Top 5 Business Management Issues Printers Face in 2019
With another year finished and a new one just begun, one of the “house cleaning” items every commercial printer should check off is a look at the laws and regulations that might impact their businesses in the coming months, and that they are in compliance with legislation that has already passed. This is especially true as printing industry segments and markets continue to converge; for example, as commercial printers begin to offer services such as wide-format printing, signage or other products, the number of local and federal laws that apply will only continue to grow.
While not a comprehensive list, here is a look at just a few of the things printers should be aware of — and ensure compliance with — as they go through their operations to prepare for another prosperous year.
1. Local Permits Pertaining to Signage Placement
Commercial printers that have 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 a 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), points out.
And it’s not just big outdoor signs that require the proper permits; many jurisdictions have begun to pass regulations that even 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, Hickey says, is that “three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Reed v. Gilbert, removing 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.”
The fallout is that now almost every community has its own variation of sign codes and printers need to know not only their local codes, but the regulations impacting every location they install into.
Adding to the difficulty level, there is no one resource where a printer can pull every applicable signage regulation. Rather, they will need to reach out individually to all of the city and town governing boards to get a current copy of the local laws. It is, in some ways, a thankless task. But by doing this up front, a printer can ensure to its customers that every job that is produced for them is going to be in compliance, cutting down on the potential issues they might face during or after installation.
2. Cannabis and Drug Testing Policies
According to Marci Kinter, VP of 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 some states to legalize cannabis, either medically or recreationally.
“This impacts the concept of drug testing in the workplace 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” she says.
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 the federal level, complicating the entire issue further. And to add yet another layer of complication, the 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 individual state has done, what has been legalized or not and then ensure their policies are up to date, as well as look at how they are doing drug testing.”
3. Proposition 65
For those businesses based in California, as well as companies that sell products in California, 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 in the state 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.
Another area that many might not even realize falls under this regulation is cigarette smoke. Printers should make sure there is a notice about the regulation and that their business has a designated smoking area to ensure it is in compliance.
Shops that fail to comply, or get caught with a violation, can be served up to $2,500 per violation, per day, so it is worth doing a quick check to ensure the proper signage and warnings are placed in applicable areas.
4. Federal Hazardous Waste Regulations
While California’s Prop 65 primarily applies to those based in and selling products to customers located in that state, the EPA reorganized and made substantial changes to the laws around hazardous waste in the 2017/2018 time frame that are still being adopted and implemented into 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 also issued guidelines around air pollution that — depending on where a printer is located — could impact usage of various printing presses, wide-format printers and other equipment. Printing companies, Kinter says, need to determine if a permit is required to operate their equipment, and what, if any, air pollution controls they are required to have in place.
“The burden is on the facility to determine compliance,” she notes, “and more states are turning to permitted digital equipment as well.”
Printers should do an audit of all machines currently operating on their shop floors 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.
5. Compliance With OSHA Safety, Health Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a wide range of regulations that every employer must adhere to, including printers. Every shop, no matter how big or small, should be aware of the OSHA regulations and ensure total compliance to keep workers safe and healthy. Here are just a few to pay particular attention to this year.
- 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 the employee is working on the machine. Printing companies 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. Printing businesses 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. All electrical cords and wires should be in good condition and not a hazard.
- Fire extinguishers. OSHA has very specific requirements for businesses — including printers — 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 to make sure 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 all of the laws and regulations that impact a commercial printer’s operations, especially as they continue to expand into new business opportunities. One resource to consider making liberal use of is various industry associations — SGIA, ISA and PIA, for example, 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, printers don’t have to get there alone.
Make January your annual compliance month, where you tackle issues, update yourself on the new and upcoming changes, and ensure your operation is ready for the new year.
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.