Using spray paint in any environment can be dangerous. In a business setting, there are a number of factors that you have to consider in choosing when and how to perform spray painting jobs so that it’s safe and effective. OSHA even has guidelines in place for proper spray painting methods, usually separated or designated by industry. For the sake of this article, we’re going to delve a little deeper into common commercial safety hazards and how to best avoid them when spray painting indoors is your only option.
Fumes, Fire Hazards, and Dangerous Chemicals
By and large, the chemicals involved in commercial spray painting are the source of most potential risks associated with the process. By knowing what the potential hazards are and how best to avoid them, you’ll be able to put better methods in place in your organization.
Reduce Fumes and Fume Exposure
The best way to avoid overexposure to fumes is to separate the painting area from the general workspace as much as you can. Cardboard or temporary spray booths set up away from other production areas and machinery can go a long way, even if you don’t have space for a permanent paint station setup.
Adequate ventilation of the area is crucial to keeping employees safe, both from inhalation of fumes and ignition of fumes due to buildup or a spark from a nearby ignition source. Open doors or windows if they are available. In a warehouse or garage with limited egresses, floor fans and exhaust fans can help with air circulation. Respirators should be worn at all times. If painters are using solvent-based materials, make sure the respirators are capable of filtering organic vapors.
There are two different types of respirators: air-purifying devices and atmosphere supplying respirators. When choosing the right air-purifying respirator, you should check to ensure that the included cartridge and filter are rated for the materials that are being used in the painting process. These cartridges are disposable and will need to be replaced periodically, either when they have reached their lifetime or when they cause breathing difficulties or fume seepage into the breathing system.
Fire Hazards and Explosion Prevention
It is crucial to keep the spray area free of any ignition sources, including electrical equipment or tools that could cause a spark, to avoid the risk of explosion or fire. Your painters should also wear natural fiber clothing (such as cotton). Synthetic fibers are highly flammable and generate a lot of static electricity, making them an unsafe choice for painting clothes. If you have painters that do this work on a daily basis, it might be worth investing in FR, or Fire Resistant, uniforms. These are about twice as much as a pair of cotton uniform pants, but they offer far more protection.
Make sure that all equipment is in good working order prior to beginning any painting work. Ground and bond all of the paint dispensing containers in the work area and use as little solvent as possible during cleanup to reduce the risk of fire or explosion hazards, as well. Most commercial paint-related fires are caused by sparks from equipment or static electricity from improper clothing or equipment that has not been grounded.
Chemical Restrictions and Warnings
There are certain chemicals that are no longer allowed to be used, stored, or handled as used for spray painting purposes, including arsenic and its various compounds. Other restricted chemicals include things like:
● Benzene or benzol (at more than 1% per volume)
● Carbon disulfide
● Lead carbonate
● Free SIlica
● Methanol (at more than 1% per volume)
Never use materials that contain these chemicals, or that don’t have a clear label of contents and ingredients.
Other Safety Tips for Commercial Spray Painting
In the industrial world, spray application is the most popular painting method. Compressed air systems are common, along with airless spray systems and electrostatic applicators. Regardless of the system used, there is more to safety than protection from fumes and fire. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind.
● Post warning signs near painting areas that prohibit smoking, welding, and other dangers and notify others that hazardous work is going on.
● Keep hands and other body parts away from the spray tip.
● Wear safety goggles and have hearing protection available for when industrial noise reaches 85 decibels or higher. Use other PPE (personal protective equipment) as designated by job or painting application type.
● Remove all portable lamps and/or heaters from any work areas.
● Check the ventilation system regularly and replace filters or other temporary protective materials as needed.
● Secure ladders, scaffolding, and other equipment to reduce the risk of falls, overreaching injuries, and other hazards.
● Install fire extinguishers in work and storage areas.
● Read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) for solvents you are using to understand the exact hazards and safe handling practices for each product.
As with any toxic or hazardous material in the work environment, the best method of risk control and hazard prevention is to limit the exposure area, increase ventilation, and educate everyone on commercial spray painting best practices. The information here should give you a good place to start.