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July 1, 2001

5 Min Read
Q&A: How safe are your molding machines?


Editor's note: This Q&A continues our look at balancing the cost of safety under new machine safety standards (see "Safety First, but at What Cost?" June 2001 IMM, pp. 83-88). Epco's safety audit services verify that a molder's injection molding machines conform to ANSI/SPI standard B151.1-1997, Sections 6 and 8. Epco offers case-by-case inspection, quotation, and compliance correction services. The grace period for U.S. molders to comply with the ANSI standard expired last July. Epco's Carl Irick, director of engineering, Kelly Maxwell, parts manager, and Steve Schroeder, president, answer IMM's question: How much safer are molding machines today?

IMM: How would you characterize the reaction to the latest safety standard update and to your compliance services? 

Irick: Most molders are unaware of the need for compliance to Sections 6 and 8 of the standard. 

Schroeder: If you've got the right people, it's not much of a tough sell. But even some of our major customers with safety committees don't know a thing about the standard. We've found that most people either are unaware of it, or are just sitting back, waiting to see what happens to someone else before they do anything themselves to comply. 

Irick: That's right. Some say they are not going to do anything at all until they get an OSHA citation. 

IMM: Has safety auditing and correction been a profitable venture for Epco? 

Schroeder: Oh, yes. It has become a very large, very steady new business for us. We've audited 700 to 800 machines since June 1999. Still, I'd guess that less than 25 percent of U.S. molders are in full compliance today. Even some of those with multiple plants and a tremendous amount of exposure to what's going on are refusing to do anything until something happens. 

IMM: Is the cost of bringing machines into compliance a deterrent? 

Schroeder: I've run into sticker shock in some cases, especially from those with older machines. The cost of compliance depends on how old the machine is and how much it's out of standard. [Customers] can do the repair work themselves after we hand over our initial audit inspection report, if they prefer. In such cases, Epco comes back in for another audit to determine if the corrections are in compliance. 

Maxwell: Tonnage matters, too. Bringing, say, a 1975 300-tonner into compliance—including the audit, material, and installation—can cost up to $4000 to $6000. A 1975 750-ton machine costs about $6000 to $8000. More than 1000 tons it can be as high as $8000 to $12,000, and can easily hit $15,000 for really big ones. All it's going to take is for the first guy to get nailed. Then, there won't be enough time or enough people to do it all at once. Our business could double or triple. 


Epco's remanufacturing process for this Van Dorn press included the addition of guarding and other safety hardware to ensure compliance with new safety standards.

Irick: The larger machines with greater than 47 by 47 inches between tierods have the greatest exposure to hazards and therefore present the highest cost due to control and wiring changes to bring them up to standards. 

IMM: What are the most frequent conformance violations you see? 

Maxwell: Missing hardwire interlocks, missing power enclosure door interlocks—these are the two most common electrical safety problems I see. Then comes inadequate guarding on the machines. 

IMM: Do you hear any complaints from molders about ANSI-compliant presses? 

Maxwell: Complaint number one is about access guarding. Some molders say the discharge area interferes with their ability to clear part jams from underneath the clamp. 

Irick: Machine guarding usually gets abused by the guy in the shop trying to keep his production record up. Management wants to fix it right away, but entrepreneurship starts at the production supervisor level in this business. How fast can I make things go? That's all some people seem to care about. 

Schroeder: Even with newer machines, a machine manufacturer's interpretation of the standard may be different from Epco's. That's why having Carl Irick on board is a such a boon. He's been with the SPI safety committee since the early 1970s. 

IMM: What's coming in the next update? 

Irick: The 2002 update will be as resilient as possible. The European safety standard is more stringent than ANSI's. The task now is to harmonize ANSI B151.1-1997 with EN 201. SPI will write a distinctive section on interlocks with all-electric machines—the proposal before the committee now calls for the use of a dynamic braking system. Also, a new standard for vertical machines is coming this fall. 

Schroeder: Meanwhile, molders should get someone in for an education on the existing standard, budget for an audit, and then budget for compliance. Do it a little bit at a time. Just don't ignore it. 

Why compliance should be a top priority

The reason is simple. It makes for a safer workplace." Walt Bishop, executive director of the Machinery, Molders, and Moldmakers Divs. of the SPI makes a strong case for why U.S. molders should put compliance with Sections 6 and 8 of ANSI/SPI B151.1-1997 in the first slot of their to-do list.

Bishop informs us that the SPI has a self-audit checklist available to help molders determine their level of compliance before spending money on an outside agency to do the evaluation. "Additionally," he continues, "we have on our website a compilation of RFIs [Requests for Interpretation] that answers many questions regarding the application of the standard."

ANSI/SPI B151.29, a separate standard for vertical injection molding machines, is in the works and is available for review and comment. Injection molding machine safety will be a key topic of regional OSHA safety awareness seminars cosponsored by the SPI. Bishop recommends molders check the SPI website for scheduling. Meanwhile, he explains that the latest ANSI standard for horizontals is actually a supplement to existing OSHA regulations on machine guarding.

"While compliance with the ANSI standard is voluntary, compliance with OSHA is mandatory, and pity the poor soul who willfully violates that regulation for a few more seconds of cycle time," Bishop warns. "The fines for negligence of safety requirements can run into the tens of thousands of dollars—especially if a serious injury, or worse, occurs."

For more information, contact Bishop at the SPI, Washington, DC; (202) 974-5230; www.plasticsmachinery.org

Contact information
Epco LLC
Fremont, OH
Steven R. Schroeder
Phone: (419) 334-2631

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