OSHA targets injuries/illnesses in cut stone industries

RP news wires, Noria Corporation
Tags: workplace safety

The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a new outreach and enforcement effort aimed at preventing and reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities among workers in New England's cut stone products industries.

The new regional emphasis program will focus on workplaces that cut, shape, finish, handle or distribute granite, marble and other natural or engineered stone or stone products. The industry, primarily made up of smaller employers, has grown rapidly in the past few years, prompted by an increased demand for countertops and other stone products. At the same time, fatality and injury rates among its workers have increased. 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.

"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."

Over the next two 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.

Those employers who take no action will be placed on a primary list for random, unannounced OSHA enforcement inspections. 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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