Vannessa Roper, health and safety co-ordinator at Screen Print World, is leading the company’s mission to educate screen printers on how to create a safe working environment

Any print shop is only as good as its staff, and like any workplace, a print shop contains potential hazards that could pose a risk to those staff members’ health. It’s in everyone’s interest, then, to put in place effective safety measures that will protect the workforce. It is equally important to ensure that all staff understand the health and safety risks associated with the equipment and materials they are working with and are educated in how to protect themselves against such risks.

\While most inks and other consumables that are used in print shops tend to be ‘safe‘ in terms of how hazardous they are to health, some are chemical- or solvent- based, such as discharge ink, and care needs to be taken when using them. Exercise care when cleaning up inks as well – always look closely at the container. There are simple signs on all potentially hazardous products to let users know of any risks or dangers they need to be aware of when handling such products.

Helpfully, every potentially hazardous product comes with a safety data sheet (SDS) that offers storage, handling and protective information – make sure everyone handling these products checks the sheets and understands them. It may seem time-consuming, but once you know where to look, it’s simple. The sheets contain information on everything from identification of substances and toxicological information to first aid measures and disposal considerations.

Understanding COSHH

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) is a law that requires employers to keep tabs on hazardous substances. 

These can be any of the following types: chemicals; products containing chemicals; fumes; dusts; vapours; mists; nanotechnology; gases; biological agents; and germs. 

Under COSHH regulations employers and employees have certain responsibilities:


• Implement measures of control
• Control exposure
• Provide employees with adequate information, instruction, training and suitable personal protective equipment (PPE)
• Devise plans and procedures in the case of an accident or emergency
• Monitor health of employees
• Don’t exceed workspace exposure limits
• Carry out a risk assessment


• Ensure employer provides control measure
• Return and store equipment correctly
• Report any issues
• Wear the provided PPE
• Remove PPE before eating and drinking
• Maintain personal hygiene
• Comply with training and advice given by employer

Make sure all staff know where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them

Install an eye-wash station in your print shop


Other precautions

First aid: Always have a trained first aider available to assist in the case of an accident or emergency situation.

Chemical spill kit: You might not be able to prevent every accident from happening, but you can plan and prepare for one in the unfortunate event that it does happen. If, for example, a large container of a hazardous substance gets damaged and leaks, having a spill kit on hand will help you with the clean- up as well as protect staff and prevent contamination of any sort.

Eye-wash station: Hopefully you will not need this as you will be wearing protective safety glasses/visors to prevent anything getting into your eyes. However, if you do get splashback from a washout booth or chemicals in your eye by accidentally rubbing it, for example, then an eye-wash station will allow you to rinse your eyes immediately.

Fire safety: Make sure all staff know where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them. Some chemicals can be flammable and staff need to be aware of this. Safety data sheets may give fire-fighting instructions, so make sure you have some available to give to firefighters if a fire does occur.

Waste management: Dispose of any waste in compliance with local regulations. Be aware when disposing of a substance that mixing it with other materials may change its categorisation. Consult the safety data sheet to ensure correct waste management of the product.

Operating machinery: Make sure that all automatic presses are secured by safety bars or cables to stop people entering the machine boundaries when it’s moving.

Protectivewear: PPE is imperative when dealing with chemicals. It’s as much the responsibility of the employer to give you PPE as it is yours to know when you need it and to ask for it.

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