According to the Australian Government Department of Industry, the chemicals and plastic industries in 2017 directly employs over 60,000 people. This represents approximately 11% of the total Australian manufacturing sector.
The fibre glass industry however, according to leading experts has stalled with the demise of the Australian motor manufacturing industry.
Over the last two decades the Australian insurance industry has showed little appetite for small to medium operators in both industries with a fair percentage of businesses being insured via Lloyds of London.
However, one cannot downplay the importance of both industries. Plastic and fibre glass is interwoven in our modern society.
What are the exposures?
Plastic processing can involve a number of different techniques, each with their own set of exposures. The range can include injection moulding, plastic extrusion, blow moulding, thermoforming, vacuum forming, compression moulding, rotational moulding and pultrusion.
Each process has its own unique risks but can include the use of flammable liquids and storage, hydraulic equipment, a high fire load associated with the compounding stage where combustible dust is common as well as ignition points such as heating, machinery, industrial ovens, furnaces or grinding operations.
Whilst all fibreglass processes may be very similar, they have their own set of exposures, ranging from fire or explosion from the resins and solvents that are used or the vapour generated by them, dust from the grinding and finishing stages of the products being manufactured, spontaneous combustion in waste material bins, incorrect mixing of chemicals or general housekeeping issues and staff training.
Our staff have seen a variety of these types of businesses over the years ranging from well automated and operated businesses to those with poor risk management practices where the insurance market have not been eager to insure. We have worked with a variety of companies to ensure hazards are identified, risk management processes are improved and insurance is made more affordable through such improved practices.
What can go wrong?
A switchboard fire which occurred in a small fibre glass family business during business hours quickly got out of control because of poor housekeeping. Access to the fire extinguishers and hose reels were blocked off by a large quantity of finished goods. By the time access was reached, the fire was out of control and staff had to be evacuated.
The failure to have clear access to fire prevention equipment resulted in over $640,000 damage to the business.