JCK gives $75,000 to MJSA for safety outreach program

The Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America (MJSA) received a $75,000 grant from the JCK 2002 Jewelry Industry Fund to aid in its efforts to ensure safe working conditions throughout the jewelry industry.

The funds will be used to create educational resources for manufacturers in the Los Angeles jewelry district, where recent building and safety compliance issues have threatened the survival of one of the nation’s largest jewelry manufacturing districts, said MJSA President/CEO James F. Marquart. Those resources will then ultimately serve as a basis for a national outreach program.

“The issues that have been raised in California-from chemical storage to proper ventilation-are also faced by manufacturers across the nation,” Marquart said. “As the national trade association for jewelry manufacturing, MJSA is committed to providing the educational resources and support that companies need in order to comply with local, state, and federal laws. We also want to make sure that the health and safety of industry workers and the community alike is ensured, while still preserving the economic viability of the jewelry businesses.”

With city inspections set to begin in March, MJSA will produce both print and Web-based educational resources, as well as conduct safety seminars and offer onsite consultations; together, these resources will help manufacturers to address possible code violations.

Over the past year and a half, California state and local officials have focused intently on health and safety issues related to manufacturing operations in Los Angeles’ downtown jewelry district. For 30 years, jewelers have gravitated to the area-known as the Jewelry Mart-and settled into locations and spaces that were not necessarily zoned for manufacturing. Today, nearly 5,000 jewelry operations, the majority of which are sole proprietorships, call the Jewelry Mart home. Those businesses employ more than 15,000 workers.

As Los Angeles inspectors found code violations related to chemical storage and usage, acceptable manufacturing equipment, and the setup for and storage of compressed gas cylinders, among others, city officials sought to work with the industry to find a solution. In August 2000, MJSA was called upon to assist the Los Angeles Office of the Mayor in organizing the Los Angeles Jewelry Safety Task Force. Working with city, state, and federal agencies, two Los Angeles business improvement districts, building owners, and a group of concerned jewelry business owners, MJSA helped to produce guidelines for the safe operation of a manufacturing facility.

As a free service during MJSA’s LA Showcase trade show in April 2001, MJSA presented a briefing and panel discussion that offered the first public information about the work of the task force. The guidelines were later released in January 2002 and presented to area manufacturers on Jan. 23 during a day-long session conducted by government agencies, the Downtown Los Angeles Business Improvement District, and MJSA.

Addressing an audience of building owners and tenants, representatives from these agencies and organizations outlined the steps that manufacturers would need to take to come into compliance. Los Angeles City inspectors announced that they would begin inspections of area facilities in February; any company in violation would have 30 to 90 days either to come into compliance or to submit plans for the necessary modifications, depending on the violation.

The JCK grant will help to further MJSA’s efforts in assisting manufacturers to comply with local codes. Over the next year, MJSA will produce two manuals. The first will focus on compliance solutions, offering step-by-step instructions on how manufacturers can ensure their operations meet all code requirements.

The manual will also provide general information for safely working with chemical and hazardous materials, properly ventilating work areas, and ensuring proper plumbing. Scheduled for publication in late February 2002, the manual will have a $25 cover price but will be free to MJSA members.

“It’s important for companies to know not only how to comply with the codes, but what constitutes a violation; sometimes a long-held practice thought to be safe might actually be in non-compliance,” Marquart said. He cited visits that he and MJSA’s West Coast Regional Manager, Amy Wenslow, had had with Los Angeles jewelry manufacturers and a diamond dealer who thought the codes would not apply to them.

“Within a few seconds, we had pointed out several code violations,” Marquart said. “These codes affect all types of industry businesses, not only jewelry manufacturers but also jewelry retailers. That visit only deepened my belief in how important it is to provide these educational resources.” The compliance manual will subsequently be supplemented by a “buyer’s guide” that identifies the types of equipment approved by local codes, as well as the suppliers that sell them.

In addition to the two manuals, MJSA will conduct periodic safety seminars with Los Angeles manufacturers as well as provide onsite consultation to individual operations. It will also provide a “Safe Shop” exhibit and seminars during the 2002 LA Showcase, which will take place April 28-29 at the Millennium Biltmore in the heart of the city’s jewelry district.

Ultimately, MJSA will adapt these resources to meet the needs of the industry nationwide. “Industry issues of this type often start in California and spread outward, and I believe that manufacturers across the country will ultimately be forced to address the need for safe manufacturing operations,” Marquart said. “I feel confident that we’re creating a flexible program that we can adapt-with the concerted help of manufacturers in each region-to come up with workable solutions that satisfy all parties concerned.”

Marquart said MJSA greatly appreciated the generosity of the JCK Jewelry Industry Fund. He added that MJSA’s Education Foundation has also proven an invaluable asset to the program by providing $15,000 in funding to initiate the project. Foundation members have also provided their expertise in the development of the educational resources.

For more information about the Los Angeles safety guidelines or the informational programs, contact MJSA’s director of education, Mary Walek, at 1-800-444-6572, ext. 3041. To order copies of either manual, call MJSA member services at 1-800-444-6572 or 1-888-624-6572.