Safety in plastic manufacturing
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Published: Wed, 03 May 2017
Plastic manufacturing is becoming one of the most important fields in manufacturing (Makin 1987). All manufacturers are trying to reduce their cost by putting plastic into their machines or computers. Plastic Manufacturing started from producing combs and buttons till it reached different fields of production such as: automotive, medical equipments, aerospace, construction and consumer goods as well as toys and packaging. The most important threat that has been facing the advance of this technology is health and safety. Safety in plastic manufacturing is critical because you deal with different areas such as: the machinery, raw materials (generally petrochemical materials) which are mostly flammable and lately there has been environmental issues of concern arising from the manufacturing of plastics that’s why It needs to be considered during the design phase of a factory before starting the manufacturing phase.
With more and more automation and advanced machinery being applied to this industry, and greater application of new technologies being implemented with increased capability for providing flexibility to the process and operations, greater attention has to be given to safety.
This research aims to capture what level of safety is there in plastic factories. And what it lacks for and what is needed to implement health and safety inside these factories and protect the workers and the owners of the factory in addition of comparing the cost of a safety program in a factory to the money spent in case accidents happen because of the low level of safety. The study will briefly review the impact of this industry on the environment and the importance of recycling to cut-down these impacts. Studies have been conducted in different industrial countries like: The United kingdom and The United States of America and comparing that to an industrial developing country like Saudi Arabia.
There are several questions to be exploded in this topic of research because as mentioned earlier safety in plastic factories is critical because it is attached to different sectors like: machinery, raw materials, and environmental issues. So the main question can be: How to implement a safe environment in a plastic factory?
This main question can be specified by using the following questions:
1- What are the most common accidents and injuries that happen in plastic factories?
2- What are the reasons that cause accidents in plastic factories?
3- Why is plastic manufacturing threatening the environment? What are the solutions to reduce this risks and accidents caused by this industry?
4- How can you develop safety in plastic factories in developing countries like Saudi Arabia?
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES:
This research will aim to capture the main reason of accidents in plastic factories and how to implement health and safety in this industry in all phases. These aims can be specified to the following:
* Decreasing the risks that plastic manufacturing causes in the environment, and developing the ways to prevent pollution caused by this industry such as plastic recycling.
* Cutting down the number of accidents during work by applying advanced safety plans and precautions in Saudi Arabia.
* Analysing the most common accidents and their reasons and link them together statically.
* Implementing computers and networks in emergency management inside and outside the factories.
Generally, this study will embrace the ways of having a healthy and safe environment in plastic factories and how to reduce accidents and risk that are caused by this industry.
In 1868 John Wesly Hyatt developed plastic material called celluloid he used it to substitute ivory which was becoming more expensive and difficult to obtain after improvements ,from that plastic industry was born (Bryce 1999). During the next 40-50years others began to investigate this new process and used it for manufacturing. During 1940’s the plastic injection moulding industry became more popular because of the demand created for inexpensive mass produced products after the World War II. The makers of Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic called it “the material of the thousand uses” and used the mathematical symbol of infinity [âË†Å¾] as a trademark (Bryce 1999).
In general applying safety to your factory and keeping your workers healthy and safe does not happen by chance there are different things to be done from electrical and machinery safety to dust handling requirements for example: careful management processes, commitment throughout the organisation in addition to safety management including risk assessments, engineering controls, and emergency procedures and training. Good management processes in plastic manufacturing includes carefully evaluating raw materials and implementing controls such as containers, safe handling procedures and use of appropriate personal protective equipment, because as mentioned before plastics are petrochemical materials that must be dealt with carefully. It is always recommended to have a good communication with the raw material companies in case any information is needed. Prevention of pollution is essential too; it can be by controlling techniques for emission such as optimising processing conditions for handling and mixing dry additives and storing of these materials.
Health and safety associations such as Health and Safety Executive (HSE) work to improve safety in a wide variety of sectors in this industry. Firstly, machines new or old should comply with its regulations and meet the requirements needed. About the workers; government regulations in Europe and North America require that operators be protected from moving parts of machinery, while machinery parts that require a tool to open must be opened by trained personnel following appropriate safety procedures (British Plastic Federation 2009; Health and Safety Executive 2009).
To avoid hand injury which is almost 25-50% of the total injuries in this industry according to the HSE statistics survey, robots and automation are implemented to protect workers from injury during manual handling although it is difficult to eliminate manual handling but they are trying to cut it down. Safety of using these robots should be encountered too because there are not reliable and safe 100%.There are several accidents reported from using robots and automation, the first robot fatality occurred in Japan in 1981 the robot stabbed an employee to death the employee didn’t use the safeguards (Makin 1987).
Nearly 80 accidents in blow moulding factories were investigated by inspectors from HSE during 1986-1996.It was found that 50% of these accidents happen because inadequate or damaged safe guarding about another 25% were because of defeated safeguards (Health and Safety 2009). To avoid these kinds of accidents it is recommended to: provide the right safer guarding and check it is kept in the position and working effectively.
Plastics are created by refining common petroleum products the most common are crude oil and natural gas. Fire in plastics manufacturing may generate black acrid smoke and poisonous gases including carbon monoxide. The fires may spread quickly and be difficult to extinguish. Sources of ignition should be controlled by prohibiting smoking and hot work in high risk areas.
A key to safe operation is safety awareness and putting safety as a priority at all levels, from the operator to the manager. Mr.Seeberg the safety director at Clariant says that “workers will notice if their site manager or supervisor is only concerned with the output or is also concerned with safety” (Science Direct 2009). Before safety training can be effective, top management must show a clear commitment and interest in safety. Some managers say that their major concern is that they do not have the resources to have a full time safety person in this case they can rent a safety supervisor in-order to reduce the cost.
In general the employer’s duties can be summarised in:
* Making the workplace safe without risks to health.
* Ensuring the plant and machinery are safe and that systems of work are set and followed.
* Giving the information instructions, training and supervision necessary for health and safety.
The successful implementation of management system for both occupational health and safety and return to work programmes will result in positive change in business and safety cultures in the industry and there will be a considerable opportunity to reduce costs in manufacturing.
The plastic industry faced a lot of threats in its beginning a lot of people tried to link it with cancer. The waste and littering caused by plastic products in the world especially in sea shores (Meikle 1995).Plastic bags are light weight and moisture resistant meaning that it can float in air and water easily and travel long distances. Every year more than six million tons of trash is dumped into seas and oceans more than 80% are plastic like plastic bags and bottles. Sea creatures eat the plastic thinking it was food which can cause their death, some blamed plastic bags for the death of kids by suffocation too (Clean Up 2009). To avoid plastic waste and cut from its effects high fines are applied now; in the USA the cruise ship ‘Royal Princess’ was fined £311,000 for dumping 20 bags of garbage overboard( British Plastic Federation 2009).
In-order to face these threats plastic associations are implementing recycling in every home so the impacts of this manufacturing can be prevented. Most of the plastics can be recycled and has its own way of recycling, that’s why in the bottom of every plastic product you can find the initials for its name and type like PP for polypropylene and HDPE for high density polyethylene as shown below in Figure(1). In the UK five million tonnes of plastic are used annually only 19% is getting recycled but it is planned to reach 25%by 2010.There are a lot of benefits from recycling plastic, to sum it up we can say: less used plastic, less oil used for plastic production and less energy consumed which will affect the plastic industry positively.
In this part I will introduce the methods used in this study and explain the techniques used and where this research fit into. Generally this research is a combination of both methods; quantitative and qualitative which is also known as the mixed method.
Firstly, the quantitative method which mostly deals with numerical data to develop theories and hypothesis (Creswell 2003). In-order to obtain information to develop the safety in plastic factories we are going to design questionnaires and surveys to seek answers for a couple of question that will help us fill the gap. Some of these questions are open-ended and that is where the qualitative method combines.
Secondly the qualitative method is a method of inquiry used for different scientific and academic fields, traditionally in the social sciences, but also in market research (Creswell 2003). It also investigates how and when a decision can be made we will make some interviews with workers, factory managers, and people from health and safety organizations.
Usually in social sciences quantitative research is contrasted with qualitative for the purpose of discovering meaning and models of relationships. Although when it comes to their aspects of scientific investigation there is a difference (Creswell 2003), it is said that both are attached and help each other as Kuhn (1961:152) says “large amounts of qualitative work usually been prerequisite to fruitful quantification in the physical sciences”. Qualitative research is used to explore a phenomenon and form theories then we can test these theories by using quantitative research.
In this research in-order to obtain useful information that can help in applying health and safety in plastic factories and have a safe environment, we will have around 200 questionnaires distrubted to different types of people who in this industry such as: workers, engineers, managers, etc. There will be interviews with people from health and safety organisations in the UK, like the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Plastic Processors Health and Safety Liaison Committee (PPHSLC). Also there will be four factories from Saudi Arabia as case study and compare the safety of these factories to the safety requirements in the UK and try to develop the safety there to the same level in the UK. All the data taken from the questioners, survey, and interviews will be analysed by using SPSS to determine the relationships by manipulating factors thought to influence safety in plastic manufacturing. There are several studies done before in how plastic manufacturing is effecting the environment we will see where these studies reached and modify their approaches.
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As a conclusion for this study we will find the gaps in safety in plastic manufacturing and help having a safe environment by developing safety procedures and observe the threats that are effecting the environment. Also, the safety in plastic factories in Saudi Arabia will be studied, and determine what it lacks for and how can it be developed to reach the appropriate level of safety. As all studies in this field this study benefited from the relevance of previous researches and assumptions of many experts. The analysis of the data and surveys will show how much people are concerned about safety. Hope this study cans be effective in the development of safety in plastic manufacturing and helps other researches in the future in this topic to obtain what safety in plastic factories lacks.
British Plastic Federation (2009), Health and Safety [online] available from
Bryce, Douglas M. (1999) Plastic Injection Moulding.
Clean Up Australia Ltd (2009) Plastic Recycling Fact Sheet [online] available from < http://www.cleanup.org.au/PDF/au/cua_plastic_recycling_fact_sheet.pdf> [22 November 2009]
Creswell, J.W. (2003) Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and mixed method approaches.
Cross Plastics (2008) Domestic Recycling Symbols [online] available from
Health and Safety Executive (2009) [online] available from
Meikle, Jeffry I. (1995) American Plastic a Cultural History.
Kuhn, T. (1961) The Function of Measurement in Modern Physical Science
Makin, P. (1987) ‘Safety in Advanced Manufacturing’, Journal of Proceeding of the Advanced Manufacturing international seminar 14,(1) 1-4
Markarian, J. (2008) ‘Worker Health And Safety in Plastics Compounding.’ Journal of Plastic Additives and Compounding [online] 10,(1) 26-29.Available from
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