WASHINGTON — Hundreds of plastics processing plants are being targeted in a crackdown by federal safety regulators on facilities with on-the-job injury and illness rates well above the national average.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced April 26 it has identified 12,500 workplaces with the highest injury and illness rates.
Not all 12,500 are guaranteed to face extra inspections, but the worst 2,200 of them will be inspected this year, said OSHA spokesman Frank Kane. When those 2,200 are done, OSHA will work its way down the rest of the list, he said.
The 2,200 inspections will focus on companies with more than 16 injuries or illnesses per 100 workers that resulted in lost work days, Kane said.
The larger list of 12,500 that are receiving letters are companies that had at least eight injuries or illnesses per 100 workers that resulted in lost work days. The national average is 3.3.
OSHA's announcement said companies with fewer than 250 workers can receive free help from an OSHA on-site safety consultant in a program administered separately from the agency's inspections and enforcement.
The OSHA list of 12,500 companies names 457 plants designated by the 308 Standard Industrial Classification codes most commonly used for plastics processing plants. There could be a number of plastics processing plants on the list that use other SIC codes.
One company on the list, AEP Industries Inc., said its Waxahachie, Texas, plant has made strong improvements in safety in the past two years.
That plant was part of an earlier OSHA effort to work cooperatively with problem facilities, said Jim Mohney, manufacturing manager responsible for safety programs at AEP's corporate office in South Hackensack, N.J. That program was suspended because OSHA lost a legal challenge.
Mohney said he did not have specific safety data for the Texas plant because he was traveling, but said that, besides some specific improvements at that plant, AEP instituted a corporatewide safety program in late 1996 focused on training management and cutting management bonuses if safety targets were not met.
A Dart Container Corp. official said he did not know why the firm's five plants on the list had high injury rates.
``We recognize we have got to do better, no question about it,'' said James Lammers, Dart vice president.
One Dart plant on the list, in North Aurora, Ill., lowered its rates after seeking help from state agencies mentioned in the OSHA letter, Lammers said. The other four probably will seek similar help, he said.
The list of 12,500 companies and an OSHA announcement are on the agency's Web site at http://www.osha.gov.