Print, publishing and media

If your print, publishing and media business were to fall victim to a fire, theft or health and safety disaster, it's not just your own operations and employees that can suffer as a result, but also your customers and partners.

There are risk topics not detailed here that affect all businesses, including fire risk assessment,  health and safety policy and people management.

We also recommend that you take the time to read our advice about business continuity. Issues like loss of access, machinery/plant breakdown and supply chain failure can be very damaging for businesses in the print, publishing and media sectors.

Your fire risk assessment, carried out for life safety purposes, may not have considered some of the important factors which are relevant to your arson risk. Premises become an easy target when little investment has been made into site security, especially in isolated positions.

There are firms in this sector that do have the extra burden of being targets for extremists because of the nature of their business, or who they belong to, and for them it is imperative to assess security on a regular basis. In addition, waste, goods and other items stored outside of your building are often an easy target for arsonists and vandals. Taking the necessary precautions can prevent widespread destruction. 

Over the last few decades, premises have been transformed to include high-tech computers, specialist machinery and technologies and other electronic items high on most thieves’ shopping lists.

Night time burglaries are all too common but daytime walk-in opportunist theft is also widespread, so don’t be complacent. Good security lighting, CCTV, intruder alarm protection and sturdy, safe physical security may make the difference between a quiet life and becoming a crime statistic. 

We understand that businesses in this sector are usually highly reliant on connected computer systems and so falling victim to hacking, malware or another type of cyber attack can cause significant problems. Print, publishing and media businesses hold a lot of valuable data, financial accounts and confidential information which can make them more of a target of cyber theft through tactics like phishing, malware installation and website spoofing, to name but a few. Consequently, amongst other measures like changing passwords regularly and we recommend getting penetration tests (pentests) carried out on a regular basis and whenever changes to the infrastructure are made. This method works by 'attacking' the system so that security weaknesses can be identified.

Print, publishing and media businesses often obtain and hold confidential information on their clients and other third parties which, if not handled and/or disposed of correctly, can leave you and your clients vulnerable to theft, fraud and other risks. Confidential information includes data such as bank account details and addresses but in various instances it may also stretch to CCTV footage.

Businesses have a responsibility of obtaining, processing and controlling data in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Due to the potential fines that may be involved in any GDPR breaches, it is important to have robust  systems in place to ensure sensitive information doesn't get into the wrong hands. Examples being, keeping confidential information only for as long as is absolutely necessary, and shredding confidential papers before recycling/disposing of them and/or utilising a workplace services provider for disposal of confidential papers and data.  

Many employees in the print, publishing and media sector  spend a large part of their working day using computer equipment, often sitting in the same place for long periods looking at a screen. If not managed properly, this can lead to a variety of injuries and illnesses such as fatigue and eyestrain, but also musculoskeletal disorders.

Office or workshop employees are particularly vulnerable to upper limb disorders (ULDs), often first noticed as neck, shoulder, back or arm/wrist pain, and other medical conditions, such as repetitive strain injury (RSI). Managing this hazard not only makes good sense but, for employers, it is also a legal duty under health and safety legislation, including the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations. 

Not all premises have the right sort of modern electrical wiring and protective devices that they need and, sometimes, as businesses expand their additional equipment can start to overload the electrical installation. Regular reviews of the wiring and protective devices within your premises, especially in older buildings, can help reduce the risk of fire.

Wiring and protective devices may not match up to current standards and, as your business expands and electrical installations and equipment advance, there is a risk that they will become overloaded. It is only by inspection, by a competent electrician or electrical contractor, that these issues can be found and the danger removed by remedial work. Additionally, a lack of electrical sockets can lead to the use of extension cables, increasing the fire and trips risk, as well as the chances of cable damage.

Don't forget that portable electrical appliances also can, if left unchecked, become unsafe over time due to damage or wear and tear so a system should be in place to try and make sure that this doesn’t happen. The initial warning signs of a potential problem in electrical installations can include plugs, sockets, cables and fuse boxes that get hot or have brown scorch marks, circuit breakers which trip for no obvious reason or because an excessive electric load is being imposed on them and lights that flicker or go out as soon as they are turned on. 

There are a variety of scenarios that can make it necessary for emergency action and/or evacuation to be carried out for health and safety purposes, and in print, publishing and media premises this can be more complex with the machinery and hazardous substances that may be in use.

Examples of such scenarios include fire, power cuts, medical emergencies, entrapment in machinery  and a release of hazardous substances. Key matters relating to emergency procedures should be picked up by your fire risk assessments and health and safety risk assessments and included in the health and safety policy for the premises. 

A fire risk assessment will determine whether the means of detecting and controlling a fire at your premises are adequate.

Fire protection is just as important as detection as these measures can prevent a fire from spreading, destroying stock, machinery and premises. This can be achieved by dividing the building with fire-resisting walls and doors, and installing fire suppression systems to protect the building as a whole (such as sprinklers) or individual high hazard machinery or plant.

Additionally, with complex machinery and technology in the premises, workers need to be suitably trained in using fire fighting equipment.

Inks, thinners, paper dust, cleaning fluids and glues are all examples of hazardous substances that print, publishing and media workers typically work with on a regular basis. If such a substance makes direct contact with skin or eyes, is breathed in, or is swallowed via contaminated material, it can cause illness and disease, including cancer, asthma and dermatitis.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations prohibits the use of hazardous substances at work unless the risks from such substances have been assessed and exposure prevented or adequately controlled.

Although many modern buildings have good central heating, some businesses supplement this with portable heaters. If not properly controlled, a portable heater can increase the risk of fire, electrical overload, trips and burns. Consequently, the use of these appliances should be avoided as much as possible, particularly where a safer form of fixed heating can be provided.

If it's been deemed appropriate to allow portable heaters, make sure they are suitable for the environment in which they are being used and that the hazards they may present are properly assessed by someone suitably competent and appropriately controlled.

All of the heating appliances need to be taken into account when assessing health and safety and fire risks. A fire could start in seconds simply from combustible material, such as paper, being close to an operating portable heater. To avoid this example scenario, don’t allow things to be placed on top of or close to heaters and provide guards if necessary.

Effective housekeeping can help control or eliminate workplace hazards.

Poor housekeeping practices frequently contribute to incidents. Housekeeping is not just cleanliness, it includes keeping work areas neat and orderly, maintaining hallways and floors free of slip and trip hazards and removing waste materials and other fire hazards from work areas.

An example here would be keeping contaminated rags / wipes in metal lidded bins prior to disposal. Poor housekeeping can present risks like slips, trips, items falling, potential fire hazards or data protection issues too. Managing effective housekeeping requires planning and ongoing clean-ups.

Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by Legionella bacteria, including the most serious, Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia that anybody can become infected with. The bacteria is present in natural water but it may also be found in man-made water systems such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers, and hot and cold water systems.

Employers and anyone in control of premises (e.g. landlords) have a legal duty to understand and manage legionella risks.

Lighting at work is very important to the health and safety of everyone using the workplace.

Poor lighting can not only affect the health of people at work causing symptoms like eyestrain, migraines and headaches, but, it is also linked to Sick Building Syndrome. Symptoms of this includes headaches, lethargy, irritability and poor concentration.

Employers have a duty to ensure lighting is safe and does not pose a health risk to employees. Whether employees are at computer or working intensely with extreme detail, the correct installation of lighting and luminance needs to be assessed for each of these tasks. It is also important to note conducting a risk assessment of the lighting on a regular basis will ensure any hazards or faults can be checked and corrected and can save businesses money later down the line.

Power supply or telecommunications disruption caused by a lightning strike can be very problematic . Even if the strike occurs some distance away, your building might be affected by a consequent power surge. Power surges can, however, occur for reasons other than lightning strikes, so installing suitable surge protection devices for all your computers and other sensitive electrical / electronic equipment is often a good investment.

It's not possible to foresee and defend against all threats to your IT systems - accidents happen, for instance - so all data essential to the running of your business needs to be backed up. Ideally, you should have more than one server and back-ups should be kept in different locations so that in the event one of your premises is damaged or destroyed (i.e. by fire or flood) you will still have the data that your business relies on. You might also want to consider using a trusted cloud service to back up your data (in addition to physical back-ups), but make sure to check the security precautions your chosen provider uses.

If the last person to leave the building at the end of the day were to trip and fall, get stuck in a lift or be attacked by intruders it could potentially be days before they're found, especially if they live alone and/or there is a long holiday period.

You may also have employees visiting customer or supplier premises; doing so may put them in danger so it's necessary for lone working risk assessments to be carried out.

Machines don’t have to be big and complicated to be capable of injuring an employee. Workers need to understand that they shouldn't interfere with safety measures provided to protect them and others, such as fixed or interlocked guards, trip systems, jigs and personal protective equipment.

Reasons for a worker's intervention can range from the need to carry out cleaning and servicing tasks to removing jammed materials or realigning mechanisms.

If these occasions and other problems with machines are planned for with a formal written safe system of work (SSOW) drawn up and appropriate training for employees then this type of preventable accident shouldn’t happen.

First on the list of protective measures should be the provision of guarding for dangerous parts of machines, including those that move, might eject materials, could draw in, trap and/or crush parts of the body, have sharp edges or have the potential to cause burns, scalds or electric shocks.

It's clear that accidents while handling, lifting or carrying are something employers in the sector should be keeping tabs on. Injuries due to manual handling, such as back pain, cuts, bruising and sprains, can come about from movements involved in a motion as simple as shifting a heavy box across a desk or lifting an awkward media item.

Consequently, even employees who primarily work at a desk, as well as those who have more practical roles, should be provided with training to ensure they know how to prevent injuries during manual handling. This training should happen when their employment starts, during induction training, and be reinforced by refresher training on a regular basis.

During training sessions, employees must be made aware of what appropriate equipment is available, and how to use it, so that, as much as possible, they can avoid manual handling tasks. This point tops the hierarchy of measures outlined by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) which imposes a duty to control the risk on employers.

There is likely to be a lot of noise with machine processes taking place, though the risk to employees isn't necessarily just with respect to volume.

A prolonged exposure to a noise, regardless of whether it measures at or above the Exposure Action Values (EAV) can cause workers to become distracted and irritable and this can lead to hypertension and sleep disturbance, just as tinnitus might.

Health and safety duty holders can keep the levels and amount of noise down in the work environment through a variety of measures, including a 'buy quiet' purchasing policy, installation of products that can reduce noise (e.g. mats on hard floors, machine noise dampers) and regular maintenance of equipment prone to making disruptive noise.

A noise assessment should be carried out at least every two years and whenever there are changes in the working environment that make the current one redundant. Based on the results of the assessment, control measures as previously listed can be considered, along with personal protective equipment and health surveillance for workers identified as being at risk.

The hazards that can cause fires and explosions during machine use are too often not properly recognised and dealt with, resulting in serious injuries and sometimes fatalities that should've been avoidable.

There are various reasons why there may be an increased risk of fire and explosion in print and publishing environments, such as the materials involved, including waste and flammable liquids, and the processes they go through, such as heating, drying or gluing. Equipment failure and human intervention are further risks to consider.

If your risk assessments have been completed by a competent person they should have already identified processes, conditions and/or materials that pose a danger and control measures should've been introduced where it wasn't reasonably practicable to eliminate the hazards.

Racking in your premises needs to be fit for purpose, of a safe condition, properly installed and well maintained to prevent accidents which can cause serious injuries and even fatalities. Signs, such as notes about weight limits, and markings like lines on the shelves to show the minimum distance from the edge an item can be safely placed are simple but effective starting points to prevent the structure from becoming unstable or objects falling from it.

Racking systems should also be suitably protected against damage due to impacts from lift trucks, roll cages and other vehicles or moving objects by the installation of barriers and guards and through effective site traffic management.

When carrying out risk assessments relating to a shelving or racking system, don't forget that the Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) will probably apply, even if machinery, such as a lift truck, is being used to reach items on high shelves. There can be a risk to anyone in the vicinity from falling objects while items are being shifted onto or off a shelf.

Although there are benefits to shift work, some undesirable effects can be health problems, disruption of the internal body clock, sleep disturbance and loss, errors, reduction in productivity and accidents. Establishing systems to protect shift workers can reduce these risks.

Start by asking if shift work is completely necessary, how you as an employer can comply with the law, what type of work is being carried out during a morning, day and late-night shift and whether night workers have the same facilities and procedures compared to day workers? If employees are working alone or are mobile when on shift then consider the risks and supervision that may be needed. for lone and mobile workers.

If there was an accident in the workshop with a lone worker on shift, how would they this individual get help? Rest periods and days between shifts must also be thought about considered as workers need sufficient time to commute, eat, sleep and participate in domestic and social activities. 

Offices and other premises that print, publishing and media services operate from often contain a large amount of people, each with their own computer equipment, paperwork and other machinery. While management have responsibilities related to housekeeping, employees should be made aware of the hazards presented by cables, waste and spillages, including the slips and trips and fire risks.

The risks are not just present inside premises. During the colder and wetter months, walkways, stairs and car parks may be hazardous to both employees and visitors. Especially in older buildings, wear and tear, such as exposed wires and unstable bannisters, could present dangers to employees and visitors.

Risk assessments, employee training and robust housekeeping standards can go a long way to preventing these types of accidents as the causes can often be simply and easily remedied. 

Terrorism can affect any business, anywhere. Recognising the terrorist threat is an initial step and then identifying and addressing the security and resilience needs of a business/premise.

Employers should expect the unexpected, but creating a security and business continuity plan in case premises are in a terrorist attack area should be part of the risk assessment just as much as fire safety. 

There are a number of reasons why waste management is important, especially for business efficiency, corporate responsibility, to reduce the risk of fire, accidents and pollution and to comply with legal obligations. 

Print, publishing and media businesses can have a vast range of waste that needs to be dealt with appropriately, including packaging, paper off cuts, damaged stock, worn-out parts and tools, documents and data storage devices and often hazardous substances.

It might be surprising for some how much disruption can be caused if a building is damaged by water and also how easily it can happen.

Most print, publishing and media businesses rely on the use of computer equipment and machinery to operate, so if the electrical installations within the premises are knocked out by water (or even just exposure to moist air) there can be significant disruption caused, as well as water damage to the machinery and stock.

Poorly maintained roofs and gutters and pipes that freeze and/or burst in cold weather conditions are common sources for water damage.

Stress is not an illness, it's a state, but if stress becomes excessive and prolonged mental and/or physical illnesses may develop.

If an employer ignores the potential for employees to suffer stress and consequent depression and anxiety, there can be an adverse effect on the business in terms of staff performance, turnover and commitment to work. More importantly however, it can affect an employee’s general health.

A significant factor which can have a negative impact on workers' mental health is workload, while a lack of support and bullying are also often put forward as reasons.

Any piece of mobile equipment in the workplace is classed as a 'vehicle', including cars, truck and self-propelled machinery.

Often, these incidents happen because little has been done to keep pedestrians and moving vehicles apart. Loading docks, yards, and storage areas with fork lift trucks can be especially hazardous. Additional risk can exist where vehicles are moving around storage racking, raising the potential for the structures to collapse and trap people.

The appropriate training should be applied to anyone likely to use workplace transport.