Health & safety tips for your print business

safetytipsIt should come as no surprise that health and safety must be a priority in any workplace, especially in facilities with heavy machinery and dangerous equipment. I applaud companies that are willing to invest in health and safety initiatives because the importance of training cannot be underestimated. For those who don’t know where to start, here are five tips to foster a safe work environment in your print business.

TIP #1: Change the Keystone Habit

In Charles Duhigg’s 2012 non-fiction release The Power of Habit, he writes about a concept he calls the “keystone habit”. The keystone habit starts a chain reaction of process of improvement that naturally allows for progress in other areas over time. It is all about establishing organizational routines to facilitate positive change.

In The Power of Habit, Duhigg uncovers that an organization is only as good as its health and safety efforts. International giant Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) managed a resurgence from quality and efficiency issues, as well as lack or morale and striking workers, by focusing on changing only one habit that everyone could agree was important: safety.

Alcoa’s new CEO, Paul O’Neill, had one goal: zero injuries. “If you want to understand how Alcoa is doing, you need to look at our workplace safety figures. If we bring our injury rates down, it won’t be because of cheerleading or the nonsense you sometimes hear from other CEOs. It will be because the individuals at this company have agreed to become part of something important – they’ve devoted themselves to creating a habit of excellence. Safety will be an indicator that we’re making progress in changing our habits across the entire institution.”

By the time O’Neill retired in the year 2000, Alcoa’s market capitalization had risen by $27 billion and the company’s income was five times what it was when O’Neill arrived in 1987. Great things can happen when an organization places a critical importance on health and safety.

safetytips2TIP #2: Provide & Enforce the Use of Protective Equipment

Everyone has the right to a safe work environment. Period.

It is the employer’s responsibility to train employees about dangers that exist within a specific workplace and provide necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Conversely it is the employees’ responsibility to wear the protective equipment and ask questions whenever there is uncertainty.

The good news is that statistics show that the number of workplace injuries in Ontario has fallen steadily over the last few years, but there were still nearly 250,000 claims registered to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) for injuries, illness or fatality on the job in 2009 (the most current year for which statistics are available).

The manufacturing sector and services sector have consistently made up the largest percentage of workplace injuries and illness, with a total of 38.1% of all workers (14.3% and 23.8%, respectively) or just over 93,000 workers total in 2009. It can never be known when an emergency will happen; therefore it is important that employees have the knowledge and skills to help in case of emergency.

For great information about health and safety in the workplace, including first aid training requirements, check out the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s health and safety website:

TIP #3: Get Up Close and Personal with the WSIB

Understanding the requirements of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) can be challenging at the best of times, but it is extremely important to understand the WSIB requirements for a safe workplace.

Monthly safety checks, including replenishing first aid kits, eye wash stations and fire extinguishers must be done. A health and safety committee and/or representative should be completing these monthly checks, as well as ensuring at least the minimum WSIB requirements are met. You can find employer requirements and information here:

TIP #4: Training, Training, Training

The importance of training (and refreshing one’s knowledge) cannot be overestimated. Initial site orientation for new employees, including thorough explanations of health and safety procedures, must be completed. Training on new equipment that includes correct operating procedures, emergency shut-off and preventative maintenance are all key factors in ensuring employees feel confident and safe using the equipment.

Of the approximately 64,800 total workers who lost time due to injuries or illness in the workplace in 2009, just over 50% of them (32,564 workers) lost time due to sprains or strains. In addition, another 28.4% of the total lost time because of a back injury, with lower back strains representing three quarters of these injuries. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is an appropriate idiom for preventing workplace injuries, whereby training employees on something as simple as proper lifting procedures can save hours of lost time in the future.

Additionally, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that accompany a chemical must be accessible to all employees working with that substance. Employees must be trained on where and how to use chemicals correctly, as well as the dangers involved. Without proper training, you could be putting your staff and business at risk.

It is understandable that management may not want to facilitate first aid training because it can be a time-consuming venture. I’m here to set the record straight and tell you that first aid and CPR training does not have to be a two-day long event. For example, a CPR-only certification course only takes about three hours to complete and many first aid training organizations will provide the training on-site at your location to make it convenient for everyone. If you are not interested in certification and just want your employees to have hands-on practice dealing with relevant emergency situations, sessions as short as one hour (‘lunch and learn’) can be customized for your organization. Don’t let time be the excuse that is keeping your staff from gaining important health and safety knowledge, and the confidence that comes with it.

safetydefibTIP #5: The Shocking Truth – Invest in a Defibrillator

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are incredibly simple to use and are phenomenal lifesavers. They can increase the odds that a cardiac arrest victim will survive from 5% to 90%. (No, that’s not a typo – from 5% to 90%!)

Your business cannot afford NOT to invest in one.

I am extremely passionate about these devices, as I used a defibrillator in an emergency scenario in 2011 and I sincerely believe that the victim survived for the sole reason that we had an AED nearby.

Only five years ago, it would have been fair to say that AEDs were not affordable for a small or medium sized printing company because they cost $6,000 or more. However, as with any technological advancement, AEDs have become smarter, faster, and more affordable over time. Today a defibrillator typically costs between $2,000 – $3,000 (all inclusive and fully loaded). Anyone can use one (trained or untrained), as they are protected under Ontario’s Good Samaritan Act.

Even though AEDs are incredibly simple to use (press the ‘on’ button, listen to prompts and press shock button if instructed) there are special considerations that are best clarified through training. To be thoroughly trained to use an AED, it only takes about an hour. Invest in a defibrillator and training today.

Workplace health and safety is absolutely critical to any successful work environment, especially in a dangerous high-risk environment like the printing industry. Fostering a workplace culture that is dedicated to safety can be a difficult task and it doesn’t work unless everyone buys into the idea. A little training goes a long way (and a lot of training goes even further!) in helping to perpetuate the important message in your organization that safety comes first.

For more information and resources about first aid & CPR, check out for handy free how-to PDFs, eBooks and the ON-SITE First Aid blog.


Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.