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CountertopResource.com Introduces Health and Safety Watch

Posted on 14 May 2015 by cradmin

a-frame slabsAs many of you know, last March we created and opened a new Countertop Industry Survey, and it has quickly grown to be one of the largest surveys of its kind for the countertop fabrication industry. We hope to learn a number of important facts about our audience and the information you need to make your business the best it can be. The survey doesn’t officially close until tomorrow, but we are already listening to what you have to say and implementing your ideas as they roll in. If you haven’t taken the survey yet, you can do so by clicking here: 2015 Countertop Industry Survey.

One common recommendation that we have received thus far is to bring you more information about health and safety in the workplace. To this end, I have personally been hard at work making new contacts interested in writing professional pieces on the topic, and I have been in contact with the media representatives of Oregon OSHA for further information on accidents and compliance requirements.

While researching health and safety topics, I was alerted about an accident that occurred here in Portland at a large fabrication shop, which will remain nameless in order to protect the company and those involved. According to my sources, several slabs fell on a warehouse worker during transport, causing serious injuries to the employee’s leg and ankle. While this particular accident was minor, it could’ve been much more serious.

From 1984 to 2006, a total of 46 fatalities have occurred in the United States associated with the handling and storage of stone slabs. Three of them, which were associated with slab racking systems, occurred in New England states during an 18-month period.

shib081208_fig2Following are just a few examples:

During the course of business, it can be easy to get caught up in production and demanding schedules, and we may forget about the safety of our employees and others who may be in our warehouses or fabrication shops. It only takes a split second and one overlooked safety procedure for an accident to occur, resulting in serious injuries or even death.

Looking at this issue from a humanitarian point of view, it is impossible to replace a human life, and looking at it from a business standpoint, some companies never recover from the monetary losses, insurance expenses, lawsuits and the social stigma that result from such incidents.

In order to provide a starting point for stone and countertop fabricators, federal OSHA released an official Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) shib081208_fig6regarding the Hazards of Transporting, Unloading, Storing and Handling Granite, Marble and Stone Slabs in 2008. The information in the bulletin is neither a standard nor a regulation but simply a piece of advice “intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.”

According to this SHIB, safety issues occur at four key points for fabricators:

  • Unloading slabs from containers – Employees have been killed when removing wooden supports provided by suppliers to keep slabs from shifting within a container.
  • Storing slabs in a warehouse – Improperly designed or improperly used storage racks, particularly A-frame racks, present a serious danger.
  • Handling and moving slabs – Slabs are often moved using dangerous equipment, including hooks, chains, cranes and industrial trucks.
  • Loading slabs onto trucks – Employees loading slabs onto trucks are exposed to several hazards, such as being caught, struck or crushed.

The SHIB also goes on to provide several general recommendations plus specific recommendations for the storage and in-house transport of stone slabs. A few of the important general recommendations are as follows:

  • Create a safety plan, identifying all potential hazards, hazardous equipment and safe work practices.
  • Develop and implement safety procedures for loading, unloading, storing and handling slabs.
  • Ensure that workers are using the proper equipment for each job.
  • Inspect all material-handling equipment on a regular basis, and repair or replace defective equipment.
  • Train all employees on the proper safety procedures.
  • Observe employees to ensure they are following your safety procedures.

For further recommendations on safe slab handling and creating a safe workplace, you have several options available. Oregon OSHA and many other state OSHA offices offer free, confidential consultation services for small and mid-sized businesses. I have been personally assured by my state’s OSHA representatives that the consultation department is in no way tied to enforcement, and no citations or penalties will be imposed for violations discovered during the course of a consultation.

In addition, you may take advantage of the resources provided by trade associations, such as the Marble Institute of America. Finally, numerous private consulting firms are available near you that will provide consultation and training focused on OSHA compliance and insurance management for a fee. Be on the lookout for a new Health and Safety Watch article right here at CountertopResource.com next month in addition to all of our regular monthly information on the latest news in the world of countertop fabrication.

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