I just got out of bed, getting ready to get my first cup of jo, when the phone rang. It startled me since it was only 5:00 am. Who in the world would be calling me at this hour?
I contemplated not answering it, just letting it go to voicemail, but curiosity prevailed and I answered. "Good morning," I said, "or should I say, who the heck is calling me at this hour? Stone Detective, here." The voice on the other end didn't seem to appreciate my sense of humor. His voice had a sense of urgency to it and it also sounded like he was about to cry.
"Mr. Stone Detective, I am in serious trouble." Ok, so maybe it was important. "I'm listening," I said, trying to do my best Frasier Crane impression.
My caller went on to tell me that last week he fired one of his employees and the employee called OSHA and turned him in. He said the employee told them that his operations were unsafe. "That we made him use hazardous chemicals without the proper safety equipment, that we dumped all our stone slurry down the drain, that he was never trained properly, and who knows what else."
He went on to tell me that this simply was not true. His main concern was that OSHA was going to show up and do an inspection and was wondering if I could help him get ready.
I calmed him down and told him that I could arrange to conduct a safety audit of his facility and help him get compliant. He asked if I could come over that day. Luckily, I was only a few hours away and I told him I could head over there that afternoon.
I pulled up to his shop and got out of my ol' Woody. It was a modern building and looked impeccably clean. I walked in the front door and was greeted by a woman who looked like the flamboyant Garcia from the TV show Criminal Minds. Yes, she had the red hair and the big glasses and all the dressings. This was a serious matter, but it took all my self-control to not make a wisecrack.
I introduced myself and asked to see Mr. Worried to Death. Just as I finished asking her, a tall man dressed in a white and gold shirt and plaid pants came walking from the back of the office. "You must be the Stone Detective," he said. "Let's go into my office."
He directed me to his office and before I could even sit down, he was talking a mile a minute about his shop and how he takes every safety precaution. He went on the say he makes all his employees wear safety goggles and hearing protection. "I yell at them every day to wear their safety equipment."
"That's great," I said, "but let's take a look at what OSHA will be looking for and make sure you are compliant." So I opened my note pad and asked him the following questions:
1. Do you have a written safety program?
2. Where do you keep your HAZCOM program?
3. Is your MSDS file up to date?
4. How often do you hold safety meetings?
Before I could continue, he had a look of confusion on his face. I stopped and waited for his answers. He told me he did not have a written safety program. He said he had no idea what HAZCOM was but he did have some MSDS in a cardboard box stuffed in storage somewhere. He also said he never had safety meetings.
I explained to him that when OSHA conducts an inspection, they are going to ask for these items. I also told him that he needs to conduct safety meetings on a regular basis.
"OK, OK," he said. "I need to know where to get these items but what do I do when an employee makes a complaint? How do I prove that its a malicious lie and made up?"
I told him that he needs to make sure that all his employees sign a training verification form when they are hired and when they attend safety meetings. I conducted a walkthrough of his shop and found several other OSHA violations which included extension cords without any ground plugs, to name just one.
After my inspection I sat down with him again and suggested he subscribe to a safety program such aswhich could get him a safety manual, HAZCOM program, an MSDS data base and safety meetings, etc. I told him that this was the only program I knew of that is specifically designed for the stone industry. I told him that just last week I got a call from a contractor who had an OSHA inspection and it cost him over $60,000.00 in fines. He turned pale and thanked me.
The next week OSHA showed up at his shop and he passed with flying colors. He had all the documents they requested and thankfully had fixed the things I found in my inspection. Another case solved. Now back to my office for a little R&R.
The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Fred Hueston, written to be entertaining and educational. He has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. You can send any email comments to him at