sure they are being worn properly. One method of abatement that was strongly discouraged by Yarnell was the practice of rotating employees involved with silica dust. “We really don’t like this because you’re just making more people sick,” he said. In terms of “housekeeping,” Yarnell said piles of silica should be cleaned promptly. And he also stressed that simply working wet is not the solution, as the operations need a great deal of water to eliminate silica concerns. Additionally, some electrical equipment is not approved for use in wet locations and can incur an OSHA violation. In one incident involving granite countertop fabrication, Yarnell explained that an employee was using a portable router that was designed with a water supply. However, the worker disconnected the supply because it was “flooding” the inside of the machine. Although a separate water line was used, the employee was exposed to silica at 1.4 times the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL). In conclusion, Yarnell said that improving workplace safety is a “culture change” for a fabrication shop. “You don’t want to just do the minimum,” he said, adding that continuing education is critical to make the environment safe, and supervisors must set the example.

Martin J. Davis, a Compliance Assistance Specialist with OSHA’s office in Marlton, NJ, addressed the topic of slab handling and other safety hazards in stone fabrication. In order to avoid incidents, Davis stressed that it is critical to use appropriate lifting equipment, including properly rated cranes and powered industrial trucks.

Slab handling safety and other shop hazards

Martin J. Davis, a Compliance Assistance Specialist with OSHA’s office in Marlton, NJ, was the next to speak at the program, and he addressed the topic of slab handling and other safety hazards in stone fabrication. Davis opened by citing some historical statistics from the stone industry. In the year 1995, for example, there were 1,200 occupational injury and illness cases in the “Cut Stone and Stone Products” industry. Given the level of industry growth, this number was estimated to be as much as 10 times greater per year today. Speaking on some more recent events, Davis said that there were a total of eight OSHA-recorded fatalities involving stone companies in 2006: • 7/27/06 - Falling slabs of granite from a crane sling struck an employee. • 5/31/06 - Employee was crushed by falling slabs of granite while attempting to hold them up. • 5/10/06 - Employee struck in back by unsecured bundle from truck trailer. • 4/26/06 - Crate of marble tipped from forklift, crushing employee. • 3/21/06 - Employee pinned and crushed by bundle falling from A-frame while attempting to remove sling. • 2/22/06 - Employee crushed by falling slabs of granite and marble. • 1/18/06 - Employee struck by granite slab when sling came loose from crane hook. • 1/17/06 - Employee pinned and crushed by falling slabs after placement in A-frame. In order to avoid incidents, Davis stressed that it is critical to use appropriate lifting equipment, including properly rated cranes and powered industrial trucks. It is also important to use properly rated slings and lifting devices, and to recalculate the load rating when required. In terms of OSHA expectations and recommendations, Davis said that stone fabrication shops must establish and document a process/procedure for: • Handling, moving, transporting and loading/unloading operations. • Inspection and repair of storage racks, such as A-frames, pole frames, etc. “This is critical,” Davis said. • Training all employees involved with material handling operations on safe work practices and company procedures. “It cannot be left to guesswork because people will take short-cuts,” he said. In the stone yard, shops need to make sure that the slabs have proper bracing and racks. Additionally, it is important to maintain the yard’s driving surfaces and clearances. “There can’t be any wet or slippery areas, especially where there are turns,” Davis said. Among other stone shop hazards, Davis addressed several areas: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) • Safety glasses with side shields. • Hearing protection, including noise monitoring, employee training and annual audiograms. • Gloves (chemical/protective). • Wet process equipment such as gloves, aprons and boots. • Respiratory protection, including a written program, employee training, medical evaluations and fit testing. • Hard hats (when required). • Safety-toe shoes. Large stone saws • Ensure the operator is at a safe distance. • Do not place hands near the rotating blade. • Create perimeter guards to prevent general pedestrian traffic. • Conduct proper operator training, and the use of proper PPE. • Ensure the proper blade for the RPM speed. • Ensure adequate water supply. • Enact a preventive maintenance program. • Have a lockout/tagout in place when servicing or blade changing - and make sure it can be seen. Hand-operated tools • Conduct operator training. • Ensure tools are in good working condition. • Make sure proper guards are installed on angle grinders and hand saws. “Employees who block the self-adjust are asking for trouble,” Davis said. Compressed air • Do not use compressed air to clean dirt and dust from clothing or a person’s skin, as it can introduce excess air into the bloodstream. • Maintain less than 30 psi or install a “dead end tip,” to ensure air does not affect the skin. • Ensure that the air receiver has a pressure gauge and safety valve. At the close of his presentation, Davis said to “expect the unexpected” in terms of hazards in a stone shop. “Pay attention to the overall environmental condition,” he said. “Be mindful of what is in front of you, but also what you are not seeing.”

The final speaker of the day was Mike Corbett, Assistant Chief with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD), who took participants on a mock “walk-through” of a stone fabrication shop.

Shop walk-through and consultations

The final speaker of the day was Mike Corbett, Assistant Chief with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD). Prior to taking participants on a mock “walk-through” of a stone fabrication shop, Corbett explained what takes place during on-site safety and health consultations by the LWD: • Look for hazards and suggest general approaches for solving safety or health problems. • Identify kinds of help available if a shop needs further assistance. • Provide a written report summarizing the findings of the consultation. • Assist the shop in developing or maintaining an effective safety and health program. • Provide training and education for the employer as well as the employees. “We don’t just make sure something is in place,” Corbett said. “We see how you carry it out.” Additionally, Corbett pointed out what does NOT take place during on-site safety and health consultations by the LWD: • They do not issue citations or propose penalties. • They do not report possible violations to OSHA. • They do not guarantee that the shop will pass a future OSHA inspection. “It is still the responsibility of the employer to maintain the standards,” he said. Consultations can also help a company become accepted by the Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which is for small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. This designation offers companies a two-year exemption from programmed OSHA inspections, and serves as a public example of a firm’s commitment to employee health and safety; however, Corbett added that “only a handful of companies” have earned this distinction. In terms of an actual OSHA inspection, Corbett said that it generally begins with a check of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and the first hour is also spent going through the background of the company, including the OSHA 300 logs and written health and safety programs that a stoneworking firm has on file. Companies are also asked to complete a 58-question survey on managing the safety and health of their employees. Among the areas most commonly examined by OSHA violations, Corbett pointed out the following during the shop walk-through: • Electrical outlets need to be protected by a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). • Electrical cords cannot be frayed or damaged, and the ground pin must be intact. • Saws and other large-scale equipment should ideally have an interlocking gate, and the machinery should be operated from outside the gate. • The safety on any piece of machinery should not be disengaged. “That is a hefty fine,” Corbett said. “It all goes back to accountability.” • Fire extinguishers need to be recharged on a regular basis, with the tags visible. They must also be mounted, located and identified so that they are readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury. • The electrical panel must be easily accessible, and breakers must be properly and clearly labeled. • Fire exits cannot be blocked. • All liquids must be labeled. “Even a hand-written label is okay, but they must be labeled,” Corbett said. • All grinder guards must be kept in place. • Extension cords that are tied with wire cords are considered to be “permanent wiring,” and are subject to the appropriate standards. In terms of slab storage, slabs should be spaced apart to avoid a “domino effect” if a slab falls. In general, wooden slab racks are considered to be temporary. Racks should be made of steel with the proper loading capacity. “There is inconsistency as to whether the slabs need to be secured,” Corbett said. “Some of these regulations are subjective to the local inspector.” However, he added that regulations that are specific to the stone industry are being established. “OSHA is working with the MIA to help set standards,” he said. “OSHA is consulting with the MIA and also guiding the MIA for safety training videos.” The next MIA OSHA/Stone Shop Safety Seminars are scheduled as follows: • January 24, 2008 – Miami, FL • March 11, 2008 – Los Angeles, CA • March 13, 2008 – San Diego, CA • April 17, 2008 – Boston, MA For more information, contact MIA at (440) 250-9222, e-mail MIAinfo@marble-institute.com, or visit www.marble-institute.com.

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