We can never talk too much about shop safety and the proper procedures that are necessary for handling slabs. Unfortunately, from time to time, we hear about a tragic fatality that most likely could have been prevented if more attention was paid to the handling process. Because safety should be considered with the upmost importance, Stone World makes it a focal point once a year. But for those working with slabs, safety should be a daily reminder.

In addition to taking precaution when handling slabs in the shop or on the jobsite, transportation should also not be overlooked. If proper measures are not carried out to firmly secure slabs that are being transported on the roadway, not only can damage occur, but the safety of other drivers can be impacted. Jonathan Mitnick of Mitnick Stone Inc. and CCS Stone, Inc., who also was recently elected as a director for the Natural Stone Institute and is the association’s Safety Committee post chairman, has written an article in this issue entitled “The Slab Road.” (page 40) “Today, we see common carriers getting loaded with slabs of everything from porcelain to engineered quartz to natural stone,” said Mitnick. “Some distributors have tested crating systems with their designated carriers, but a vast majority haven’t. Wooden frames with slabs are so common that it’s concerning. The methods vary, but most truckers surely lack formal slab handling safety.”

The article points out how often times slabs are not securely fastened for transporting, and stresses how important it is to have safety procedures in place. Mitnick explains that the Natural Stone Institute sets stone industry standards and provides slab transport safety training resources to members and nonmembers, including the Natural Stone Academy, NSI instructional videos and effective tool box talks. “Focused on safety issues specific to the natural stone industry, these practices may be applied to artificial materials as well,” he said. “Using these educational tools will prepare workers to handle slabs properly, and become more familiar with the risks involved in moving stone and manmade surfaces.”

Relating to the issue of safety, Silicosis has also been making headlines lately. I recently sat in on a presentation given by Mark Meriaux, the Natural Stone Institute accreditation and technical manager, during The International Surface Event. Meriaux shared reported facts that he read in an article that stated there are 18 cases in the U.S. that were tracked by medical professionals. He also emphasized there is no cure for the fatal lung disease. It is imperative that safety standards are followed in the shop to prevent silica which leads to Silicosis. A brief summary of the session can be found on page 51 and more details on OSHA requirements for compliance can be found on the Natural Stone Institute’s website.

We also take a look at the issue of Silicosis in Australia (page 44). The U.S. is not the only one facing this problem. With the number of cases on the rise, the Australian government is implementing standards for fabricators to adhere to in order to keep silica dust at a minimum.

Last month, Jim Hieb of the Natural Stone Institute addressed the issue of Silicosis in the Industry Perspective. He told our readers that the Institute will soon release two new webinars to further assist stone companies:

• Implementing a Silica Exposure Control Plan for Your Company

• How to use the OSHA Voluntary Inspection Program to Monitor Silica Exposure

These resources will be packaged into an online certificate that also provides training materials for safe slab handling and creating a safety program. For more information, go to www.uofstone.org.