Starting a new job in the stone industry as a fabricator, installer, machine operator, or other position? As one of the oldest in the world, it is a very rewarding and proud industry. There are however a few things you should know out of the gate as you deal with heavy slabs, powerful machinery, and precise fabrication.
If you’ve never been a “stoner” before (you’ll get used to the puns, just don’t take em for granite), or just need a refresher, Park Industries® has compiled a list of seven “must-know” tips. These tips come courtesy of experienced professionals from across the stone industry and will help you jump into your new job with the right attitude and safety knowledge.
1. Ask questions galore
The number one most commonly responded tip from stone fabricators & operators was to ask questions. Soak up as much information as you can while on the job. In an industry where a single slab can cost thousands of dollars or more, mistakes are very costly. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
You can look to the internet to learn from the wise. Here are a few of the most active Facebook groups where you can absorb tons of advice (must request to join): Stone Fabricators Alliance, Park Industries Customer Only Group, and All Slab Fabbers.
2. Trust your tools
There is a wide range of machinery used in the process of stone fabrication from edge polishers to CNC cutting machines. This equipment is designed for accuracy, speed and efficiency unmatched by a human. Become familiar with your fabrication tools and get the training you need to run them effectively. Regardless of what machine you are running, you must be able to rely on it and the company who built it. If you can’t, it may be time to take a look at Park Industries® machine solutions, backed with 24/7 service and excellent training support.
One bonus tip from a bridge saw operator: “Measure three times. Cut once.” meaning the machine will work to your specifications and you cannot take back a cut that’s already been made.
3. The Law of Gravity
Physics applies all day in this industry and gravity is the only constant so make it your best friend. Whether you are unloading a machine, bringing countertops in for installation, or just moving slabs around be aware of how to work smarter, not harder when it comes to material handling.
4. A clean shop is a happy shop
The process of stone fabrication can get messy. With plenty of water being used, stone scraps, different tools needed, and more – the shop can get dirty and unorganized fast if cleanliness is not considered. One shop owner states how impressive it is to see in employees, “If you keep your area neat, clean, and tidy, you will find yourself rising to the top of your workplace.” So keep it clean and take pride in your work area! Bonus points for always staying on top of machine maintenance.
Check out Texas Custom Granite for a little clean shop inspiration!
5. Respect the slab (Safety first, always!)
One of the most important aspects of stone as you are just starting out: SAFETY FIRST. Never underestimate the power of the slab. Whether it’s a big or small part, if you don’t respect the stone it could do lasting harm to your body. A slab is replaceable, YOU are not. Be aware of it at all times, NEVER try and catch a falling slab, and watch your fingers & toes. Always keeping a level of awareness and “paranoia” when around slabs. You can never be too careful.
6. Learn about OSHA
OSHA is a prominent agency in the stone industry and you should make sure you know their rules to keep yourself safe and protect your company from expensive fines. One example: it is an OSHA violation to leave a material / slab hanging on a crane or forklift without someone attending. So if you are moving a slab and something else requires your attention, you need to set it down before leaving the area.
7. Take pride
Stone fabrication is a craft AND a business. Take pride in the quality of your work and don’t rush, but make sure you are helping your company meet their schedule. Deadlines are very important in this industry. Also if you really want to succeed, help your company identify possible bottlenecks and come with solutions for them.
*Bonus, a few fabricator pet peeves
Here are a few suggestions on what not to do – make sure to avoid these to escape a few eye rolls from co-workers:
- Don’t just look at me working, do something too.
- 1/3 doesn’t show on a tape measure so stop looking for it.
You are, however, supposed to know how to use & find the famous Granite Stretcher!