WASHINGTON — The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and Michigan's Occupational Safety and Health Administration have entered into a partnership they hope will lead to better training and improved worker safety. Washington-based SPI and MIOSHA, as the department is known, said they still have to work out the details. The agreement is SPI's first, and stems from cooperation earlier this year between the state and SPI developing a streamlined lockout standard for horizontal injection molding machines.
The agreement calls for cooperation in developing training, and ongoing talks between the parties to discuss current issues and promote worker safety. The groups formally signed the agreement May 25 in Lansing, Mich.
MIOSHA Director Doug Earle said road-building and general-contracting trade groups have reached similar arrangements with his department. It will be up to the plastics industry to seek new safety standards or changes in existing rules, although the agency may not always agree, Earle said.
The arrangement means the regulators will notify SPI when they are going to fine a plastics company for safety violations, he said: "I expect the association would still be aggressive in representing its members."
SPI President Donald Duncan said that he hopes to strike similar deals with other states.
The agreement builds on the earlier lockout safety agreement. That accord allows companies to make a mold change without completely powering down the injection press, which takes time and can damage computer systems.
Tim Koury, corporate safety director of Blue Water Plastics Inc. in Marysville, Mich., said the standard allows companies to put a $4 lock on the gate to keep it open.
The standard is just as safe, and it saves wear and tear on the machine, he said. Koury, who sits on MIOSHA's nine-member General Industry Safety Standard Commission, spearheaded the change for the industry.
SPI found that no one had been killed in a mold change and demonstrated that this change would preserve safety and save money, Koury said.
Earle said SPI and the state government worked on that for several years. Initially, the groups tried to convince press makers to retrofit equipment, but those companies balked because of legal concerns, Earle said.
The groups went to the U.S. OSHA and received a warm reception, but found that the idea "went into the bowels of the bureaucracy but didn't come out," he said.