What are you doing to create a culture of safety in your stone facility? Whether safety training is a strength or area needing improvement, we can all strive to improve and minimize complacency that sometimes becomes part of the employee mindset. This article identifies a number of resources available to enhance your training efforts.

Training resources are plentiful, but many are not specific to the stone industry. To tackle this issue, in 2010 the Marble Institute of America (MIA) assembled a safety committee made up of trained safety managers from several leading stone companies and suppliers. Truth be told, I was nervous at the first meeting about how competing companies would react to working together. My doubt was short-lived. Daltile’s Chad Vadnais stood up at the beginning of the meeting and said, “Safety isn’t a competitive issue, it is something that impacts each of us. Let’s have a positive impact on the industry. That starts with sharing all of the safety resources we can find and/or create together.” That comment set the stage for what has become great collaboration. There is no doubt you have seen the results of their ongoing work — countless training videos, literature and tool-box talks.

So let’s showcase where you can find some really good generic and stone-specific training tools.

1. Stone World monthly Fabricator E-News

Each month the MIA Safety Committee provides a Free Safety Toolbox Talk to E-News readers. The topics are typically stone-industry specific and often have applicability to both fabricators and stone distributors. With this resource you can easily facilitate a safety meeting.

If you are looking for additional stone-focused toolbox talks, don’t forget that MIA members have access to over 60 stone-specific training outlines as part of their membership package.

Many insurance companies have general safety training resources that can be used. Don’t forget to ask your insurance agent.

2. Silica training resources

With concern about pending changes to the silica exposure limits in the U.S., both the Natural Stone Council (NSC) and the MIA joined the Construction Industry Safety Coalition which consists of over 15 construction industry associations all of whom oppose OSHA’s recommended decrease of silica exposure limits. In the meantime, two training videos and several hardcopy training guidebooks are available to help you fully understand the impact of silica exposure in the stone industry. Learn about more of these free resources online at: www.marble-institute.com/silica.

3. Access free resources from government sources

While these resources are not customized to the stone industry, there are several training documents and services available that are worthy of review:

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) online resources include:

- Compliance Assistance Quick Start Guide

- Hazard Communication Resources

- Small Business Handbook

- Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996

- Small Business Success Stories

Learn more at:  www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/index.html and www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/quickstarts/index.html

The Occupational Health and Safety: Labour Program (Canada) website offers some similar resources at: www.labour.gc.ca/eng/health_saftey/index.shtml.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers a Small Business Resource Guide. This guide is intended to help small business owners and managers deal with occupational safety and health concerns. Learn more at:  www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/smbus/guide/.

4. On-Site consultation services

OSHA offers on-site consultation services. This service is separate from enforcement and does not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. Learn more at: www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/consult.html.

Many stone companies have successfully partnered with OSHA to conduct annual safety reviews, yet others are very hesitant to open their doors for this program. In the upcoming months, we will showcase several case studies where stone companies have partnered with OSHA so that you can learn from their experiences.

5. Stone industry specific training videos on slab handling

There are a number of stone specific training videos available. These videos can easily be adopted for training meetings. To learn more go to: www.marble-institute.com/education/safety.cfm.

6. Free Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) documents

One of the best ways to determine and establish proper work procedures is to conduct a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). JHA, sometimes referred to as a Job Safety Analysis (JSA), is a written description of job tasks identifying hazards before they occur. It focuses on the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools and the work environment. Ideally, after you identify uncontrolled hazards, you will take steps to eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable risk level. Currently, 14 JHAs can be downloaded at: www.marble-institute.com/education/jha.cfm.

What is Next?

7. Face-to-face training events

Most major stone trade shows include a safety session as part of their conference program. To bring additional training closer to home for many fabricators, several stone distributors will be working hand in hand to deliver face-to-face training events at their facilities. The same training agenda will be used from location to location to assure consistency of training. Look for more details soon.

8. Canadian focused safety training guide

A free safety guide will be debuted in both English and French. This guide would not have been possible without the assistance of the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (Ontario) with translation assistance from Granquartz Canada and Polycor.

In the words of Safety Committee Chair Jim Nikolopoulos, CTC (Walker Zanger), “We’ve found that so long as you keep safety a priority above all else and keep it on the tips of everyone’s tongues on a daily basis, it minimizes the complacency dramatically and creates a safer work environment.”

Take advantage of the many resource tools referenced in this article to keep safety a priority.