Almost 600 plastics processing factories could face inspections from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as part of the agency's effort to target inspections at workplaces with injury rates that are much higher than normal.
The list, announced Feb. 25 by OSHA, includes facilities of some well-known firms.
It also includes companies that have been on the list in prior years, such as Dart Container Corp., which has five factories on this year's list.
Most plants listed will not be inspected. Generally, OSHA inspects about one-third of the 13,000 businesses that make its annual list. The agency still is drawing up this year's inspection protocol, but officials said they do not anticipate major changes.
``A lot of it depends on resources,'' said OSHA spokesman Bill Wright.
OSHA Administrator John Henshaw wrote in a letter to all 13,000 firms that he recognizes being on the list does not mean a firm is not interested in safety.
He urged them to seek assistance and, if they have fewer than 250 employees, to take advantage of a free consultation service OSHA maintains in each state. Under that program, a safety consultant visits the facility and the results of the review remain confidential, but the employer and consultant must agree on a program to address problems.
Companies are placed on the list if they have eight or more lost-workday injury and illness cases per 100 full-time workers. Wright said firms with more than 14 cases usually are inspected first. The plastics processing industry average is 5.4 cases per 100 workers.
This year's program covers injury data for 2000.
OSHA officials could not provide figures for plastics firms inspected under the program last year. But for the list announced in 2000, OSHA inspected 90 out of 497 plastics processing factories and proposed fines of $137,000. This year, 585 factories are on the list from Standard Industrial Classification code 308, which includes plastics processing.
Several firms listed said they have seen improvement since 2000. Dart, in Mason, Mich., had five plants on the list this year, after having five plants on the list in 1999. At least one, in North Aurora, Ill., was named both years.
James Lammers, Dart's vice president of administration and general counsel, said three of the five factories had improvement in 2001 compared to 2000. But he said Dart needs to work harder.
``It's clear that our efforts to date have not resulted in the degrees of improvement that we must achieve,'' Lammers said. Most of Dart's injuries are motion-related, he said.
Nypro said its Longmont, Colo., plant had only two recordable accidents in 2000, but since the facility has only 60 employees, including part-timers, that pushed its rate over OSHA's threshold. One incident did not have to be recorded, but Nypro chose to do so, the firm said in a statement.
Nypro said companywide, its incident rate was 0.27 in 2001, down from 0.48 in 2000, well below the industry average. Seventeen of its plants around the world have never had a lost-time accident, the company said.
The list included several companies that are repeats.
Pipe maker Lamson & Sessions Co. Inc. put three plants on the list, including its Nazareth, Pa., facility, which was named for the second year in a row.
Carl Brondel, director of risk management at Beachwood, Ohio-based Lamson, said the company has seen continuous improvement since 2000.
In the past, company officials have said turnover in their safety positions hurt them.
Rotomolder Step2 Co.'s Streetsboro and Perrysville, Ohio, plants made the list, as they did two years ago. Then, Step2 said turnover in the labor market hurt safety because the firm's manufacturing is labor-intensive.
The plants have focused on safety and have made significant improvement since then, with Streetsboro seeing a 52 percent drop in recordable injuries in 2001 as its labor force dropped 20 percent said Wayne Stock, executive vice president of the Streetsboro-based firm. In Perrysville, injuries dropped 68 percent and the labor force dropped 30 percent, he said.
A more experienced work force helps, he said. ``When you bring brand-new people in here, you get an awful lot of injuries,'' Stock said. ``Their wrists and muscles don't build up fast enough.''
Packager Tuscarora Inc. had four plants on the list. Tuscarora officials said three of the four plants dropped below OSHA's threshold in 2001. The company said its corporatewide incident rate was 2.37 in 2000.
Several other companies put multiple plants on the list.
Uponor ETI Co. had three plants and rotomolder Rotonics Manufacturing Inc. had two Texas plants on the list, including a Gainesville facility that made the list two years ago.
Officials at those firms either could not be reached or declined comment.