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AKRON, OHIO — Statistics on workplace injuries and illnesses abound. The trouble is trying to wade through a sea of numbers to find relevant information. The most comprehensive source for such information in the United States is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau surveys thousands of businesses each year and publishes dozens of charts detailing its findings.

If anyone wants to know the number of times people making paper cups hurt their knees in a given year, for example, the data is available. But BLS findings can take several years to publish, depending on the level of detail.

Plastics News, for its report on injuries and illnesses in the plastics industry appearing on Page 1 of this issue, downloaded several charts from the bureau's Web site at, and analyzed the data.

BLS charts break out injury statistics in a variety of ways, including severity, industry and types of workers. For the sake of simplicity, Plastics News' report deals mainly with statistics on all reportable injury and illness cases within the plastics processing industry (as defined by Standard Industrial Classification codes).

In comparing plastics and competing materials, Plastics News converted BLS text files into a database format that makes sorting, ranking and tabulating data much easier.

Other sources for safety statistics include the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., which conducts its own survey of 610 member plants. SPI measures lost workday injury and illness cases, as opposed to all injury and illness cases reported here. SPI's sample includes resin makers as well as processors.