I couldn't help but notice the two stories in the Sept. 23 issue [Page 24] involving two plastics industry workers killed on the job in separate incidents. One happened at Imaginative Plastics Co. in La Habra, Calif., the other at an M.A. Hanna Color compounding facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Reports like this appear all too frequently, which has prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to target the plastics industry.
At the recent SPE Thermoforming Division meeting, Ron A. Flowers, a workers' compensation consultant for EBI Cos., a workers' compensation insurance specialist in Harrisburg, Pa., presented some statistics that should worry processors.
Industrial accident statistics for 1994 show that nationally, 9.8 workers out of every 100 get hurt on the job. For the plastics industry, 12 out of every 100 workers suffer job-related injuries. Sometimes they are killed.
Dana Mead, chief executive officer of Tenneco Inc. in Greenwich, Conn., commented: ``Accidents take focus off production and profits fall.''
Perhaps we've focused too much on achieving excellence in producing parts, obtaining ISO 9000 and reaching manufacturing goals of ``zero defects'' and not enough on worker safety.
Product quality and safety go together in the manufacturing environment, said Flowers.
And they should. Can processors claim total quality management if their workers are getting hurt on the job?
As the plastics industry has evolved from ``Mom and Pop'' family shops with low-tech, low-speed machines to large operations using high-tech, high-speed production machinery, the risk of worker injury also has grown.
On-the-job safety procedures still are not a high priority with many processors. Many training programs contain a brief section on safety buried somewhere in the how-tos of processing. One new, interactive CD-ROM program, called the OnSite Safety Assistant, was due out Nov. 1.
A custom molder and mold maker produced OSSA in response to its own need to make safety a priority, and now will offer the program to others.
There will always be accidents when people interact with machines. But every company has a responsibility to make worker safety as much a part of its total-quality-management program as ISO 9000 or statistical process control.
It's time for the industry to start paying attention to worker safety and begin reducing accidents. If a 12 percent reject rate for parts is unacceptable in your plant, then so should be a 12 percent accident rate.
Goldsberry is a Plastics News correspondent based in Phoenix.