Safety first, but at what cost?

Editor's note: Worker safety has always been a primary concern of molders. However, current ANSI/SPI safety standards, given their cost of compliance, are creating waves in the molding community. The following is the first of a two-part series that explores the issues surrounding the new standards. Look for Part 2 in the July issue of  IMM

Nothing is more important than worker safety. On that, U.S. injection molders, their molding machine suppliers, and the industrial standards organizations in Washington say they fully agree. But when it comes to whether or not the latest ANSI/SPI safety standard for molding machines merits the cost of compliance, many agree to disagree.  


There is a considerable amount of concern and controversy in the field, and not just over how best to interpret what some claim are confusing and often conflicting requirements. How will the new rules be enforced? Who bears responsibility for an old press that might have changed hands several times, especially one that might be the abandoned orphan of a now-defunct machine builder? Is the nonprofit ANSI cashing in on safety by charging $32.00 to download a copy of the standard? 

By far, the biggest concern is over the impact of conformance costs on the bottom line. Some machinery OEMs admit that it costs them more to build conformity into new presses. One of the largest invested more than 5000 man-hours developing solutions to upgrade its huge U.S. customer base. But many complain that increasing prices to absorb the added cost is tantamount to committing competitive suicide in today's market. 

In addition to the potentially big bill for upgrading older machines, plus the safety markup on new ones, molders complain that compliant presses add to cost by slowing production, a disastrous consequence with lead times shrinking as fast as they are today. Regrettably, the standards put the owners of molding facilities and their suppliers in the unenviable position of weighing the cost of worker safety against the cost of lost profits. 

The ANSI standard and how it can affect you
ANSI B151.1-1997 Sections 6 and 8 went into effect on July 22, 1997. This standard sets minimum safety requirements, primarily in access guarding and machine safety interlocks, for horizontal injection molding machines built on or before that date. Owners and users of such presses were required to bring their machines into compliance and were granted a three-year grace period to do so. The grace period ended on July 22, 2000. The latest ANSI updates were drafted by the Injection Molding Standards Development Committee of the SPI.

Should an OSHA inspector determine that an injury could have been averted if the plant owner had complied, that owner could be subject to costly tort liability. OSHA inspectors frequently refer to ANSI standards during plant inspections and accident investigations. ANSI standards are not government mandates. But OSHA inspectors cite nonconformities as evidence that safety hazards exist in a plant. ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute of Washington, DC (, a private, nonprofit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S.

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