In a recent Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) study of worker training priorities for the plastics industry, safety was rated number one by processors in injection molding, blow molding, extrusion and thermoforming. It's no wonder.
While the majority of injuries experienced in plastics plants are relatively minor - sprains, back strain and small cuts are the most frequently cited on OSHA reporting forms - the total number of injuries is high compared to manufacturing as a whole. That's because plastics manufacturing tends to be a hands-on, labor-intensive operation.
And while some companies may be tempted to shortchange safety in pursuit of increased productivity, the most successful plants know that a good safety record benefits not only their employees, but also the corporate bottom line.
The costs of work-related injuries and illnesses are high. In addition to the harm suffered by employees, the debit side of the ledger can fill quickly with hefty OSHA fines, increased insurance premiums and declines in productivity that can result from a demoralized and unmotivated workforce.
To address the issue of safety training, SPI has a strong worker health and safety program, which includes safety workshops, worker safety awards, targeted seminars and a website with extensive information about OSHA-related activities and plans.
The association also recently introduced a new tool - six CD-ROMs that provide comprehensive and easy-to-use worker safety courses in an easily accessible format.
These CD-ROMs were created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - an organization whose injury and illness rate is one-quarter that of all other federal agencies. This impressive record is no accident, and the EPA now is working with SPI to provide the plastics industry with the benefits of its experience and record of success.
Designed by EPA's Safety, Health and Environmental Management Program, the CDs offer supplemental worker health and safety training that is easy, effective and affordable. This desktop series contains not only EPA training programs, but OSHA manuals and procedures as well.
Because the training is computer-based, employees can learn by themselves. No dedicated staff is required to administer courses or evaluate progress. Users learn at the times and locations most convenient for them, and results are tracked and recorded automatically and accurately - helping employers meet federal record-keeping requirements.
Using these refresher courses, an employee can easily navigate through tutorials, course objectives, training materials and sample test questions. Once finished with a module, he or she can review the material or go on to the final exam. All questions in the module must be answered correctly before an employee is given credit for the section. If incorrect answers are given, the employee is told which sections of the module to review before taking the test again. Once a section is mastered, the accomplishment is entered into the employee's individual computer record.
That's all there is to it.
With modules appropriate for a wide range of employees, this series can help any company improve worker health and safety programs, prevent injuries, reduce worker compensation costs, comply with referenced EPA regulations and OSHA standards, and save time and money in ongoing training programs.
The topics covered in the six CD-ROMs are: Occupational Safety and Health Training for Field Inspectors; Radiation Safety and Health Protection; the OSHA 600 Collateral Duty Safety and Health Course; EPA's Health and Safety System; EPA's Safety, Health and Environmental Management Program for Laboratories; and Technical Resource Manuals, Job Tools and Training.
Each CD is filled to the edge with information. For instance, modules of the "OSHA 600 Collateral Duty Safety and Health Course" include an Introduction to OSHA Standards, Walking/ Working Surfaces, Means of Egress/Fire Protection, Hazardous Materials, Personal Protective Equipment, Material Handling/ Storage, Machine Guarding, Confined Space, Welding, Electrical, Hazard Communication, Industrial Hygiene and Office Safety.
Worker health and safety always should be on the short list of a company's primary goals. A safe work environment can be achieved with strong employee/employer commitment, proper training and continuing education.