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On the mend. (Editorial).

New data for 2001 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that plastics processing is still more hazardous than the average U.S. manufacturing job, though it is getting better. The injury rate for all manufacturing dropped 10% in 2001 while the rate for plastics processing fell 12%. That still leaves the plastics injury rate 19% higher than the manufacturing average, down from 23% in 2000 and 36% in 1989. But the worst plastics category in 2001--foam products--had an injury rate 36% above the manufacturing average. Clearly there's a lot more to be done.

Six of the nine plastics categories had lower injury rates in 2001 than the year before, while three had worse safety records. Are the changes real or just statistical "noise"? There's a good chance the improved data reflect a real trend. For all but one of the six categories showing improved safety records, the 2001 injury rates were lower than in any of the previous five years, not just in the one preceding year. It also may be hard to dismiss the uptick in injuries for the other three categories as merely a statistical blip. Their 2001 injury rates were not only higher than in 2000 but also exceeded one or two more of the preceding five years. It makes one wonder what's been going on lately in profile, foam products, and custom compounding plants.

Their problems are probably the same as in other plastics operations--heavy reliance on unskilled or semi-skilled labor, coupled with inadequate training. If so, better training looks like a safe place to start.

(Lost-Workday Cases Per 100 Full-Time Workers)

 SIC 1989 1995 2000 2001

All Manufacturing -- 5.3 4.6 4.0 3.6
Misc. Plastics Products 308 7.2 5.6 4.9 4.3
Unsupported Film & Sheet 3081 5.9 3.8 4.1 3.2
Unsupported Profile Shapes 3082 7.2 4.9 3.7 4.5
Laminated Plate & Sheet 3083 6.5 5.4 3.8 3.5
Plastics Pipe 3084 8.5 6.7 9.6 3.8
Plastics Bottles 3085 8.3 6.0 4.6 2.6
Plastics Foam Products 3086 7.1 5.1 5.3 5.4
Custom Compounding 3087 8.3 4.8 3.5 4.5
Plastics Plumbing Fixtures 3088 9.1 7.4 6.2 4.9
Other Plastics Products 3089 7.2 5.9 4.9 4.5
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Article Details
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Author:Naitove, Matt
Publication:Plastics Technology
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Previous Article:Industry datebook.
Next Article:Simulation software gains new capabilities. (Keeping Up with Injection Molding).

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