Legislative Issues That Could Impact Your Business in 2020
With 2020 well underway already, now is a great time to start thinking about the issues — and the legal and regulatory responses to those issues — that could have an impact on wide-format businesses in the coming months. It is never too early to start building a strategy to ensure success and compliance, and this is the perfect time to re-evaluate your current plans and make some decisions about where to head this year.
To no great surprise, sustainability stands to be one of the biggest issues. The movement around sustainability and environmental protection has been growing for several years now, and 2020 will likely see that continue, notes Marci Kinter, VP, Government Affairs, SGIA.
“I think the biggest impact we’ve seen that will continue into 2020 has to do with the whole area of recycling,” she notes. “While focused on packaging, a lot of those materials are also used in sign and graphics, and we are starting to see more of an emphasis on them on the part of local municipalities to develop and strengthen infrastructure.”
And it’s no wonder why this issue has been growing — for 2017, which is the most recent report the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published, the United States collectively generated 268 million tons of waste, and only 94 million tons of that were recycled or composted. This is a huge gap, and those numbers are only rising.
The issue is compounded by the fact that for many of the materials that could be recycled in the past, there is now no place to send it, notes Kinter.
“The infrastructure is no longer there,” she says. “Municipalities are now looking at how to strengthen that, and while most are more focused on the consumer market, they will start to look at the materials, and there are a lot of similarities [to sign and graphics]. It will start to spill over into the manufacturing and industrial sector.”
And in fact, Kinter says that she isn’t seeing much in the way of legislation around the environment at the state level at all — local communities, as a whole, are far more involved in this type of regulation. One exception, however, is revisions to hazardous waste standards, which are being streamlined so they are easier to understand, as well as providing options for companies with hazardous waste to dispose of.
“For example,” Kinter says, “say you’re switching out ink systems — what do you do with the ink you no longer want? You can’t throw it away.” She notes that while current rules would impact how a print shop’s classification is determined, which in turn impacts what rules they are subject to, new revisions would allow them to have a one-time disposal event, which won’t change the generator status. “This is a big deal,” Kinter says. “It allows the company to correctly dispose of waste” without incurring any additional burdens, fees, or changes to reporting status. “We’re seeing states beginning to adopt this, and when they have questions, we work with them to help them move forward,” she notes.
While environmental protections will continue to be a major issue in 2020 and beyond, it is not the only issue that could have impacts on wide-format printers in the coming year. Another to be aware of, and keep an eye on, is OSHA — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In May 2019, the agency issued a Request for Information (RFI) called The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout). It is this rule, in particular, that could have a major impact on printers if it makes its way into policy.
“This would have a direct impact on our sector,” Kinter says. “It covers what to do when servicing or repairing equipment, such as presses. We have long enjoyed exceptions to the rule that allow us to do minor servicing without locking out.” Kinter notes that SGIA has had robust meetings with the OSHA team to ensure the integrity of the exceptions to the rule are maintained, allowing print shops to continue to be able to perform minor work without the need to stop everything. “I am confident minor servicing exceptions will be maintained, due in part to SGIA’s efforts,” Kinter says.
Additional OSHA revisions to watch include rules around the use of forklifts, including their usage, training for them, etc., as well as around the communication of hazardous materials. All of these were supposed to be updated in 2019, but were deferred to 2020, so expect to hear about them in the coming months.
Finally, there is an expectation that there will be a continued focus on workplace safety, and how to better incorporate what are known as leading indicators to develop a more robust safety program. Leading indicators are looking at future possible events that could happen in a shop, rather than past accidents or incidents, and using those to develop a safety program.
For 2018 — the most current year data is available — OSHA notes that 5,250 workers died on the job in the United States, which equals more than 14 deaths per day. While the printing industry isn’t the leading cause of those deaths — that dubious honor goes to the construction industry, with more than 21% of the fatalities — that doesn’t mean shops are completely safe either.
“SGIA has been working with OSHA trying to incorporate and use education to encourage shops to adopt more safety training programs and measures,” Kinter says. “On safety, OSHA is going to be releasing quite a few proposals that will impact our sector.”
What Can You Do?
It is one thing to be aware of some of these issues and changes, but it is another to know how to take that information and put it into practice in your print shop.
One option for printers looking to improve their sustainability footprint is to get involved with programs such as the Sustainable Business Recognition Program run by SGIA. It is based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put into place by the United Nations, and adopted by member countries around the world. The goals, according to the U.N., are designed as, “a call for action by all countries — poor, rich and middle-income — to promote prosperity while protecting the environment.”
For printers, notes Heather Nortz, government and business affairs assistant at SGIA, the collection of 17 goals and 169 targets serves as a universal platform for monitoring impact and harmonizing sustainability initiatives. The SDGs expand upon the original Three Pillars of Sustainability of People, Planet, Profit to be more descriptive and action oriented.
“Although any business can contribute positively to any of these goals,” Nortz says, “three in particular — No. 3 (good health and well-being), No. 8 (decent work and economic growth), and No. 12 (responsible consumption and production) — are the areas printing facilities can have the most impact on.”
Print buyers are also placing an increased emphasis on sustainability, which is yet another reason for shops to have an actual, demonstrable plan in place. They are looking at the total picture, and their overall sustainability footprint, and while print is only a portion of that, the impact this issue has on which shops print buyers are willing to do business with will only continue to grow.
Printers should also take this opportunity to “take a hard look at their current safety training programs,” Kinter says. What do you have in place right now? Where are the gaps? Then start making plans on how to fill them.
“Ensure your programs are up to speed,” Kinter says. “This is important for several reasons; one is that we are finding that the newer workforce is really looking for companies that are making a difference, that care about their employees.” Having a safe workplace translates into a belief that the print shop cares, which can make it easier, in turn, for shops to recruit in an increasingly challenging labor market.
It’s not just about safety either, when it comes to the labor market. Shops that have concrete plans for things like reducing energy usage, or even commuter programs, resonate with the younger generation as much as they do with print buyers looking to reduce their footprint. “Employers need to understand there are things they can do to make their companies a lot more attractive,” Kinter says. “And that does include looking at the workspaces and creating a safe environment all the way up and down the food chain.”
The coming year will have both challenges and opportunities, but taking the time now, as the year is just getting started, to know what the biggest issues could be and planning ahead can mean all the difference between a new law or regulation hurting the bottom line — or helping it. Don’t be caught unaware, and make 2020 the best on record yet.