Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bleak Picture of Plant Shutdowns

Here is an interesting snapshot of recent plant shutdowns in the United States. Many states have a web link that provides a listing of plant closings. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) offers protection to workers by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.

Employers are covered by WARN if they have 100 or more employees. A covered employer must give notice if an employment site (or one or more facilities or operating units within an employment site) will be shut down, and the shutdown will result in an employment loss (as defined later) for 50 or more employees during any 30-day period.

In many instances no warning of impending shutdown is provided if the company has less than 100 employees. With all the shutdowns occurring in the manufacturing sector the question arises of how a company can afford fire and explosion equipment in the prevention and mitigation combustible dust incidents.

The current combustible dust bill, HR 5522, Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act that is awaiting a hearing and vote in the Senate will require facilities that generate combustible dust to install fire and explosion prevention/mitigation equipment in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association combustible dust codes.

Congressional leaders that drafted the bill forgot to conduct a cost benefit analysis on the economic burden, which the legislation would impose on the manufacturing sector. In a recent article in the Washington Post (6/29/08), "
5 Myths About the Death Of the American Factory,'' by Gilbert B. Kaplan, the author notes that in 2007, manufacturing jobs dropped below 14 million workers for the first time in over a half a century. This is a very disturbing trend and will only get worse as a barrel of oil approaches the $200 mark very soon.

Will a combustible dust bill also provide economic incentives like it does with the energy, agricultural, and other business sectors?

Plant Shutdowns 2008 Google Map

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