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Hazards in the preparation for painting

From the Resene paint and decorating problems solver

Paint stripper:

  • Extra care needs to be taken with materials containing methylene chloride.
  • This chemical 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, loss of co-ordination, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, convulsions, unconsciousness, damage to lungs, liver function and kidneys.

Metal pre-treatment:

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.

Welding fumes:

  • 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.

Safety first

Common sense should be used when spraying paint:

  1. Always spray with the wind.
  2. Use tarpaulins or screens to protect other people from the spray.
  3. Never spray toward one another.
  4. Use gun extenders to reduce exposure.

What about first aid?

  1. Do you/your workers know what to do if someone is overcome by fumes?
  2. Are eye wash facilities available at all times in the work area?
  3. How far away is the shower for washing larger spills off the skin?
  4. Do you know what to do if someone swallows a chemical?
  5. Do you have a SDS (Safety Data Sheet) available for each product being used?

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.

  1. Where is your assembly point?
  2. If the wind is blowing fumes towards your assembly point, do you have an alternative place to go?
  3. 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 explosion.

  1. Do workers take empty drums home to use an incinerators or barbecues?
  2. What sort of toxic fumes might be produced when the drums are used this way?

Medical surveillance:

There are a number of tests available that willshow if you are being overexposed to certain hazards. Checks should be done on:

  • Hearing
  • Eyesight
  • Blood tests can show levels of lead, cadmium and other chemicals.
  • Urine tests will show metabolites for specific solvents.

Are you monitoring your health and the health ofany employees?

Further information:

Container labels and 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.


Resene Paint and Decorating Problems Solver
Learn more about typical painting problems and situations you may find when decorating. Also, understanding paint hazards and essential precautions - putting your safety first!

Problem solver topics   Safety topics   Ask an Expert

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