To a government safety inspector looking for hazardous workplaces, plastics plants stick out like a sore thumb.

To a government safety inspector looking for hazardous workplaces, plastics plants stick out like a sore thumb. In every year from 1989 to 2000, the dates for which OSHA statistics are available, U.S. plastics plants had significantly higher injury rates than the average for all manufacturing. That's counting only injuries serious enough cause lost workdays.

What's more, OSHA has just branded general plastics custom molding (SIC 3089) as the worst amputation hazard of any U.S. industry sector. As we reported last month, that puts plastics processors squarely in OSHA's bullseye for stiffer enforcement activity (see PT, Feb. '02, p. 60).

Over the last 11 years, plastics processors cleaned up their act somewhat. Their injury rate in 2000 was almost 32% lower than in 1989, vs. only a 25% improvement for manufacturing as a whole. In 1989, plastics processors had an average injury rate almost 36% worse than all manufacturing. In 2000, plastics plants were "only" 23% worse. That's still far from satisfactory. Although three out of nine plastics SICs came out safer than the manufacturing average in 2000, the worst plastics category that year—pipe—had an injury rate 140% above that of all of manufacturing.

Workplace safety makes sense morally, economically, and any other way you look at it. Unsafe operations suffer in productivity, employee relations, and insurance costs. Now that plastics' poor record has gotten OSHA's attention, you can add the inconvenience of having more safety inspectors breathing down your necks. 

 

INCIDENCE OF NON-FATAL OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES
(Lost-Workday Cases Per 100 Full-Time Workers)
 SIC198919952000
All Manufacturing5.34.64.0
Misc. Plastics Products3087.25.64.9
Unsupported Film & Sheet30815.93.84.1
Unsupported Profile Shapes30827.24.93.7
Laminated Plate & Sheet30836.55.43.8
Plastics Pipe30848.56.79.6
Plastics Bottles30858.36.04.6
Plastics Foam Products30867.15.15.3
Custom Compounding30878.34.83.5
Plastics Plumbing Fixtures30889.17.46.2
Other Plastics Products30897.25.94.9