Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C.

Aren't there any industries that take workplace safety seriously?

Sometimes it seems as if almost every company in almost every industry has to be constantly policed if they are to treat their employees lawfully, particularly when it comes to safety. If it does, it could be because we work with injured people a lot, so we don't get to see all the good companies who are doing their best.

The workers' compensation system is essentially a trade-off in which workers get compensated regardless of employer fault, while employers are immune from costly fault-based lawsuits. That trade-off does not excuse employers from their legal duty to provide a reasonably safe place to work. Many employers, however, seem to see workplace safety regulations as a nuisance. Are there any who don't?

Who is dedicated to workplace safety each and every day? The FPF industry

According to Occupational Health & Safety magazine, there's more than a single employer dedicated to worker safety; there's an entire industry. That industry is flexible polyurethane foam manufacturing. Click on that link -- it's a long, detailed article about how the industry has achieved their impressive safety track record and what they're doing to maintain it.

Flexible polyurethane foam, or FPF, is extremely common in the U.S. The industry includes some 70 or 80 plants in North America alone, and the U.S. produces 1.6 billion pounds of the stuff annually. The finished, or cured version, is so omnipresent that you're probably in the same room with some now -- its many forms include most packaging materials, carpet pads, furniture and even apparel.

Unfortunately, the curing process involves a chemical reaction, and one of the required chemicals is toluene diisocyanate, or TDI. Exposure to TDI can cause occupational asthma, sometimes at pretty low levels. People with TDI-based asthma often can't tolerate any further exposure, even at levels considered safe for others. They may also develop sensitivity to other common chemicals.

To prevent that, FPF manufacturers across the industry banded together to develop and share their best and most innovative safety plans, which limited exposure at every step -- receiving, storage, use and waste disposal. As a result, workers in the FPF industry actually have a lower rate of asthma than the general population.

"That's a track record we are very proud of, and one which everyone in this industry is hardwired to work at maintaining each and every day," said an industry spokesperson. We couldn't agree more.

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