About 500 plastics processors could face federal safety inspections as part of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration program to target factories with higher-than-normal injury and illness rates.
The plastics firms are part of a list of 14,000 workplaces that OSHA said could be targeted for inspections under the agency's annual Site-Specific Targeting program. Typically, about one-third of the firms get inspected, starting with those with the highest rates, an OSHA spokesman said.
``This is basically like a wake-up call saying, `Hey, your numbers are higher than your industry's average,' '' the spokesman said.
Companies on the list had 6.5 or more injuries or illnesses resulting in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer per 100 workers, referred to as the DART rate. For the plastics processing industry in 2003, the last year for which figures are available, the average was 4.2.
In 2004, the roughly 4,000 companies with DART rates of more than 15 were the primary targets, OSHA said.
Each of the facilities will receive a letter from OSHA that includes their injury rate, suggestions for improving - such as using free OSHA consultants - and a copy of the most frequently violated standards in the industry. For plastics processing, that was lockout/tagout rules, which generated 371 citations and penalties of $380,000 in the most recent government fiscal year, ended in September.
The list is not drawn from a national sample: It does not, for example, include companies in the 26 states that run their own workplace safety agencies. And it does not include the smallest companies in an industry, typically those with less than 40 employees, OSHA said.
The 14,000 sites are listed alphabetically by state in a downloadable database at www.osha .gov/as/opa/foia/hot_11.html.