Ergonomics in the Flexographic Printing Industry: Do’s and Don’ts for Workplace Safety

The flexographic printing industry involves a lot of demanding and labor-intensive tasks. Without proper ergonomics, workers are exposed to a number of potential work and safety hazards. Here are some ergonomic tips for better health and safety at work. 

A career in the flexographic industry is among the most labor-intensive professions. On top of heavy lifting, you’re exposed to a number of potential hazards during the pre-press process, the use of equipment, loading raw materials, and post-processing. 

Despite the risk, it’s hard to deny how the field has become a crucial part of many businesses’ production and packing pipeline. For something this important, there is a need to practice proper ergonomics as it mitigates occupational hazards. 

Here are the do’s and don’ts for workplace safety in the flexographic printing industry, outlined according to the three core processes: pre-press, press, and post-press. 

 

Pre-Press

The pre-press process requires professionals in the printing industry to work on a computer. This is where the images to be printed on materials are processed, edited, and finalized before production. 

And like any person working on a computer all day, this can cause a multitude of health problems, the most common ones being lower back pain, eye strain, and hindered blood circulation, among others.

Do’s

  • Ensure that the monitor is at or slightly below eye level.
  • Your arms and shoulders should fall naturally while typing on the keyboard or navigating your mouse.
  • Your lower back and neck should be supported by your chair. Consider using a lumbar support pillow.
  • Your feet should be flat on the floor to promote proper blood circulation and avoid fatigue.

Don’ts

  • Tilt your head down or lean forward while looking at your monitor.
  • Position your keyboard and mouse too far to avoid straining your body when reaching for them.
  • Position your workstation in front of a window. The glare could strain your eyes and increase muscle stress.
  • Use a hard chair or one without a backrest. 

 

Press

Navigating and using the different equipment involved in flexographic printing repetitively for a long period of time forces one to bend awkwardly, extensively reach out, lift forcefully, and stand for prolonged periods. 

These improper movements and sustained postures can put a worker at risk of developing body aches or pains, which, if not immediately addressed, can cause RSIs, or repetitive stress injuries. 

So it pays for print workers to be more mindful of how they move and extend their bodies at work. Simple things like changing the placement of equipment and switching to more lightweight, ergonomic options can make a world of difference.

Do’s:

  • Use adjustable height and tilt tables to bring the work surface to the right height and angle
  • Take 1-minute breaks when changing body posture to prevent excessive strain
  • Use tools with ergonomic handles
  • Rearrange the placement of equipment. They should be within easy reach, without the need for bending or excessive stretching
  • Use tools and mechanical assistance to lift anything heavier than 50 pounds
  • Where possible, switch to lightweight equipment and options
  • Provide training on the proper use of the equipment and optimal body posture and mechanics. 

Don’ts:

  • Forget to replace old, damaged equipment to help reduce the force and effort needed to use them
  • Store equipment in high hard-to-reach places or under tables and benches
  • Carry heavyweight equipment or materials without the help of tools, machines, or coworkers
  • Strain your body retrieving equipment. Make use of a ladder to reach high places or walk to a nearer distance. 
  • Stack items in tall stacks

 

Postpress

The work doesn’t stop at the printing process. Some clients may have specifications for product packaging. High quantity orders, packaging, and bundling all involve a lot of heavy lifting and loading — all of which pose many health risks.

Do’s:

  • Reduce manual work by investing in mechanical equipment like lift tables, stackers, carts, and conveyors
  • Elevate materials and pallets to avoid bending
  • Consider using automated packaging equipment to reduce repetitive and straining movement
  • Angle the table with the box tilting towards you so that you can easier access the interior
  • Use anti-fatigue mats when standing for prolonged periods of time
  • Keep your back straight, elbows close to your body, and move smoothly.

Don’ts:

  • Carry weights above 40 pounds alone. Use tools and machinery or ask a coworker for assistance.
  • Excessively twist your torso when loading between the conveyor and pallet
  • Lift with your arm power. Use the power in your lower body and legs.
  • Work for prolonged periods. Take a break every now and then and rotate shifts. 

 

These may seem like mild changes. But they can make a great impact on improving the safety and health of professionals in the flexographic printing industry. Remember, healthier employees are happier and more productive employees. 

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