Hazards in the preparation for painting
- Extra care needs to be taken with materials containing methylene
chloride, which is a suspected human carcinogen and can cause permanent
damage to skin and eyes. Methylene chloride is highly toxic and can
cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, numbness, tingling, light headedness,
worsen angina, reduce co-ordination, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, convulsions,
unconsciousness, damage to lungs, liver function and kidneys.
These mixtures often contain phosphoric acid. Because of this, the
following hazards exist:
- Corrosive: will burn skin and eyes, permanent damage may result.
- Reacts with metal to produce hydrogen gas, which is highly flammable.
- Wood dusts from cutting and sanding can produce eye injury and asthma.
- Hardwood dusts are a suspected cause of lung cancer.
- Concrete/brick dusts from angle grinding can cause silicosis, lung
cancer and eye injury.
- Abrasive blasting creates dense clouds of dusts, which contain the
abrasive itself, pulversised surface paints and abraded substrate
material. This can cause serious and irreversible lung damage.
- If silica sand is used as a blasting medium, the resulting silica
dust can cause silicosis of the lungs which is characterised by chronic
shortness of breath. Can lead to lung cancer.
- Lead based paint dust can cause lead poisoning,
which can be fatal.
- General welding fumes require similar respiratory protection to
those for solvent vapours.
- Exposure to excessively high noise levels over time can result in
permanent hearing loss.
- If noise from machinery makes it difficult for employees working
next to each other to speak in a normal tone of voice, the workplace
noise level is probably too high.
Common sense should be used when spraying paint:
- Always spray with the wind.
- Use tarpaulins or screens to protect other people from the spray.
- Never spray toward one another.
- Use gun extenders to reduce exposure.
What about first aid?
- Do you/your workers know what to do if someone is overcome by fumes?
- Are eye wash facilities available at all times in the work area?
- How far away is the shower for washing larger spills off the skin?
- Do you know what to do if someone swallows a chemical?
- Do you have MSDS (Material
Safety Data Sheets) available?
What if there is a fire?
When paints, inks and other chemicals burn they decompose. Any nitrogen
containing material can evolve cyanide gas when it burns. This includes
materials that contain epoxy hardener, polyamide, melamine, polyurea,
polyurethane and even natural materials such as wool. Carbon monoxide
will be evolved in large amounts from any burning material.
- Where is your assembly point?
- If the wind is blowing fumes towards your assembly point, do you
have an alternative place to go?
In a fire, cans and drums of material nearby can heat up, building up
pressure inside. There is a real risk of these containers exploding.
What happens to drums and cans when they are empty?
Even when empty there will be some material around the inside walls
of the drum. Depending of the type of chemical it could be dangerous
to put water or waste solvents in the drum. Some materials react with
water and this could cause a pressure build up in the drum or even an
- Do workers take empty drums home to use an incinerators or barbecues?
- What sort of toxic fumes might be produced when the drums are used
There are a number of tests available that will show if someone is
being overexposed to certain hazards. Checks should be done on:
- Blood tests can show levels of lead, cadmium and other chemicals.
- Urine tests will show metabolites for specific solvents.
Container labels and Material
Safety Data Sheets have information about the possible hazards of
the chemicals being used. They advise how the product should be used
safely and what to do in the event of an emergency.