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Painting & surface preparation

In addition to respiratory irritation from the solvents and paint aerosols released during paint spraying, there is also likely to be a flammability hazard which requires control of electrical apparatus and other ignition sources in the vicinity. Isocyanate paints are particularly hazardous for operators, and it is possible to become 'sensitized' to them.

Manual application of paints may lead to dermatitis, although this is often through contamination during the use of solvents such as mineral turpentine, used in cleaning operations.

Surface preparation methods which generate dust, fragments or fumes can present a hazard to the operator (eg sanding, sand blasting, blowtorch removal), particularly for lead paints. Chemical removal can present a harmful fume which may cause respiratory or skin irritation. The residues left in soil and buildings from surface preparation work may alsopresent a public health hazard where the paint has a high lead content.

Managing hazards

The following methods may help manage hazards presented by painting and surface preparation:

  • Surface preparation must be preceded by an assessment of the paint lead content, removal method, and the persons who may be exposed to hazards arising (both during the work and afterwards).
  • Abrasive blasting must not be used for the removal of lead based paint, due to the high lead exposure risk to operators, and difficultly in cleaning up contaminants after removal. Where abrasive blasting is done, suitable respiratory and hearing protection must be worn. Water blasting is preferable to dry abrasive blasting, as this does not generate a fine dust.
  • Paint application by spray gun must be preceded by an assessment of the flammability and inhalation hazards associated with the substances used, based on Material Safety Data Sheets. Spray applications should only be done in a specially constructed spray booth.
  • When working in confined locations, ensure fume build-up is prevented by enhancing local ventilation, and that appropriate filter respirators are used.
  • When using flammable paints or solvents ensure that steps are taken to prevent the accumulation of a flammable atmosphere, or that all ignition sources are controlled.
  • Barrier creams, overalls and gloves protect the skin from adverse effects which may arise from using paints, solvents or other cleaning materials. They should be used where required.
  • When using isocyanates, supplied-air breathing apparatus must be worn, in conjunction with full body suit for skin protection. All spraying operations must be within a spray booth with extract ventilation and suitable electrical protection.

Emergency Procedures

Where excessive exposure to lead based paint dust or fumes is suspected, blood tests should be carried out to assess actual dose. If this is excessive, subsequent exposure must cease, and the cause of the uncontrolled exposure investigated.

If nausea or dizziness is experienced during painting, remove affected persons to fresh air and ventilate the area. If symptoms persist, obtain medical assistance.

Annual respiratory checks are required for those working with isocyanates