A Milford, N.H., manufacturer of stone countertops faces $46,250 in fines from the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following the Oct. 21, 2005, death of an employee who was crushed by a granite slab that fell on him after it was struck by a forklift.

Northern Marble & Granite Co. Inc. was cited for 29 alleged serious and two alleged other than serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Our inspection found that the granite slabs were not stored in a safe manner, exposing employees to fatal crushing injuries," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's New Hampshire area director. "The inspection also identified potential health hazards stemming from overexposure to silica dust and inadequate respiratory protection."

Ohar explained that silica dust can be generated by the grinding and cutting of various types of stone and inhaled by workers. Continued overexposure can result in silicosis, a disease in which scar tissue forms in the lungs and reduces their ability to extract oxygen from the air.

Employers are required to measure silica levels and, if they exceed permitted exposure limits, take steps to reduce exposure levels, train employees about silica and its hazards and provide respiratory protection. Those steps were not taken. In addition, workers were not fit-tested for respirators, trained in respirator selection and use or given medical evaluations to determine their ability to wear a respirator.

Other conditions cited during the inspection included inadequate employee forklift training; uninspected and improperly modified forklifts; no specific procedures and training for locking out machines' power sources before performing maintenance; unguarded saws and grinders; unmarked exits, and exposed electrical parts. The company was also cited for lack of personal protective equipment and training; steel lifting chains not marked with their lifting capacity; lack of a hearing conservation program; not surveying the workplace to identify hazardous confined spaces; no written hazard communication program, and failing to maintain an illness and injury log.