The Top 5 Legislative Issues for Wide-Format Printers in 2019
With another year done and a new one just begun, one of the “house cleaning” items every print shop should check off is a look at the laws and regulations that impact their business. For wide-format printers, navigating the increasingly complex waters of federal, state and local regulations around items such as signage and vehicle wraps can be a fraught affair. That said, there are a few in particular to pay close attention to now that the calendar has changed over.
While not a comprehensive list of everything you should be aware of for your operations, these laws and regulations are a good place to start.
1. Proposition 65
For those shops based in California or who have any work going into the state, this law, also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, went into effect at the end of August 2018. At first blush, it might be tempting to write it off as not applicable, but since it applies to any business with more than 10 employees, many print shops fall under its umbrella.
The heart of the regulation is that all businesses that fall under the law must provide a “clear and reasonable warning” before “knowingly and intentionally” exposing a person to a potentially harmful chemical. For printers, one of the areas to keep an eye on are products that use phthalates, such as DINP, DEHP and DBP. These chemicals are used in a wide range of products, including ink viscosity agents, stabilizers, adhesives, glues and packaging materials, just to name a few. They are used to increase the flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity of plastics of all shapes and sizes, and appear in products used throughout the entire printing process, no matter what type of technology is employed.
Because many of the products with these chemicals are produced out of state for a wide variety of reasons, any 10-person or more shop anywhere in the country might very well fall under the Prop 65 umbrella and be exposed to the potential fines and fees.
For those based in the state, another area many might not even realize fall under this regulation is cigarette smoke — make sure there is a notice about the regulation and the shop’s compliance within the designated smoking area. Shops that fail to comply, or get caught with a violation, can be fined up to $2,500 per violation, per day, so it is worth doing a quick check to ensure the proper signage and warnings are up in applicable areas.
Any commercial printer that has expanded into the signage space in any capacity should ensure they are completely aware of any and all local, state and federal regulations that govern the use of various forms of signage products.
“The difficulty of getting signs and graphics permitted in timely fashion has been a big issue in 2018, and this is a burden that usually falls on sign, graphics and visual communications companies,”
David Hickey, VP of advocacy for the International Sign Association (ISA), notes.
And it’s not just big outdoor signs that require the proper permits; many jurisdictions have even begun to pass regulations that govern the use of window signs and decals. 2018 saw a debate around the regulations for temporary signs such as those for real estate or political campaigns in many cities around the country.
Part of the problem, says Hickey, is that three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, which removed any distinction of signs based on content. “We’re still feeling its ramifications today in communities and courts across the country. The decision sent every city and town back to review its sign code.”
Many cities and towns are also starting to look at regulating vehicle wraps, as well. Hickey notes, they “are growing in popularity but have spawned new questions and enforcement issues for local governments. Although these are not traditional signs and graphics, communities are starting to address them in sign regulations, where the focus of standards is on the parking or location of the vehicle, rather than the size of the ‘sign.’ In some cities, such wraps are permitted ‘but only if the primary purpose of such vehicles is not for the display of the signs thereon.’”
3. Cannabis and Drug Testing
According to Marcia Kinter, VP – Government & Business Information for the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA), one of the biggest issues that impacted printers of all types and sizes in 2018 — and will continue to impact them well into 2019 and beyond — is the movement by the states to legalize cannabis, either medically or recreationally.
“This impacts the concept of drug testing in the workplace,” she notes, “and what employers can do, how it falls within the ADA, etc. It is one of the big changes we’ve seen, and one of the most misunderstood.”
Part of the problem, Kinter points out, is that right now, all of the changes are happening on a state-by-state level, with varying degrees of legal use. However, cannabis is still outlawed on a federal level, complicating the entire issue further. And to add yet another layer of complication, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) drug testing policy states that employers can’t administer drug tests on a whim — there must be a reason to test.
“Printers are not the only ones impacted,” Kinter notes, “but they do need to take a hard look at what their state has done, what has been legalized or not and then ensure their policies are up to date, as well as look at how are they doing drug testing.”
4. Federal Hazardous Waste Regulations
While California’s Prop 65 mainly applies to those based in that state, the EPA reorganized and made substantial changes to the laws around hazardous wastes in the 2017-2018 time frame that are still being adopted and implemented in 2019 as the states review and make changes. Much of the code was simplified, according to Kinter, but as various states update their policies, printers should be aware of them and ensure compliance with the updated guidelines.
In addition, the EPA has issued guidelines around air pollution, which, depending on where a printer is located, could impact usage of various printers and other equipment. The wide-format industry, in particular, Kinter notes, “needs to understand it is not exempt from air pollution control solutions. They need to determine if a permit is required for the operation of their equipment.
“The burden is on the facility to determine compliance,” Kinter continues, “and more states are turning to permitted digital equipment as well.” Printers should do an audit of all machines currently operating on the shop floor to determine their compliance levels, as well as ensure that future equipment purchases fall within the guidelines or are properly permitted with their state and local governments.
OSHA has a wide range of regulations that every employer must adhere to, including wide-format printers. Every shop, no matter how big or small, should be aware of the OSHA regulations and ensure total compliance to keep its workers safe and healthy. But here are just a few to pay particular attention to as you go down your compliance checklist for 2019.
Lockout or tag-out. This regulation ensures employee safety when performing service or maintenance to any piece of equipment. It prevents unexpected startups or any release of chemicals or other hazardous emissions while an employee is working on the machine. Printers should have a written policy about how lockouts are performed, with machine-specific procedures. Printers are also required to conduct annual inspections of those procedures.
Respiratory protection. A common violation for printers is failing to have a written policy governing the use of any kind of respiratory device beyond a dust mask. Printers are also required to provide proper medical evaluations to any employee using a respirator.
Forklift training. Any employee who operates a forklift, pallet jack or any other type of industrial-powered vehicle on the job must receiving training and certification before they are allowed to operate the equipment. They must also be re-certified every three years.
Electrical safety. There is an OSHA regulation that governs the use of components such as extension cords and power strips, with a common violation being frayed wires or improper use of the cables. Go through your shop and ensure that all the electrical cords and wires are in good condition and aren’t a hazard.
Fire extinguishers. OSHA has very specific requirements for businesses — including wide-format print shops — and how fire extinguishers must be placed and mounted, as well as how accessible they are and how frequently they are maintained. It should be an annual process to go through and check them, as well as ensure all employees are aware of where they are located and how to use them.
It can seem like an overwhelming challenge to keep up with the laws and regulations that impact a wide-format printer’s operations, especially as a shop expands into new business opportunities. One resource to consider making liberal use of is the associations — ISA, SGIA and PIA all have extensive programs designed to help printers navigate the legal landscape. They can answer many broad questions, and can often point printers toward more specific resources when necessary. While 100% compliance is the goal, you don’t have to get there alone. Begin every year by performing an annual compliance check, where you tackle issues, update yourself on the new and upcoming changes and ensure your operation is all set.
By making this an annual review, you will find it gets much easier over time to keep on top of the shifting landscape, no matter what it might bring.