Saturday, September 18, 2010

Does the Air in Printing Plants Make Employees Sick?

A profile of Quad/Graphics’ environmental-improvement efforts that was published this week might have raised some eyebrows among Wisconsin’s legal community.

Here’s the statement about Quad’s Sussex, WI printing plant in a WhatTheyThink profile that probably had a few Quad lawyers spilling their coffee – and some local ambulance-chasing trial lawyers licking their chops: “Absenteeism has been halved in three years’ time. Improvements in indoor environmental quality were a significant contributing factor.”

So is Quad suggesting that indoor air pollution at the big heatset web offset plant caused employees’ illnesses?

I suspect the reduced absenteeism was more a matter of economics than environment. As the realization started spreading in the past couple of years that Quad was not immune from layoffs, many workers no doubt were on their best behavior. And when the cuts did come, those with attendance problems were probably among the first to go.

Still, it makes me wonder. Quad is known for its modern plants and stellar environmental record; WhatTheyThink’s profile, after all, focused on why the big printing company won an environmental innovation award. So if Sussex’s air was causing employees to get sick, what does that say about merely average printing plants?

Hmm, I’m due to tour a heatset web plant next week. Do you suppose they’d be willing to issue me a gas mask along with those little foam earplugs?

1 comment:

BoSacks said...

Dear Dead Guy:

I've been touring plants and staying in them for 40 years. Sometimes press side for 48 hours. The funny thing is that I have always said that I love the smell of solvent. When I tour I l always look forward to that first great whiff. I imagine that continued exposure could be a problem, but I can’t recall any pressman, bindery person or CSR complaining about it. That doesn’t mean it ain’t so, just that it has been below the radar. I have a plant tour planned for next month and I am still looking forward to the familiar and to me friendly aroma.