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Michigan injection molders prepare for lockout rule change

Injection molding companies in Michigan will have to update lockout procedures on their injection molding machines during mold changes starting Jan. 1 under a change mandated by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The president of one Michigan molder thinks implementing the change will bring with it a one-time cost of about $2,000 per press.

The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. will conduct a conference call Nov. 17 with molders in Michigan to discuss the new safety standard. A letter emailed Nov. 10 from David Palmer, director of industry affairs for SPI’s Equipment Council, says the conference call also is “to determine what further actions we need to take to protect the plastics industry and get MIOSHA to stop enforcement and eventually abandon the … rule changes.”

SPI will send out a notice with call-in information soon, Palmer said in a Nov. 11 telephone interview.

Palmer conceded there is not much time before the rule change takes place, but said that SPI still plans to fight to eventually have it reversed. But officials for two molding companies said that, for most machines, it requires a fairly inexpensive fix.

According to MIOSHA, Michigan processors, when doing mold changes on a horizontal press, currently must have mechanical safety plus two independent interlocks on the operator’s gate, or rear barrier, if that is being used, as well as an emergency stop to shut down the motor that activates the clamping mechanism.

The new change to MIOSHA Part 62 will require full lockout/tag out of the power source to the clamping unit.

The clock is ticking down.

SPI drafted a letter for machinery manufacturers to send to their customers in Michigan. That letter says that the MIOSHA change was done “under pressure from federal OSHA.”

MIOSHA officials could not be reached for comment for this story.

Andrew J. Such, director of environmental and regulatory policy for the Michigan Manufacturers’ Association, said MMA was told that Michigan had an exemption to a more widely-used federal guideline for full lockout during mold changes, and that is now being closed.

Glenn Anderson, president and owner of Anderson Technologies Inc. in Grand Haven, Mich., said the company is working on plans to implement the safety change on 28 injection molding machines at the headquarters plant, and 10 more presses at a plant in Mississippi.

“The change that we’re making on the machines is so we lock out the electrical power to everything on the machine except for the heater bands for the injection unit,” Anderson said. He thinks it will cost about $2,000 per machine to meet the new standard.

Anderson Technologies initially was notified of the pending new rule for mold changes in a letter from MIOSHA, and then later received the SPI letter from its press supplier, Maruka USA Inc.

Anderson said the plastics industry in general does a good job with worker safety. “Our industry has a history of being really a very safe manufacturing industry. And the safety measures that we have in place have been there for some time have done an extremely good job.”

Anderson said he wishes machinery companies offered a retrofit kit — or at least some guidelines about their specific press — related to the fast-approaching MIOSHA change.

Another wolverine state injection molder, Quality Assured Plastic Inc. in Lawrence, Mich., has been involved in discussions with MIOSHA about the rule change for some time.

Mark Keyser, general manager, said the fix is not that difficult. Quality Assured Plastics plans to put a mechanical disconnect on the circuit breaker to the pump — isolating it from power, he added.

Keyser said there’s no point in fighting OSHA on the change. “Why would anyone take a stance in not improving the opportunity for employee safety?” he said.

SPI’s letter said the MIOSHA change could require 60 minutes per shift, per machine, in lost production. But that apparently refers to some machines that may need to be totally shut down, including turning off the heat system, and need to have their controller restarted, after each mold change. MIOSHA said that could be necessary for some pre-2000-model year presses in use today, along with some more newly purchased machines.

The officials of Anderson Technologies and Quality Assured Plastics said that 60-minute number does not appear to be a realistic one for most molders, and much less the time will be needed.

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