New data for 2001 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that plastics processing is still more hazardous than the average U.S. manufacturing job, though it is getting better.

New data for 2001 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that plastics processing is still more hazardous than the average U.S. manufacturing job, though it is getting better. The injury rate for all manufacturing dropped 10% in 2001 while the rate for plastics processing fell 12%. That still leaves the plastics injury rate 19% higher than the manufacturing average, down from 23% in 2000 and 36% in 1989. But the worst plastics category in 2001—foam products—had an injury rate 36% above the manufacturing average. Clearly there’s a lot more to be done.

Six of the nine plastics categories had lower injury rates in 2001 than the year before, while three had worse safety records. Are the changes real or just statistical “noise”? There’s a good chance the improved data reflect a real trend. For all but one of the six categories showing improved safety records, the 2001 injury rates were lower than in any of the previous five years, not just in the one preceding year. It also may be hard to dismiss the uptick in injuries for the other three categories as merely a statistical blip. Their 2001 injury rates were not only higher than in 2000 but also exceeded one or two more of the preceding five years. It makes one wonder what’s been going on lately in profile, foam products, and custom compounding plants.

Their problems are probably the same as in other plastics operations—heavy reliance on unskilled or semi-skilled labor, coupled with inadequate training. If so, better training looks like a safe place to start. 

 

INCIDENCE OF NON-FATAL OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES
(Lost-Workday Cases Per 100 Full-Time Workers)
 
All Manufacturing
Misc. Plastics Products
Unsupported Film & Sheet
Unsupported Profile Shapes
Laminated Plate & Sheet
Plastics Pipe
Plastics Bottles
Plastics Foam Products
Custom Compounding
Plastics Plumbing Fixtures
Other Plastics Products
SIC

308
3081
3082
3083
3084
3085
3086
3087
3088
3089
1989
5.3
7.2

5.9
7.2
6.5
8.5
8.3
7.1
8.3
9.1
7.2
1995
4.6
5.6

3.8
4.9
5.4
6.7
6.0
5.1
4.8
7.4
5.9
2000
4.0
4.9

4.1
3.7
3.8
9.6
4.6
5.3
3.5
6.2
4.9
2001
3.6
4.3

3.2
4.5
3.5
3.8
2.6
5.4
4.5
4.9
4.5