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Dec 1, 1998 12:00 AM

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Legislatively speaking, the printing industry's year was similar to that of the Chicago Cubs--some positive things happened, but, in general, the hopes of the faithful were raised only to be dashed yet again. Although 1999 promises to be fairly quiet on the legislative front, we have adopted the motto eternally on the lips of optimistic Cub fans --'Wait 'til next year!'

We lead off with our Greg Maddux Legislation--you know, the Ones That Got Away. First up is product reform liability. 'At the start of the 105th Congress, hopes were high that after 20 years of effort, meaningful reform was at hand,' reports Mark J. Nuzzaco, director of government affairs for NPES The Assn. for Suppliers of Printing and Publishing Technologies. 'Despite months of painful negotiations the product liability compromise was eventually torpedoed by angry Senate Democrats who had hoped to attach their health care bill to the product liability legislation.' The exec adds, however, that 'this is far from the end of the campaign,' noting that at least two foes of the reform face difficult races and, since 1999 isn't an election year, supporters of the legislation are likely to face less partisan rhetoric and political maneuvering.

Waiting in the on-deck circle is computer depreciation reform that called for changing the printing industry's depreciation schedule for computers and peripheral equipment from five years to two years. It was widely predicted the measure would make it into this year's omnibus tax bill. Unfortunately, this industry-specific issue was overshadowed by more widespread reforms--those involving the marriage penalty and estate taxes. Estate tax reform also struck out swinging, but is expected to pass next year.

Electronic Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) also came up shorter than the White Sox's Harry Chappas. Although industry observers were encouraged by the House's approval of legislation that would allow employers to replace paper MSDS sheets with electronic versions, the Senate didn't have time to act. The Regulatory Fair Warning Act also will have to wait for the next congressional session. Despite broad support for this bill, which would require agencies to inform businesses of their enforcement policies before issuing citations, it got caught in a squeeze play--Congress ran out of time. Finally, reforming the Government Printing Office (GPO) also failed to make the Big Show.

Clean Air Act Changes --Part Two. Last year, EPA got the go-ahead to change the ozone standard from .12 parts per million (ppm) over a one-hour period to .08 ppm measured over an eight-hour period (see american printer, April 1997). The new standard was criticized by many industry pundits who protested that compliance would be both complicated and costly. Generating Sammy Sosa-like excitement, therefore, was this year's approved Inhofe Ozone Standard Amendment, which provides for a three-year moratorium on enforcement of changes to the Clean Air Act. 'The reality is we have to live with the new standards,' adds Gary Jones, manager of environmental information for Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF). 'We have no choice.' While Jones is pleased the law now codifies EPA's implementation strategy, he's disappointed Congress didn't elect to fund additional air pollution research --as previously reported, the science behind the changes to the Clean Air Act has come under fire.

Although little is anticipated to happen on the legislative front, Jones expects to be kept busy resolving Title Five testing and compliance methodology issues with EPA. The exec further hopes to win more flexible permitting from individual states. 'It's possible that your permit has been approved for ABC brand ink and XYZ brand fountain solution,' explains Jones. 'What if you want to change to DEF ink? You have to get permission from the state. But the environment doesn't see individual ink companies, the environment only sees emissions.'

Jones is also keeping a wary eye on EPA's interpretation of MACT standards. While these standards were written with the flexo industry in mind, Jones cautions that in some instances EPA may apply the regulations to litho operations employing certain coating equipment. The exec is currently reviewing the issue with the Printing Industry of America's (PIA's) legal team.

What printers can do. 'The more you can cut your emissions, the better off you will be,' advises Mark Hammond, environmental compliance team leader, Compliance Management International (Horsham, PA). 'The changes made to the Clean Air Act will eventually hit smaller and smaller printers . . . you want to be cutting the VOC contents of your washes if you can. If you are [still using] isopropyl alcohol in your fountain solutions, you are well behind the curve.'

'Get involved,' is the advice of Stu McMichael, president of Custom Print (Arlington, VA). The $4 million sheet-fed is an active participant in EPA's Design for Environment (DFE) program--McMichael also serves on the Common Sense Initiative (CSI) council and chairs the environmental committee of the local PIA affiliate. 'You aren't going to see any lightening up of these regulations on air emissions, or water issues or solid waste,' cautions McMichael. 'EPA is the regulator and we are the regulatees. If you don't have a relationship with [the agency], you're in trouble. It's clear.'

McMichael urges printers to take advantage of the compliance advice available from the national printing associations' affiliates. He further suggests having an environmental auditor visit plants to give printers 'a general idea of where you are going.'

What about those who say they don't have time to deal with environmental issues? 'Baloney,' retorts McMichael. 'Managing your business is managing your business. It's no different from keeping your eye on cashflow or getting work delivered on time or knowing the tax laws. If you're in business, you've got to quit crying and step up to the plate.'

OSHA Reform. Just as few ever expected to see lights in Wrigley Field, not many believed OSHA reform--the first in its 25-year history--would happen. The OSHA Compliance Assistance Act of 1998 codifies OSHA's successful and popular consultation program operated by the states. Under the new law, businesses will have the opportunity to receive expert compliance advice--without the fear sometimes associated with OSHA inspections.

Also, OSHA is now prohibited from using the results of enforcement activities (e.g., inspections, citations or penalties) as performance measures for compliance officers and their supervisors. In the past, OSHA has evaluated the overall performance of its inspectors based on the number of citations and amounts fines levied on employers.

However, Wendy Lechner, PIA legislative director, warns that OSHA is eyeing safety and health program regulations. 'Basically, what OSHA is going to do is require every company to have a written program that includes seven or eight different elements, including management involvement, employee participation and a number of other things. It will probably be proposed and published in the Federal Register by the end of this year--we will need a lot printers to weigh in as to whether this is a livable regulation.'

CMI's Hammond further notes that a moratorium preventing OSHA from issuing ergonomic standards appears to have expired. 'Will OSHA come out with an ergonomic standard? Probably. This coming year? Maybe--they desperately want to do one,' speculates the consultant.

What printers can do. The Printing Industries Assn. of the Heartland has released a Comprehensive Safety and Health Program (CSHP) based on OSHA's proposed program. The program includes a half-day orientation for a plant's management team and a 180-page reference manual. PIA Heartland has also introduced PrintGuard, a safety consulting service, which is expected to be available through the national organization shortly. A variety of services are offered, including a comprehensive consultation that covers a review of chemical inventory, safety policies and written records, explanation of interpretations given to printers by OSHA regarding exceptions to lockout/tagout for minor servicing and a walk-through evaluation of the printer's facility. Thanks to a federal OSHA grant, PIA can offer low-cost ($5 per session for members) training for printers' employees. 'Employees attend five flexible two-hour sessions,' explains Jim Oldebeken, manager, PIA Heartland. 'Each session covers the mandatory training requirements for printers based on Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910. The training can be performed onsite or at our headquarters.'

'We've been involved with PrintGuard since its inception two or three years ago,' reports Evan James, president, PIA Heartland and owner of James Printing. 'Our biggest concern was employee safety--our second was keeping up with all OSHA and other federal regulations. We always had a pretty good safety record --but it's a load off my mind that the guys know what to do in case of an accident.'

Participants can choose among the five PrintGuard sessions. Session I covers hazard communication, Session II deals with control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), electrical safety work practices, Session III reviews proper material handling and storage, Session IV details occupational health and environmental control and personal protective equipment and Session V provides instruction on emergency and fire prevention plans as well as medical and first aid procedures.

James notes that the program is an economical way for his company to comply with hazmat communication and lockout tagout requirements. 'We don't have a forklift, so we didn't need that training,' explains the exec. 'This is a real opportunity to train employees and new hires and rest assured that we are in compliance with the regulations.'

The program also provides for retraining--periodically reminding employees of proper safety procedures. 'We set up safety committees and conduct self-inspections,' relates James. 'We check on little things like making sure skids aren't stacked on end and that the eyewash station is working.'

Finally, don't be a fair-weather fan. PIA's Lechner reminds us that the 'offseason' is an excellent time to get to know your elected officials. 'Those personal contacts made before a crisis hits are the ones that mean the most when something comes up that [officials] need to know about,' explains Lechner. 'Especially with new congressmen--if you have a new representative who has never served before, it's a great opportunity to talk. Frequently, it's those stories about what's happening in business that will stay freshest in their minds. There's no reason not to meet your Congressperson right off the bat --it always helps to have the voting public involved.'

One of the best sources for help with your health and safety planning, as well as the latest legislative activities is your local printing association affiliate. Other sources of information include the following:

Design for the Environment~This cooperative project between the EPA and printing trade associations offers publications ranging from 'An Evaluation of Substitute Blanket Washes' to 'Managing Solvents and Wipes.' Contact: Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse, EPA, 401 M Street SW (3404), Washington, DC 20460; telephone: (202) 260-1023; Fax: (202) 260-0178. On-line:

Printers' National Environmental Assistance Center~This group's website offers fact sheets, case studies, compliance information and an E-mail discussion group on environmental issues. Contact: PNEAC telephone: (888) 877-6322; on-line:

Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC)~A wide-ranging workbook posted on this group's website offers useful information on measuring air emissions, best management practices, pollution prevention ideas and a list of contacts printers can use to obtain more information on pollution prevention and waste reduction opportunities. Contact: PPRC, 1326 Fifth Ave., Suite 650, Seattle, WA 98101; telephone: (206) 223-1151. On-line:

OSHA guidance~Try Want to keep up with the latest legislative issues impacting small businesses? Get in touch with the National Federation of Small Businesses (NFIB), a Washington, DC-based group that keeps tabs on tax reform, OHSA reform, expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act, minimum wage issues and more. Contact: NFIB 600 Maryland Ave. SW, Ste. 700, Washington, DC 20024; telephone: (202) 554-9000. On-line: