Throughout our 19 year history, the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) has, for the most part, avoided being involved in government relations and lobbying. Our colleagues at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. do a very effective job of representing the industry's interests and making sure the voice of plastics processors are heard on Capitol Hill.
We have been proud to support their efforts and will continue to do so.
Now, more than ever, we see the need for that work. At the MAPP offices, the number of requests for help from members who are dealing with federal and state representatives from different departments including the Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration, U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Labor, are on the rise. These agencies maintain compliance with rules and regulations that ensure worker safety, environmental conditions and more, and as of late have increased their focus on manufacturing companies. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in severe financial penalties and reallocation of resources to fix things after a surprise inspection.
Many lobbying trade organizations work at the congressional levels to ensure laws are fair for the manufacturing community, but there is another level of government relations that must occur at the local level.
One MAPP member who received a lockout/tagout citation from OSHA worked with his local inspector to create a very affordable solution that improved the safety in his plant. This company executive found that building a relationship created dialogue rather than conflict.
His success is something other processors can learn from, because the federal government is only getting more aggressive in our industry. Pete Wade, an attorney and OSHA expert for ICE Miller, a long-time MAPP sponsor, said, “This administration is aggressively expanding the government's involvement in the private sector. Whether it is new NLRB law or new interpretations of existing OSHA regulations, business is being impacted.”
Pete goes on to state that, “We are advising clients to proactively audit their policies and procedures to minimize the impact the disruption and the penalties the government will try to assess.”
Being proactive and creating policies and procedures will help, but there is an additional step industry executives can take to prepare for the inevitable arrival of the federal government. Benchmarking your planned reaction against those of your colleagues can have a big advantage.
Do you have internal audit procedures to ensure standard paperwork, like I-9 documentation, is being handled correctly? Have you reached out to your state run OSHA organization to help identify facility issues? And just as important, are you working with your local district congressional staff to make them aware of your issues and challenges?
You might not have done these things, but others in our industry have, and it pays dividends. However, this isn't a topic that a lot of people are comfortable talking about in blogs or articles. But MAPP members do feel comfortable talking about it in a face-to-face environment. For 19 years I have seen this topic come up informally in MAPP's plant tours, board meetings and the annual Benchmarking and Best Practices conference.
Because of that, MAPP will feature a specific session on this topic at the Benchmarking Conference this year. The session will be about the steps your colleagues have taken to build these critical relationships. They will share how they may have saved their businesses because of the steps they have taken to effectively work with OSHA, the Department of Labor and local authorities.
I hope to see you the event on Oct. 16-17 in Indianapolis. If you are curious, you can learn more about the conference by going to www.mappinc.com/conference.
If you can't make it, follow Pete Wade's advice and make sure you are prepared with policies and procedures, so the knock at the door won't be a surprise to you.
Troy Nix is executive director of the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors, a trade group based in Indianapolis.