Together, OSHA and the printing industry are committed to providing employers and employees with information and assistance to help them comply with OSHA and industry standards and ensure safe workplaces. Four printing disciplines are addressed in these pages: lithography, flexography, gravure, and screen printing.
Printing industry hazards are addressed in specific standards for the general industry.
This section highlights OSHA standards, Federal Registers (rules, proposed rules, and notices), and standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards) related to the printing industry.
Note: Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.
Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness (29 CFR 1904) [related topic page]
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
The printing industry can be separated into four main segments and each must comply with all of the general industry standards (29 CFR 1910).
Lithography is a planographic printing system where the image and non-image areas are chemically differentiated with the image area being oil receptive and non-image area water receptive. Ink film from the lithographic plate is transferred to an intermediary surface called a blanket,
which, in turn, transfers the ink film to the substrate. Fountain solution is applied to maintain the hydrophilic properties of the non-image area. Ink drying is divided into heatset and non-heatset. Substrate can be fed into the press either as individual sheets or from a continuous roll or web.
Frequently Cited Standards
OSHA maintains a listing of the most frequently cited standards for specified 6-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. Please refer to OSHA's Frequently Cited OSHA Standards page for additional information. For Lithography use NAICS code 322212, 322213, 323110, 323116, 323117, 323118, 51111, or 511191 in the NAICS search box.
Flexography routinely prints jobs that we all have contact with on a daily basis in the supermarket, at the warehouse store, at the shopping mall, and local newsstands. This printing process uses a flexible printing plate with a raised image mounted on a rotary cylinder. The liquid and fast-drying ink is applied to the printing plate by way of a finely engraved rotary cylinder, called an anilox roll. A flexo press is equipped with one to twelve color stations and can print on virtually any type of substrate, from corrugated board to flexible plastic film or textiles and cloth fabrics.
Frequently Cited Standards
OSHA maintains a listing of the most frequently cited standards for specified 6-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. Please refer to OSHA's Frequently Cited OSHA Standards page for additional information. For Commercial Flexographic Printing use NAICS code 323112 in the NAICS search box.
Gravure is an intaglio printing process. Gravure is the simplest of the major printing processes in terms of the number of ink transfers and moving parts. An image carrier has the image cut or etched below the surface of the non-image area. On the gravure image carrier all the images are screened, creating thousands of tiny cells. During printing, the image carrier is immersed in fluid ink. As the image carrier rotates, ink fills the tiny cells that cover the surface of the cylinder. The surface of the cylinder is wiped with a doctor blade, leaving the non-image area clean while ink remains in the recessed cells. Substrate is brought into contact with the image carrier with the help of an impression roll. At the point of contact, ink is drawn out of the cells onto the substrate by capillary action and transferred (printed) on the substrate. The substrate is passed through a dryer where the ink is dried.
Frequently Cited Standards
OSHA maintains a listing of the most frequently cited standards for specified 6-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. Please refer to OSHA's Frequently Cited OSHA Standards page for additional information. For Commercial Printing (except Screen and Books) use NAICS code 323111 in the NAICS search box.
Screen printing is a printing process in which printing ink, coating, or adhesive material is passed through a taut web or fabric to which a refined form of stencil has been applied. The stencil openings determine the form and dimensions of the imprint.
Frequently Cited Standards
OSHA maintains a listing of the most frequently cited standards for specified 6-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. Please refer to OSHA's Frequently Cited OSHA Standards page for additional information. For Commercial Screen Printing use NAICS code 323113 in the NAICS search box.
Health and Safety Concerns
Many workers are unaware of the potential hazards in their work environment, which makes them more vulnerable to injury. The following references aid in recognizing and controlling some general safety concerns associated with the printing industry.
- Success with Ergonomics: New York Times. OSHA Success Stories, (2003, January). Describes the New York Times' sustained success in tackling ergonomic issues over the course of its ten-year program, reducing workers' compensation claims and related medical costs.
- Success with Ergonomics: Quad Graphics Inc. OSHA Success Stories, (2002, September). Reports a Wisconsin commercial printing and lithography plant' successful implementation of an ergonomics program, which successfully reduced the total number of lost work days by 60 percent and workers' compensation costs by 10 percent over four years.
- "Ergonomic Risks: Health concerns raised by new pressroom equipment leads to innovation." Flexo Magazine (2002, August).
- Control of Ergonomic Hazards from Squeegee: Handles in the Screen-Printing Industry.
US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-137, (1997, June).
- Dow Jones and Company, Inc., Dallas, Texas [153 KB PDF, 12 pages]. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Health Hazard Evaluation Report No. HETA-90-0251-2128, (1991, August). Concludes that an ergonomic hazard existed in the composing room among printers due to static standing postures. The author recommends measures to remedy the situation.
- Controlling Cleaning-Solvent Vapors at Small Printers. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 98-107, (1997, December).
Safe Equipment Operation
- Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Concentrates on investigations of fatal occupational injuries and provides the full text of hundreds of fatality investigation reports.
- Printing Machine Operator Electrocuted in Indiana. Indiana FACE Investigation 86-16. Investigates the death of a 32-year-old gilter operator electrocuted when he entered an electrical panelboard to reset a circuit breaker.
- Pressman Falls from Printing Press. Nebraska FACE Investigation 95NE016, (1995, June 28). Investigates the case of a 54-year-old male pressman who fell approximately 41 inches from a printing press. He fell face first to a concrete floor and was taken to a hospital where he died later in the day from a heart attack.
- Temporary Worker Dies When Crushed in Screen Printing Press. Massachusetts FACE Investigation 94MA018. Investigates the death of a 19-year-old worker crushed by a screen printing press when the infrared emergency stop reversed the motion of the printing frame faster than normal.
- Free Leaflets - Printing. Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Contains a list of printing information sheets and industry advisory committee leaflets, from the United Kingdom on the safe operation of several types of printing presses.
- OSHA Hazard Awareness Advisor. OSHA. Helps businesses (especially small businesses) identify and understand common occupational safety and health hazards in their work place.
- For additional information on general safety and health concerns, see OSHA's Safety and Health Topics Pages on:
Safety and Health Programs
An effective safety and health program depends on the credibility of management's involvement in the program, inclusion of employees in safety and health decisions, rigorous worksite analysis to identify hazards and potential hazards, including those which could result from a change in worksite conditions or practices, stringent prevention and control measures, and thorough training. It addresses hazards whether or not they are regulated by government standards. The following resources provide information that can help employers develop and implement a safety and health program.
- Ritrama Invests in Safety and Improves Its Bottom Line. OSHA and Ritrama Case Study, (2007, June). Through the OSHA and GAC Alliance, the agency worked with Ritrama, a multi-national corporation, to highlight a safety and health program that the company designed and implemented to educate the managers, supervisors and employees about safe work practices and company-specific procedures at its manufacturing plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a result of the program, Ritrama reduced its workers' compensation premiums, increased productivity and product quality, and improved its employee recruitment and retention.
- Job Hazard Analysis. OSHA Publication 3071, (2002). Also available as a 497 KB PDF, 50 pages. Explains what a job hazard analysis is and offers guidelines to help employers conduct their own step-by-step analysis.
- Safety and Health Management Systems. OSHA eTool. There are four crucial questions you should be asking when it comes to safety and health programs. The detailed answers are found in the four modules of this eTool.
- $afety Pays Program. OSHA. Assists employers in estimating the costs of occupational injuries and illnesses and the impact on a company's profitability.
- Safety and Health Management Program Guidelines; Issuance of Voluntary Guidelines. OSHA Federal Register Notice 54:3904-3916, (1989, January 26). Provides safety and health program management guidelines are for use by employers to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses.
- Safety and Health Add Value. OSHA Publication 3180. Also available as a 200 KB PDF, 6 pages. Describes how safety and health add value to your business, your workplace, and your life.
- For additional information, see OSHA's Injury and Illness Prevention Programs Safety and Health Topics Page.
- Small Business Handbook. OSHA Publication 2209-02R, (2005). Also available as a 260 KB PDF, 56 pages. Helps small business employers meet the legal requirements imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act), and achieve an in-compliance status before an OSHA inspection.
- Gantly, Tim. "A Safe Beginning." Flexo Magazine (2002, February).
- Safety in Action: #5 A Practical Guide for Ergonomics [176 KB PDF, 4 pages]. Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA). Provides members of the printing industry guidance on conducting a basic ergonomic evaluation of a job.
- Ergonomics for the Screen Printing & Graphic Imaging Industry. Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA). Provides information on ergonomic hazards in the printing industry and identifies ergonomic risk factors.
- The Hidden Secret to Improving Profitability [63 KB PDF, 3 pages]. (2005). Describes how OSHA's cooperative programs, including the Consultation Program, Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), and Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), may help members of the printing industry to improve workplace safety and save money.
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