Health and Safety in the Plastics Industry: Processors in the Spotlight with Best Practices

by Lara Copeland, contributing editor
Plastics Business
Plastikos employees have benefited from heightened safety awareness, new equipment precautions and a hazard analysis. Photo courtesy of Plastikos, Inc.

Creating a safe work environment takes the effort of every person in a plastics processing facility, whether in the front office or on the production line. Training and awareness are key to keeping safety procedures at the top of the priority list, and the companies profiled in this article have implemented best practices that result in a safer workforce.

6S Program reinforces safety culture

All-Plastics Molding, Inc.’s commitment to health and safety practices is demonstrated through its 6S Program. Modeled after the Lean Certification Competency and Behavior Model, the company utilizes the Green, Bronze, Silver and Gold measurement systems to drive organizational safety practices, continuous improvement and awareness. The Kerrville, Texas, plant is sectioned into 10 zones to optimize workflow and efficiency. Each zone has a zone leader who is responsible for ensuring all 6S practices are followed daily. Team members audit the zones on a weekly basis using audit sheets for logging. The statistics are visually represented on each zone board in the associated area of the manufacturing plant.

All-Plastics Molding, Inc.

To keep employees updated, quarterly 6S meetings are held for the designated facility team. The facility team discusses the “newspaper,” a list of what needs to be done within the specified area that would require investment or shut down, and the quarterly safety record and supporting reports if an accident was recorded. Trainings, visual zone boards, safety signs, distribution of monthly narrative and matrixes, as well as staff meetings provide additional facility-wide communication. Standardized work practices – developed by floor leadership to expedite learning, prevent mistakes and create a safer environment – also were put in place.

Employees also are recognized for their contributions to improving plant safety through an employee suggestion program. The facility 6S team reviews every suggestion and chooses three top winners per plant on a quarterly and annual basis. These winners receive cash prizes and additional recognition in front of peers at the annual employee appreciation banquet.

Dozuki platform adds structure

Automation Plastics Corporation

Safety walks have been conducted at Automation Plastics Corporation in Aurora, Ohio, for many years, but the Dozuki software platform, adopted in 2016, has transformed Automation’s safety walks, making them more effective and efficient. Data and statistics are analyzed and filtered through both Dozuki’s dashboard functionality and downloadable CSV files. It features real-time preservation, organization and presentation of audit findings, providing the ability to adapt and concentrate the focus of succeeding safety audits based on recent safety incidents identified by analysis of the accumulating audit data.

A safety audit checklist has been developed by the company’s own Dozuki authors. The walk through is conducted by two safety audit team members who stop at each injection molding machine, in addition to 20 other locations throughout the facility. Auditors enter findings using the tablet’s touchscreen into Dozuki’s “operator view” feature, which collects and collates data. Each stop, or “step” in Dozuki-ese, contains required and optional fields for data input in the form of checkboxes, picklists, radio buttons, comments and images. All information is instantly saved and accessible on Automation’s Dozuki site. Safety audit team members also can document “good news” with a photo and comment. At the conclusion of the walk, the audit team enters an electronic sign-off into operator view and triggers a notification for a member of the safety steering team to approve the audit in the same manner.

The safety steering team meets several times a month, and one of the meetings each month is dedicated to reviewing the most recent safety audit. The results can be reviewed instantly in PDF format. The Dozuki dashboard enables the team to quickly filter and organize the data to understand the trends and concerns. Findings requiring corrective actions or further study are acted upon during the meeting, MWRs are issued and follow-up activities are scheduled.

Using Dozuki has resulted in direct labor savings on the safety audits (greater than 50 percent down, from more than six hours per event to about three), reduction of paper use, standardization allowing for a more natural comparison of month-to-month results, better analysis of data and statistics through Dozuki’s dashboards and the flexibility of response to focus on succeeding safety audits based on recent safety incidents.

Safety coordinator leads the team

Nicolet Plastics

In 2017, Nicolet Plastics, Mountain, Wisconsin, created a safety coordinator position to help with the company’s initiative to improve its safety program and culture. The safety coordinator, in addition to the safety team, is responsible for the overall creation, administration, implementation and training of Nicolet’s safety policies and procedures. This cross-functional safety team meets once a month to discuss accidents, near misses and safety concerns that were reported and then reviews corrective actions. The team members help with safety projects, training and other facility updates as needed. In its freshman year, the team closed out 53 action items and brought safety awareness to each department.

To encourage and motivate employees to be more proactive in safety, the program has two requirements – to fill out a near miss or safety concern report form and have a corrective action. Employees take pictures to help with understanding the near miss or safety concern and then fill out a form that is reviewed by the supervisor and forwarded to the safety coordinator. The safety coordinator then creates a safety alert – an announcement that is sent to everyone in the organization via email. The safety alerts communicate the nature of the event with a description and photos. Employees who submitted concerns and near misses for the month are recognized at the monthly Nicolet News all-employee meeting.

Micro Mold Inc. and sister company Plastikos, Inc.

Safety team members went through Training Within Industry-Job Safety (TWI-JS) program – a 10-hour program that teaches employees how to analyze the chain of events leading to an accident or near miss, and how to drill down to root causes. This program also teaches a method for computing the cost of an accident (direct and indirect costs). Furthermore, each employee undergoes safety training, starting on day one of employment. The safety coordinator conducts the safety training and the facility safety tour, using a checklist specifically for new employee safety orientation and based on the new employee’s position.

The company also utilizes outside resources to conduct training onsite. For example, in 2017 the company had the local sheriff’s department come to the facility to conduct ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training – a set of proactive strategies that increase the chance of survival during an active shooter event – for all employees. Nicolet also had the company that manufactured and installed its overhead cranes conduct refresher training on crane and rigging safety for the crane trainers, maintenance, production support center staff and the safety coordinator. These employees helped restructure the entire crane training program.

Nicolet has reduced its OSHA recordable injuries from nine per year in 2015 and 2016, down to four OSHA-recordable injuries in 2017. Furthermore, the company did not have any injuries that resulted in days away from work.

Commitment to hazard analysis

Micro Mold Inc. and sister company Plastikos, Inc., Erie, Pennsylvania, focused on reviewing safety programs in 2017 and conducted a hazard analysis. Safety consultants were brought in to audit the facility, and several new initiatives were created to raise awareness about safety in the facility, add precautions to equipment and make it easier for employees to protect themselves at work. These initiatives resulted in an overall reduction to the company’s incident rate: In 2016, Plastikos’ incident rate was 3.1, and in 2017 it dropped to 1.56.

Examples of safety programs implemented at Plastikos include the following:

  • A safety shoe program offers a $150 voucher to all employees who are required to wear safety-toe shoes.
  • Communication for PPE changes were conducted during monthly meetings for all employees.
  • Lockout/tagout procedures were added to each of the 35 injection molding machines in the same location on each press for quick access and easy use.
  • For Safety Awareness Month in Pennsylvania, employees were asked to fill out a SafeAtWork Pledge form during the month of June.
  • Communication for the HazCom updates was covered during a monthly meeting for all employees in Spring 2017. Continuous updates are ongoing, and the Plastikos safety committee meets once a month to discuss safety topics and continuous improvement efforts.
  • To celebrate the company’s success, pizza parties are held for every 100 days Plastikos has zero recordable accidents. Awareness of near misses also increased.

In addition, a complete inventory was taken of more than 300 safety data sheets (SDS) in January 2017. All outdated SDS’s were replaced with current versions. A complete facility inventory check also was taken. Outdated products were removed, and some products were replaced with consumer product grade replacements, where appropriate. Any products missing an SDS were evaluated for their relevancy. The products either were eliminated or an SDS was acquired.

MAPP Safety Best Practices Awards

Submissions for the 2018 MAPP Safety Best Practices Awards were compiled and sent to the MAPP membership for anonymous voting, and the first, second and third place winners have been announced. In an effort to celebrate, recognize and share best practices from MAPP members in safety, the winners of this year’s award were recognized at the 2018 Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) Summit.

First Place: All-Plastics Molding, Inc.
Second Place:
Automation Plastics Corporation
Third Place (tie):
Nicolet Plastics and Micro Mold Inc./Plastikos, Inc.


  • Boardman Molded Products
  • CTB Inc.
  • Dymotek
  • Innovative Injection Technologies (I2-Tech)
  • ModROTO
  • Natech Plastics
  • Par 4 Plastics

Special Mention:

  • D&M Plastics
  • Decatur Plastic Products Inc.
  • Plastic Molding Technology Inc. (PMT)
  • Poly Flex Products
  • Revere Plastics Systems LLC
  • Royer Corp.
  • Sapona Plastics
  • Wescon Plastics