In light of the dozens of slab handling deaths in the past decade a renewed interest in stone slab handling safety has occurred over the past few years. For safe operations, a bit of training and mentorship can go a long way. That’s why we have compiled some general tips to keep you safe while using our stone slab lifters.
When to Use Stone Lifters
The primary decision that has to be made when using stone lifters is when to use them. Stone fabricators that want to be efficient want to balance between productivity and safety. Using lifters for stone slabs that are under 50 lbs, for example, is an unnecessary extra step for most healthy adults. However, when stone slabs start to exceed 1000 lbs or more, it is not only practical but essential to use stone lifters to reduce the risk of injury.
Stone slabs can be deceptively heavy. With granite weighing in at 18 lbs per square foot for a 1 1/4″ it is important to practice safe labeling procedures to indicate when stones should be lifted manually or with assistance. The National Building Granite Quarries’ Specifications for Architectural Granite suggests that when panels are more than 100 pounds lifting clamp dimples should become an option and stone clamps are used by installing contractors.
Clearly communicating to every employee of your shop what is expected concerning lifting operations is an excellent way to reduce risk and cut down on workplace injuries.
Training Comes First
The primary rule to have in place to reduce safety risks in your shop regarding material handling is a zero tolerance policy against workers using equipment that they are not trained on. When inexperienced material handlers start to move large stone slabs without proper background, mentorship, or formal classroom training on the equipment, accidents are much more likely to happen.
Have a training protocol in place for all new employees if they are going to be doing any material handling. Even if new hires claim to have years of experience working with slabs, train them anyway. It’s impossible to know if your new employee has picked up bad habits from other shops until they make a major mistake, costing you money.
Check Equipment Before Each Shift
Any piece of equipment that you are trusting to hold hundreds of pounds of solid stone is worth spending a little bit of time inspecting before use. Having daily checklists for pre-shift inspections for forklifts, cranes, vacuum slab lifters, is a good idea and can help in record keeping in the long run. Taking the time to check equipment can mean the difference between a workplace accident and using a lock-out tag on that particular tool and working with other equipment. Lockout tags are much cheaper. To reduce premature equipment wear, be sure to store equipment in a designated area, away from extreme weather conditions. Never use defective equipment and when in doubt, always err on the safe side.
Always Use The Right Lifting Equipment
Part of the process of safety in any industry is using the right tool for the job. One of the most commonly overlooked parts of a forklift the load chart. If you’re operating a 5,000-pound forklift that has a four-stage mast (with 20 feet of lifting height), that forklift is only rated to pick up 600 pounds. Making sure that your lifts, cranes, and lifters can lift the weight of the material you are handling.
Respect the Basic Rules
Following a few basic rules at all times in respect to moving stone slabs can be helpful. These general rules include:
- Never move more than one slab at a time
- Always engage the clamp in the center of the work piece
- Always use two people to lift a slab
- Use a spotter when using a crane to lift
- Never try to lift wet slabs
- Always wear personal protective equipment while working with stone slabs
Seeking Additional Training Resources
Industry interest groups and government organizations, OSHA provide completely free resources available online. Seeking out additional resources can empower you to help train stone-workers in your shop to make safer decisions in everyday shop operations. For example, this advisory bulletin from OSHA gives a lot of great advice on how to better “fool-proof” your material handling operations.