In light of several recent slab handling accident deaths at stone facilities across the country, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) has launched a new safety initiative that will examine every facet of slab handling, including new video and other training materials for the industry.

“This initiative has the highest priority at MIA,” said Gary Distelhorst, executive vice president of the association. Deaths have been reported at both fabricator and distributor facilities in recent months in California, Oklahoma, Florida, New York and Ohio.

To attack the spreading epidemic of accidents, Distelhorst said that the MIA has created a slab handling safety task force composed of safety experts from leading stone distributor firms. The group consists of key safety and operational executives from: Architectural Granite & Marble, Arizona Tile, Daltile, Midwest Tile, Mont Granite, MS International, OHM International, and Walker Zanger. The MIA and several stone suppliers will provide funding for the new initiative across the country.

In its first teleconference, the task force focused on several important safety issues concerning slab handling involving use of overhead cranes and uniform procedures for slab delivery to local fabricators, each of which provides a unique delivery situation because of facilities and terrain.

The task force is expected to meet in the near future to zero in on specifics that will lead to creation of a new video script and other training materials. MIA hopes to distribute the new materials by late spring.

One of the key efforts of the task force is to identify and address training topics that were not addressed in the slab handling video (produced in 2005).“Obviously, the subject needs to be addressed again and expanded in scope and depth,” Distelhorst said.

“In the meantime, we urge all MIA members and others in the industry to make use of current MIA slab handling safety materials to reinforce the message that careless slab handling is very dangerous,” he said.

For a complete listing of safety materials available, visit www.marble-institute.com/safety.