WORKER KILLED AT TAILOR MADE

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An employee of Tailor Made Products Inc. of Elroy, Wis., died Feb. 20 while operating an injection molding machine.

Juneau County Coroner Howard Fischer pronounced Michael Geyer, 26, dead at St. Joseph Hospital in Hillsboro shortly after the 6 p.m. incident, according to a news release from Fischer's office.

The Elroy man was working on a press ``when he got caught in it,'' the release said. The regional Occupational Safety and Health Office is investigating the accident, and would not comment on the case.

According to Joe Palmisano, company general manager, Geyer was a second-shift machine set-up operator who had been with the company about 15 months. One of the machines on the line, a 500-ton Cincinnati Milacron press, had a new mold in which parts were sticking.

``About an hour before the accident, Mike had just spent about 45 minutes pulling the [part] out of the mold,'' Palmisano said in a telephone interview, speculating that Geyer wanted to ``take a shortcut'' to remove another stuck part while it was still in cycle so he wouldn't have to pull the [part] again. A rag was used to circumvent the safety switch as Geyer moved to the back of the machine, Palmisano said.

Tailor Made, a single-plant operation, halted production right after the death, and psychologists were brought to the plant for individual counseling sessions with employees. Production did not resume until 12 a.m., Feb. 26, Palmisano said.

Geyer is survived by his wife, Vickee.

``It's the worst thing a plant can ever have happen,'' Palmisano said, adding that a new safety policy already has been put in place. ``Shortcuts will result in write-ups and immediate termination,'' he said.

Geyer's death was the first fatality in the plant's 13-year history, Palmisano said, adding that the factory recently had been remodeled and equipped with new machines.

``We spent a lot of time and money remodeling, improving machinery and safety programs,'' he said. ``It obviously wasn't fast enough.''

Other area manufacturers have called the plant since newspapers reported the death, he said.

``The accident became a focus of their safety meetings,'' he said.

Tailor Made operates 19 injection presses with clamping forces of 100-850 tons. The company does custom molding and makes proprietary lines of hardware and houseware products.

The plant employs 70 and has annual sales between $5 million and $10 million, Palmisano said.

Tailor Made took over the operations of the former Royal Plastics Inc. in late 1994 after the latter filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The new owners also agreed to pay back most of $750,000 in state and local loans made to Royal Plastics' predecessor, Northern Plastics, in 1992.