Top 5 Safety Precautions for Shops with Screen Printing Supplies
By Keith Stevens, International Coatings
Since venturing into screen printing as a teenager, I have had a plethora of injuries from screen printing supplies like machines, chemicals or electricity. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I came through these avoidable without permanent damage. Others may not have been so fortunate.
The five categories I consider a top priority to prevent injuries to yourself and employees in your shop:
1. Chemical Safety Precautions — There are a variety of chemicals used in the screen printing process. Some chemicals are solvents used to clean up spills, screens and equipment. Others are mixed into the ink to increase or lessen its viscosity. Chemicals can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin so it is important to use solvents in well-vented areas only with the correct safety equipment. Masks and gloves are the simplest way to prevent injuries from solvents.
I burned my skin using Xylene/MEK solvents, even using UV inks, so I can tell you it is important to use safety measures to protect eyes, skin and nose to prevent inhalation when handling chemicals. Also, the product material safety data sheet (MSDS) lists first aid measures which should be on hand in a busy screen printing shop.
2. Cleanliness and Order — Did you know that cleanliness and order is very important to the screen printing process both for safety and profitability? Besides impacting the bottom line of the project, keeping individual ink colors from being contaminated can prevent injuries.
By having designated places for inks, equipment and tools to be stored, you spend less time looking for missing tools or equipment. That avoids misplaced buckets and razor blades or knives which prevents avoidable falls and cuts.
3. Equipment Safety Training — Most screen printing shops have electronic equipment like a flash-cure units, dryer or automatic printing machines. Training all staff member how to use each piece of equipment properly can by itself cut down on accidents. Very important is to be sure all machines so have safety guards or covers so that the engine parts are not exposed, which can eliminate severe shop injuries.
Unfortunately, I speak from past experience having injured my foot which got stuck in the chain drive of a dryer that didn’t have a cover over the engine and had my hand smashed by an automatic machine. Both accidents were totally avoidable with training and proper covers.
4. Electrical Safety Precautions —Electricity requires extra precautions like installing a lock-out box over electrical. If repairs are required, a mechanic can shut off the electricity and lock the box. That prevents someone else from turning it on while repairs are in progress and can avoid major injuries. Most effective is to schedule repairs after hours when your crew has left.
I was shocked many a time while fixing a plug or wiring on lights in my shop by someone who turned on the electricity while repairs were in progress.
5. Stay Alert and Aware —A lot of accidents happen in the workplace due to lack of alertness or common sense awareness. Help your staff combat workplace tiredness and drowsiness by ensuring they and you taking scheduled breaks. Moving, walking and taking breaks help energize the mind and body and offset lethargy and fatigue.
It is very important to keep distractions to a minimum in a fast-paced environment, especially if you are working around automated equipment. The distraction can come in the form of music, cell phones, computers or interaction with other co-workers, but it makes safety sense to minimize all distractions and focus on the tasks at hand.
The bottom line is use common sense to avoid shop accidents and injuries. This list is not by any means exhaustive, I hope that these safety tips will help minimize avoidable injuries at your shop.