Rules and Regulations Print Providers Can't Overlook in 2023
It’s a new year — a time for refocusing and reevaluating, which means regulations and legislation within the printing industry are top of mind for experts. We caught up with a few to see what wide-format print service providers (PSPs) should keep their eye out for in 2023.
OSHA is Back
Gary Jones, PRINTING United Alliance’s director of environmental, health, and safety affairs, says, “OSHA’s back.” The organization never left, but, during the pandemic, Jones says it had fewer enforcement activities. “They’re back with a vengeance,” he states, expecting additional scrutiny on the printing industry.
So, what are some big concerns for PSPs regarding OSHA violations?
Historically, Jones says the printing industry struggles with machine guarding. Some businesses do a great job guarding equipment while others fall short. Laminators are notorious for being inadequately guarded, he adds, which can lead to serious injuries including deglovings. Lockout/tagout is also huge for equipment safety. When the cover is lifted on a machine, there needs to be a physical mechanism (e.g., stop button, proper interlocks) to prevent the machine from unexpectedly moving. It is important to make sure the equipment has the means to protect the worker and not override these safety systems in order to keep operators and your overall business safe.
Chemical Safety & PPE
Although wide-format printing is primarily a digital process, there are concerns around chemical safety (e.g., inks and cleaning agents). Jones urges businesses to know whether they need safety glasses or chemical-resistant gloves with certain chemicals. “OSHA requires facilities to conduct training in chemical safety under the Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom) and conduct a hazard assessment to identify the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect employees from hazards,” he explains.
“PPE hazard assessment and HazCom are always in our Top 10 most commonly violated OSHA regulations.”
One example of necessary PPE is footwear. Jones says shops often forget they’re handling large rolls of media, which can weigh 50+ lbs. “Well, what happens if you drop that on your foot that has a tennis shoe on it?” he asks. It could cause a serious injury, so he urges operators to wear steel-toed footwear.
Although Jones says fall risk isn’t a Top 10 violation for printers year after year, it’s important enough to be mindful of when installing graphics. Fall protection is required when working 4 ft. above the surface and can include railings on certain elevation equipment, and more commonly, a harness and secure tie-off point that can withstand forces of a fall.
Death & Dismemberment
The risk of death is also a high concern. Recently, Jones says, there’s been an uptick in fatalities at loading docks — a “beehive of activity” people often forget about. OSHA has also identified printing as a high hazard for amputations, which he says spurs more inspections. “That’s where the lockout/tagout of equipment becomes important — to avoid life-altering injuries.”
One violation recently hitting the Top 10 list is fire extinguishers. Jones says they tend to get blocked and forgotten and need monthly inspections to ensure they’re operable. Staff expected to operate them also need annual training.
To ensure PSPs are keeping OSHA violations at bay, Jones encourages them to check out the Alliance’s revamped safety and OSHA compliance resource pages (https://bit.ly/JonesEHS). “If they’re a member, they can go on the website and download templates,” Jones advises. There are templates for various OSHA requirements, including HazCom, PPE, and lockout/tagout. Members can also take advantage of compliance checklists. Additionally, iLEARNING+ offers members training related to safety, including one for machine guarding. Two for lockout/tagout will be available soon. Jones says printers can expect more courses covering violations in the future, encouraging general awareness of OSHA issues, especially as penalties rise.
Although many state-authorized programs haven’t increased their penalties, Jones says one of OSHA’s objectives in 2023 is for all its state partners to increase penalties to federal levels. A serious violation sits around $14,000. If “willful” or “repeat,” he says it can go above $140,000. Other ramifications could include:
- Increased workers’ compensation costs
- Implementation of a mandatory
- Fallout and morale issues
“Generally, if workers feel safe, they’re more productive,” Jones argues. “There’s a lot of connection between safety and productivity.”
Permitting Rules and Regulations
Whether it’s a banner or window graphic, PSPs can’t overlook permitting and the research that comes with it, including zoning laws and codes. Many businesses think private property is unregulated, which isn’t true. “The government has the authority to regulate things that are visible,” says Tracey Diehl, owner of Ohio-based Expedite the Diehl, specializing in commercial sign permits, sign code checks, and variances. However, sometimes digitally printed signage is not regulated, which leaves room for interpretation. “If the code does not define your sign type, does the code give someone the authority to make the decision?” Diehl poses. And how a permit is presented can affect the outcome.
Echoing some of Diehl’s thoughts, David Hickey, ISA vice president of advocacy, says because wide-format signage can be regulated so differently, including imposing unreasonable sizes, restrictions, and bans, the laws can limit PSPs and negatively impact bottom lines. “With over 20,000 local jurisdictions in the United States, each with their own unique sign code; it can be difficult for sign and graphics companies to keep up,” Hickey adds. That’s where Diehl says having a “boots on the ground” code researcher is key — someone who knows signage and laws in the area. There’s no consistency in code nationally or over time, so code research is essential to a project’s success. “It allows you to know what you can have, what you cannot have, what is regulated, and what isn’t regulated,” she adds.
Suppose a sign code happens to list a sign type as exempt. In that case, Kenny Peskin, ISA director of industry programs, says to continue your research “because many jurisdictions have requirements for signs that can be installed without a permit.” This could include how many days a temporary sign can be installed, setback and spacing requirements, etc. “Just because a city doesn’t issue a permit for a sign does not mean that the city won’t regulate it,” Peskin affirms.
Additionally, the researcher must know the job’s end-use so the sign project can be creatively presented to the city. “Our code researchers are trained extensively not to divulge information so that we’re not throwing the red flag on your project,” Diehl explains. “Having somebody that can research your large-format printing project on a national scale whenever you get ready to engage in it, and do so with confidentiality, could save you a lot of money.”
If a project involves something outside of what the code allows, that’s where variances come into play. There are several reasons a variance is granted, including visibility, safety, and environmental issues. According to Diehl, certain cities might not have a defined code for all sign types, so things like flag banners may not be covered in city code. This could work to a sign company’s advantage, allowing freedom, especially if there’s a good relationship with the municipality. It can also work against them if the code only allows what’s clearly outlined.
When sign companies take on jobs worth thousands of dollars, Diehl says it’s foolish not to pay for a code check or survey. “Why would you not want to invest in your project?” she argues. Costing less than $100, she says a code check is invaluable: “There’s no way that you can possibly clearly explain the value of code research until you’ve been in a situation where you’ve manufactured something that you can’t have. Because you took somebody’s verbal information, you’re really in a bad situation.” If sign companies don’t do their diligence and install a sign without a permit, they risk facing fines, court, or even a property lien, according to Diehl, and sometimes all of the above.
Looking to 2023, Damiane Handa, permit manager, Expedite the Diehl, still expects delays in permit processing. She says COVID-19 backlogged submissions and cities are still struggling to keep up with workloads, especially with skeleton crews. This could resolve in late 2023, but she thinks it could continue into 2024. Diehl says what used to take two to four weeks pre-COVID, now takes four to eight and even 12-16 weeks in places like California and along the Eastern Seaboard.