From the one-man shop to a full-sized commercial production facility, screen printers have to take precautions every day to keep themselves and their employees safe. Here are our best safety tips for your screen printing shop.
Before you can exercise proper precautions in your screen printing shop, you have to know where your hazards lie. Familiarize yourself with all of your equipment and supplies. Read material safety data sheets (MSDS) to know the harm that your chemicals can cause. Read warnings and safety guidelines for all of your equipment. When it comes to running a safe screen printing shop, knowledge is power.
Screen printers work with a lot of chemicals. Some are obviously dangerous and can cause immediate chemical burns or reactions. For others, long-term exposure can cause health problems. Even chemicals you’ve never had a problem with can suddenly cause a reaction if your body develops a sensitivity. Based on the information you obtain from MSDS and product labels, make sure you don the proper protective gear when dealing with the chemicals in your shop. Gloves are a given when you’re dealing with a harsh chemical, but don’t forget protective gear in other areas. A respirator or facemask should be used with aerosol chemicals, and a face guard or, at the very least, safety goggles are wise when washing out or reclaiming screens.
Unfortunately, screen printers are surrounded by a lot of chemicals. Even when using more environmentally friendly options, your inks, pallet adhesives, screen degreasers, emulsion and other chemicals are filling the air with potentially dangerous particulate matter. At the very least, make sure that your shop is well ventilated. Ideally, you should have a ventilation system installed in your shop to help clean the air. Make sure you do your research: Many of the chemicals used in screen printing are heavier than air and will sink toward the floor, which means that a ceiling-based ventilation system could serve to pull those toxins up, increasing yours and your employees’ exposure.
One of the most common ailments for screen printers — especially those who have spent a good portion of their careers working on manual presses — is carpal tunnel syndrome. The repetitive motion and force on the wrist can cause pain and problems down the road. You can reduce your risk by using an ergonomically designed squeegee, squeegee pads and wrist guards. Make sure you’re printing with your wrist in neutral position and consider pushing, rather than pulling your ink, as pushing the squeegee uses body weight and shoulder strength rather than taxing the wrists.
A dirty, unorganized shop is more hazardous than a clean, neatly organized one. Make sure that spills are cleaned up immediately to avoid trips and falls, and never leave tools or printing supplies on the floor where people could trip. Making sure that all of your printing supplies have a proper place and that they are put into those places reduces the risk that someone could use the wrong chemical.
It’s easy to assume that your employees will understand and appreciate the hazards in your screen printing shop. Doing so can set your employees up for injuries or illnesses. Make sure you train your employees on the proper use of equipment and on the proper handling and disposal of chemicals. Hold regular trainings and post fliers warning of hazards around your shop, as safety tends to be forgotten when it’s not fresh on people’s minds.
There are a lot of hazards in a screen printing shop, but it doesn’t follow that a screen printing shop is a hazardous place. Educate yourself on the dangers in your shop, take steps to address those dangers, and train your employees on workplace safety. When everyone is aware of dangers and how to deal with them, screen printing shops can run safely.
Looking for some more tips to keep your screen printing business safe? Check out these blog posts: