When I was in journalism school, I was taught that the space for the editor’s column is the most valuable page in the entire magazine. And once again, I am using this prime real estate to urge the industry to focus on safety in the workplace - whether that is a shop, a warehouse, the jobsite or even the office. This is something that comes up far too often, and it is usually sparked by yet another tragedy in a fabrication shop or slab warehouse.

To help our industry, the Marble Institute of America has worked tirelessly to develop education materials that stone industry employers can use to help train their employees. One of the latest is a video entitled “Safe Stone Slab Handling II.” Created by a team of stone industry safety experts, this video runs for more than an hour, and it showcases the best practices for safe stone slab handling. It includes practices recommended by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), and it also outlines the hazards of not following proper procedures. In a section guaranteed to catch the attention of shop employees, the video provides an overview of more than 50 fatal stone-related accidents that have occurred over the past decade. You can order the video by visitingwww.marble-institute.com/safetyand a Spanish version will also be released this Spring.

In producing the video, the MIA recruited an international team of industry safety executives. For 2011, MIA expanded the committee and plans to produce a hardcopy training resource (from the safety video), develop safety competency testing, establish a Safety Certification Program and offer a subscription for monthly Toolbox safety talk outlines and Job Safety Analysis (JSA) sheets.

Looking into the practice of what fabricators are doing in their shops with regard to safety, I conducted a roundtable on the topic with members of the Stone Fabricators Alliance (SFA), and they were very candid in their responses. Topics included fabricators’ experiences with OSHA, the cost of committing to a safety program, training, techniques and more.The full roundtable begins here, but here’s a sample of what was discussed:

• On OSHA: “OSHA has always been seen as the ‘big bad wolf’ in the eyes of shop owners and contractors, but their goal is to keep workers safe and the regulations they enforce should be embraced and implemented.”

• On employee training: “We had to retrain our employees on the safe way to do tasks that, in some cases, they had been performing for seven or eight years.”

• On safety investments: “Now we use a crane with a vacuum lifter to place and position parts throughout the shop. Not only is it safer, but it increases production as well - once again proving that a safe shop is a profitable shop.”

Obviously, this is just a small taste of the commentary on this very important subject, so I encourage you to check out the full transcript, which runs from pages 64 to 66 of this issue. Moreover, if you ever want to share your ideas or practices on safety, please feel free to contact me atmichael@stoneworld.combecause I honestly feel that there is no end to the importance of this subject.