OSHA Launches Effort to Prevent Deaths In New England's Stone Cut Industry

As the demand for fashionable granite countertops to adorn kitchens has sprouted in the New England area, so has the number of deaths in injuries among workers in the cut stone products industries. As a result, OSHA plans to meet with stone businesses across the region to help educate employers about the hazards of working with large blocks of stone.

"The need for direct intervention is clear," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "This program seeks to persuade employers to take effective steps to address hazards before they harm workers and focus appropriate enforcement action toward those employers who do nothing."

In New England, six workers in the industry have died since August 2004, five of them crushed by stone slabs.

Hazards to which industry workers can be exposed are:

  • Crushing by improperly stored or handled stone slabs;
  • Silicosis and other lung diseases from exposure to airborne concentrations of silica caused by grinding and cutting;
  • Amputation hazards from unguarded machinery;
  • Musculoskeletal injuries from using pneumatic tools; and
  • Hearing loss from noise overexposures.

Over the next 2 months, OSHA offices in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island will conduct outreach activities to inform industry employers and employees of the program, promote their awareness of the hazards common to their workplaces and provide information on possible abatement methods. This will include contacting employers to encourage them to schedule a free safety and health audit by their state consultation service.

Employers who do not participate in the effort will be placed on a primary list for random, unannounced OSHA enforcement inspections, the agency said. Those who use the safety consultation service and take steps to correct any hazards found will be put on a secondary inspection list. OSHA will still conduct inspections in response to complaints, referrals and accidents.

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