Although it's only May, I must have attended a half-dozenFabricator Forumsso far this year. Whether it was in Las Vegas, Mexico, Atlanta or somewhere in between, there is no shortage of opportunities for fabricators to gather and share information. This year, there has been a common thread in virtually every Fabricator Forum I've attended, and that is the issue of safety. I know it seems that this topic has been addressed before, but it is not simply a matter of learning best practices once and moving on. It has to be something that is ingrained in the culture of your company on a daily basis. This includes every single person on your payroll -- in the shop, in the field and in your office.

There are many specific safety issues that today's stone industry professional faces -- far too many, in fact, to address in a single article.

But one issue that isn't going away is crystalline silica and silicosis. I've sat through a number of OSHA sessions on silica and silicosis, and I've learned two things:

1. Just based on the very nature of granite, silica is obviously something that is going to be present in our industry.

2. If a fabrication shop is responsible in addressing silica in a continuous and diligent manner, there will be no risk to its employees -- and no potential for damaging lawsuits.

The personnel in many fabrication shops is changing, on some level, on an ongoing basis, so this topic needs to continually remain in the forefront of the industry's minds. And even for shops with long-term staff on hand, a reminder absolutely never hurts. Remind your staff of the dangers of silicosis on a regular basis. Make sure they acknowledge that they have been educated, and don't tolerate when your workers don't follow the steps necessary to protect themselves. I know that when it seems like there are a million other things to do, it can get lost in the shuffle. But remember this: You're not only protecting the health of your employees; you're protecting your operation from a lawsuit that could mean the end your business.

With all of this in mind, the topic of crystalline silica and silicosis is the basis for our very first MIA/Stone World safety meeting, which will now be included in each edition of the Stone World Fabricator E-Newsletter. You will find the link in the "MIA/Stone World 'Safety Meeting' " section below.

Of course, there are many places where fabricators can go to learn about safety. Trade shows like StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas and Coverings address these issues during their conference sessions, the Stone Fabricators Alliance address safety at its online forum and at its workshops, and it is also a frequent topic of discussion at the MIA/Stone World Industry Education sessions across the country.

As I stated earlier, today's fabrication shops are facing a seemingly endless stream of safety issues, and we are committed to addressing them as we move along. If you have a safety issue that you would like to see addressed, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at