Digital technology is slowly eliminating the traditional need for print shops and quick copy storefronts. But, old-school print house operations are still in existence serving businesses with print needs, and employing millions of people nationwide. They’re not going anywhere, despite the capabilities of Print on Demand and on-line ordering platforms like Vista Print and Shutterfly.
Let’s take a step back, through, and remember the roots of this industry and its fantastic machinery. Invented by Gutenberg around the year 1440 the printing press has come a long way and encountered many changes and advancements over the centuries, with rapid advancements in recent decades. Complex machines as they are with new features developing all the time, it’s not difficult to see why knowing one’s equipment is paramount to anyone working in this industry.
While many printing press injuries occur from user error and carelessness, equipment malfunction also plays a big role. Luckily, today, many of the newer printing machines have a built-in malfunction sensor that alerts the user of any issues that need rectifying sooner rather than later. This is especially critical because if a printing job is interrupted, the job may have to start again from the beginning. Stopping the machine becomes a huge hassle and possibly may be ignored in an effort to resist shutting the machine down. Materials are wasted, time is lost and deadlines are looming. Users become impatient and careless, rushed and anxiety-ridden. Concentration and lack of focus means accidents can easily occur.
So, exactly how can a printing press injury occur due to operator error or machine malfunction? From an operator standpoint, printing press injuries and amputations occur from hair and clothing entanglement with moving parts, fingers being drawn into a roller, hands being pressed by flattening tools, and rare cases of fatalities when someone falls into a printing press that can’t be stopped in time. Let’s add this to the environment in the shop itself (unrelated to the actual machinery operation) which can also be a breeding ground for injury: slipping and falling in an area where loose papers are stored, slippery and oily residue on the floor from chemicals, and piles of slick-printed materials that could be stepped on or tripped over. From a malfunction standpoint, printing press injuries can occur when the foot pedals stick, when materials become jammed in the machine, when an unknown substance enters the mechanism, and lack of ventilation causes faulty overheating. And, let’s not neglect the long-term effects of working in the print industry over time: exposure to toxic chemical poisoning and inhalation of fumes, possible skin cancer occurrence, dermatitis on fingers and hands from the many chemicals that are not washed off completely or properly, not to mention the every day ailments like nagging and chronic headaches, redness of eyes, respiratory problems, lead exposure and general fatigue.
Faulty equipment can take the heat in some cases. In other cases, operator error, neglect and carelessness are to blame. The printing press is an amazing piece of equipment and will continue to evolve in technology for years to come. To stay ahead of the game and avoid misuse and malfunction, proper training on new products can be the primary key to preventing injuries in this fast-paced industry. If there is a malfunction that causes injury though, the manufacture of the printing press can be held accountable.