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Shop Floor Safety — A Cause for Concern

March 2008 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
THERE ARE two ways to view the current state of safety in the printing industry. On the one hand, as manufacturing industries go, printing is a relatively safe profession that has witnessed a steady decline in the rate of recorded injuries and illnesses, according to the PIA/GATF figures maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the most current reporting data, in 2006, the manufacturing sector had an injury and illness rate of 6.0 per 100 full time employees. Printing and publishing had a rate of just 4.2 per 100 full time employees.

Unfortunately, the worst of our injuries have been splashed across major newspapers and Websites in the past few years. Simply put, people are dying on the job.

A disturbing number of workers are losing their lives in equipment-related incidents. Gary Jones, director of EHS affairs for PIA/GATF, reports that between 2004 and 2006, there have been 22 industry deaths (including fatalities related to nonproduction work). Jones feels the headline-grabbing events should act as a wakeup call to the industry.

“The current state of safety isn’t rosy right now,” he says. “I don’t want to paint a picture of doom and gloom, but many printers don’t realize that there’s been a sudden spike in fatalities associated with working on (printing) equipment.”

The examples are mounting. Margarita Mojica, 26 years old and four months pregnant, was killed in late January when she was apparently trapped by a diecutter at San Francisco-based Digital Pre-Press International (see full story on page 8). In the last two years, two workers were killed on stackers for web presses. Another person was pulled into and asphyxiated by a sheetfed press. In Maine, a female worker was decapitated when her pony tail got caught and wrapped around a web press’ drive shaft. Two other workers were killed in paper baler accidents.

“From a safety perspective, we’re going backwards fast as an industry,” he remarks. “The scary thing is, it’s not isolated to any one particular type of activity. The commonality is they’re all equipment related.”

Deaths aren’t the only problem. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified printing as a “high hazard” industry for amputations. And while it may only be an unhappy coincidence, an unusually high amount of fires have struck printing establishments in the past year, the safety expert notes.

The amputation phenomenon has become so prevalent that Jones has successfully lobbied the PIA/GATF’s board of directors to fund the creation of an amputation prevention guide. The publication, which will be provided free to all association members, will address the core value requirements of safe equipment operation, as well as outlining the standards for OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requirements.


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