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Incidents at Two Fabrication Facilities Lead to Fatalities

Posted on 29 August 2017 by cradmin

This year has proven to be difficult and heartbreaking for the stone and countertop fabrication industries after two separate safety incidents caused the deaths of two employees and the injury of another. CountertopResource.com would like to express our sincere condolences to the family, friends and co-workers of those who are no longer with us, and we hope these incidents can act as a reminder about the hazards associated with working with large, heavy slabs of natural and engineered stone.

The latest incident occurred on August 11 at NCO Custom Marble & Granite in Raleigh, N.C. Officers were called to the scene to find that one employee, 21 years of age, was killed when struck by a falling slab of granite and a second was hospitalized with moderate injuries. Although the employee who lost is life has not been officially named, company spokesperson Traci Hobcroft, noted that he was the nephew of the owner.

Hobcroft also released the following statement:

“We have suffered an accident at our facility today at approximately 12:30 p.m. There has been one fatality and another individual injured. The accident has been reported to OSHA. We are a small, family-owned business and trying to deal with this tragedy. We ask for your patience, prayers and that you give us the space and time to further investigate. We will release more information as it becomes available. Thank you very much for your patience and understanding.”

OSHA officials reported to the site where they remained for the duration of the workday, and an investigation continues. However, according to state and federal records, the company has been operating since 2007 with no health and safety violations or complaints.

Investigation of January Incident Now Complete

On January 30, Johnnie Tharp, age 60, died of injuries after multiple slabs of marble fell on him at a warehouse operated by Dente trading Marble & Granite in Gloucester County, N.J. Emergency personnel arrived at the scene where Tharp was unconscious and unresponsive. He was quickly brought to a local hospital but died shortly thereafter.

After a six-month investigation, OSHA found that no citations were necessary, but the agency did issue three violations for other issues carrying fines that totaled $5,070:

  • Lack of fall protection on walking surfaces more than 4 ft. above the floor
  • Equipment storage in front of the electrical circuit breakers
  • No certification for overhead crane ropes

Even though none of the above violations pertained to the storage and handling of slabs, OSHA asked the business to take voluntary measures to limit employees’ exposure to hazards.

“Employees who move stone slabs throughout the warehouse are exposed to struck-by, caught-in-between and crushed-by hazards,” the inspection report stated.

Safe Handling and Storage Practices

While it is possible for injuries and even deaths to occur even when you do everything right in the safe handling and storage of heavy slabs, using true and tested procedures can minimize the risk. And a big part of these procedures is having the proper equipment available for the job.

For further information, you can check out some of the previous articles in our Health & Safety Watch series or seek additional information from trade associations, such as MIA+BSI – The Natural Stone Institute. You can also get relevant information about equipment from some of the industry’s top suppliers of handling and storage equipment, including Better Vacuum Cups, WEHA, Braxton-Bragg, Lackmond Stone, Regent Stone and one of our sponsors for August’s upcoming newsletter, Groves Inc.

Also, remember, OSHA has a consultation branch completely separate from its compliance/enforcement department. When you ask for a health and safety consultation, the consultant cannot report any offenses found, and your business can only be inspected if there is an accident or complaint. If you are not 100 percent sure that you are in full compliance, this free program is highly recommended.

Also, experts like Groves may be able to assist you in finding the safest equipment and processes for your operations to avoid future tragedies such as these.

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