In May of 2006, I wrote a column for Stone World entitled, “Silicosis: Dangerous from many angles” that stressed the need for stone fabrication shops to understand the issues of silicosis in our industry, to develop proper procedures in their shop and to educate their employees on the disease. At that time, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had recently entered into an alliance to develop information to help MIA member employers and workers recognize and prevent hazards such as exposure to silica. The results of this alliance have been extremely positive, and they are continuing to develop.

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 - including a detailed session on silicosis - a shop “walk-through” educates participants on specific hazards within a stoneworking facility that can be cited by OSHA. (A full report on one of these sessions can be found in the December 2007 issue of Stone World from pages 96 to 114.) The first OSHA/MIA presentation of 2008 took place on January 24 in Miami, FL, and future sessions this year will be held in Los Angeles, CA (March 11), San Diego, CA (March 13) and Boston, MA (April 17).

Specific to silicosis, a new safety video produced by the MIA - with grants from DuPont Surfaces and Water Treatment Technologies - will focus on this disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica (granite dust).

The new video, Silicosis: Incurable but Preventable, will reach the entire natural stone industry in the U.S. Over 11,000 natural stone fabricators and distributors will receive the training video via an insert in this issue of Stone World magazine. This industry-wide distribution effort is being made possible by a generous grant from the Natural Stone Council (NSC). “Safety in the workplace is everyone’s uppermost concern, and silicosis is such a serious occupational health issue for workers in our industry, as well as other occupations where crystalline silica dust is generated,” said Chuck Monson, CEO of Dakota Granite Co. and an NSC board member. “The NSC is pleased to underwrite the distribution of this worthwhile effort.”

DuPont Surfaces has also agreed to fund two translations (French and Spanish) when the initial video is completed.

“Silicosis is extremely serious. Lung damage is usually permanent, frequently disabling and may lead to death. While there is no cure for silicosis, it can be prevented,” said Paula Perry of Water Treatment Technologies. “Proper work processes are vital to the safety and health of everyone in the natural stone industry.”

“We are pleased to be working with Water Treatment Technologies to expand and promote the Marble Institute’s safety training program for the natural stone industry,” said Barbara Hannah of DuPont Surfaces. “Continuing education is the only way to achieve consistency in safety training throughout the marketplace. It eventually benefits the entire industry.”

In addition to distribution in Stone World magazine, the Silicosis video and other safety related resources can be ordered directly from the MIA by calling 440-250-9222 or visiting on the Internet.

This effort to fight silicosis in the stone industry is an unprecedented, groundbreaking endeavor, and I personally encourage all members of the stone industry to get involved.