CLEVELAND, OH -- Sparked by several recent slab handling accident deaths at stone facilities across the country, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) has launched a major new safety initiative that will examine every facet of slab handling and produce new video and other training materials for the industry.

"This initiative has the highest priority at MIA," said Gary Distelhorst, executive vice president of the association.

Deaths have been reported at both fabricator and distributor facilities in recent months in California, Oklahoma, Florida, New York and Ohio.

To attack the spreading epidemic of accidents, Distelhorst said that MIA has created a slab handling safety task force composed of safety experts from leading stone distributor firms. The group consists of key safety and operational executives from Architectural Granite & Marble, Arizona Tile, Daltile, Midwest Tile, Mont Granite, MS International, OHM International and Walker Zanger.

Funding for the new initiative will be provided by MIA and several stone suppliers across the country, Distelhorst explained.

In its first teleconference, the task force focused on several important safety issues concerning slab handling involving use of overhead cranes and uniform procedures for slab delivery to local fabricators, each of which provides a unique delivery situation because of facilities and terrain.

The task force is expected to meet in the near future to zero in on specifics that will lead to the creation of a new video script and other training materials. MIA hopes to distribute the new materials by late spring.

MIA created a major slab handling safety video and other training materials four years ago, and they have been widely used throughout the industry.

"Obviously, the subject needs to be addressed again and expanded in scope and depth," Distelhorst said. "In the meantime, we urge all MIA members and others in the industry to make use of current MIA slab handling safety materials to reinforce the message that careless slab handling is very dangerous."

For a complete listing of safety materials available, go online