As we all know, working in the stone industry can be dangerous. It is crucial that safety measures are put in place to ensure a safe work environment. Time and time again, the importance of slab handling is discussed in fabricator forums, outlined in literature from the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and often included in the pages of Stone World. But even when all the proper procedures are implemented, unfortunately, accidents can still occur.

It is every fabricator’s worst nightmare to have a fatality from a falling slab happen at their shop. While the “knee-jerk” reaction would be to raise your arms to try to prevent a slab from falling on you, it must be stressed that a person should jump out of the path of the slab. Stone slabs weigh hundreds of pounds and can easily crush a person.

Many fabricators, and I would hope all, routinely address safety issues pertaining to slab handling with their employees. Additionally, they regularly check slab handling equipment to make sure that everything is working properly. But just as important as all of this is, it is also imperative to educate the customers coming into the shop, warehouse or slab yard of the dangers of falling slabs. It only takes one person tripping or bumping into a bundle to cause a life-threatening situation.

For those of you who might not have heard, a 17-year-old teenager was recently crushed to death when trespassing through a slab yard in New Jersey. He was discovered early on a Saturday morning by a passing motorist who reported seeing him trapped between two slabs on the company’s grounds. A medical examiner ruled the cause of death as asphyxiation from the slab of stone and determined the manner of death as an accident, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office.

The report said police believe the teenager tried to squeeze past two pieces of granite and may have dislodged a piece of lumber holding the slabs in place, which may have ultimately caused one of the slabs to fall on top of him. It is such a tragedy that this happened. The teenager was thinking he was taking a short cut home. Little did he realize it would turn into a fatal accident.

In this case, I’m not sure what the shop owner could have done differently to prevent this tragedy. The report mentions that since the accident, the fabrication business has posted new signs warning the dangers of heavy slabs on display.

When a tragedy like this happens in our industry, it hits home with everyone. It is just another reminder that caution needs to be taken in the shop and on the jobsite. It is also a good time to review your safety procedures and make sure your work environment is the safest it can be.