WASHINGTON — Companies with worse-than-normal safety records in several plastics processing segments face targeted inspections by federal regulators.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking the action because a court temporarily halted an alternative cooperative safety program.
OSHA announced April 13 it plans inspections at 3,300 plants in 99 industries, including plastic foam products, plastic plumbing fixtures, generic plastic products and plastic hose makers.
Officials would not say how many plants would be targeted in each segment, but it is the first time OSHA has released a list of industries targeted by the program. OSHA disclosed it as part of a court challenge to its Cooperative Compliance Program.
Three of the four plastics segments — plumbing, foam and general products — have relatively low injury rates compared with the rest of the list, but much higher than the national average of 3.6 workdays lost due to injury or illness per 100 full-time workers.
Plastic plumbing fixture makers average 6.9 lost workdays, while foam products have 6.8, and generic plastic products, 6.6.
Plastic and rubber hose makers have a rate of 7.9, roughly in the middle of the list. The inspection program targets companies with injury rates above the average for their industry.
OSHA spokesman Stephen Gaskill said it is too soon to say if the list will be used to target inspections beyond the 3,300 worst work sites identified by the agency, and said OSHA has other local initiatives that can supplement this effort.
``I think this is certainly a focus for the agency, but it shouldn't be construed as the only activity,'' Gaskill said.
Officials with the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. in Washington declined comment because they still were studying the list.
OSHA's CCP was put on hold by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, pending a ruling expected in the fall.
Companies that are inspected will not be eligible for CCP partnerships, OSHA said.
Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, challenged CCP because OSHA evaluated companies under CCP based on controversial standards that the agency has been unable to adopt, such as ergonomics and collective bargaining on health and safety issues.
About 10,000 companies — 87 percent of those invited — joined CCP, which offered reduced chances for inspection in return for developing a plan with OSHA.
``It is coercive,'' said Robin Conrad, vice president of the chamber's national litigation center. ``It says that if you guys agree to rules that have not been subject to the regulatory process, we'll give you a deal.''
OSHA said CCP allows it to use its resources more efficiently and said a Maine pilot program won praise.