Since 2001, Plastics News has kicked off every year with our editorial agenda. One constant: Safety must be the top priority of every company.
So this week, we are glad to bring you our special report on workplace safety. A bunch of the stories are from a tremendous conference in mid-July, the 2019 Environmental Health and Safety Summit, sponsored by the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP), the American Mold Builders Association and the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers.
This two-day event held in Columbus, Ohio, drew 100 people this year — but the conference deserves a much wider audience. The Environmental Health and Safety Summit is a unique chance for processors and mold makers to hear the newest happenings in safety. We encourage more people to attend this annual event.
Topics this year included safety around injection molding machines and tooling, how to survive an OSHA inspection, medical marijuana, fall prevention, the permitting of air emissions, managing multiple factory sites and workplace violence. All are important, timely topics.
And of course, lockout/tag-out — the OSHA rule that you have totally power off a piece of industrial machinery before servicing the machine or doing maintenance. Failure to do lockout/tag-out of a machine, such as an injection molding press, can result in serious injury or even death. It's absolutely critical to do it correctly. And training is a must, so that all plant workers are on the same page.
Safety is about so much more than a big OSHA fine.
If a worker gets seriously injured, physically, on the job — or heaven forbid killed, as we reported this week about Larry Griffin Jr., who was electrocuted at DeKalb Molded Plastics Co. — it also injures everybody else in the entire company — psychologically — from management down to the person sweeping the floors. Guilt. Remorse. "What-if" scenarios running in an endless loop through your mind.
An injury to one person can hurt morale of the entire company.
For proof, read the Page 1 story about Kina Hart. She lost her left arm in a gruesome industrial accident when she was just 20 years old. She wasn't properly trained for the summer job when she was a college student working in the Alaska salmon processing factory. The conveyor belt was not "locked out" as she cleaned the underside. Someone topside turned it on to spray it down.
She could have died. Her whole body could have been pulled into the conveyor. But she survived, and in a speech at the MAPP safety conference, Hart told her compelling story. And she admits she made a big mistake, trusting that management knew what it was doing and wouldn't let her do anything dangerous. Plus, she had begged to get called to work, then ended up losing her arm in the first hour of her first day on the job.
Hart's life has been hard. But impressively, she shares much of blame. Even though, she thought to herself, this job is kind of dangerous, she said she "gave away my safety" that day, changing her life forever. She just wanted to work hard and do a good job, like any factory worker.
Hart's message was that everyone, including every worker, needs to keep safety in mind every single day at work.
She told about those huge feelings of guilt — by her own father and by her foreman at the fish plant, whose life was devastated by her injury on his watch. Hart's story is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. She has made something good with her life, speaking at safety conferences and helping with safety training at factories.
Hart said her lost arm is an ugly reminder of that day. It often hurts from phantom pain. "But the worst part of what happened to me was it was 100 percent preventable. It did not even have to happen," she said.
Just losing your focus on safety for a minute can cause devastating consequences. But it doesn't have to happen.
Bregar is a Plastics News senior reporter and author of the Heavy Metal blog on PlasticsNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @Machinerybeat25.