Why is PPE and Safety Equipment Important in the Spray Shop

Why is PPE and Safety Equipment Important in the Spray Shop?

Employers are responsible for ensuring that exposure to harmful chemicals is prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled (CoSHH Regulations 2002). This guidance explains the common exposure risks in the spray shop environment and the role that personal protective and safety equipment plays in controlling risk.

What are the exposure risks in the spray shop?

The two most common types of risk are high exposure to solvent vapours and reactive products.

Solvent vapour

Short-term exposure to solvent-based coatings at a low concentration can cause:
  • Headaches, dizziness and drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Throat and respiratory irritation
Long-term exposure can result in:
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Liver, kidney and lung cancers

Reactive products

Repeat exposure to hardeners that contain epoxy or isocyanate can cause skin dermatitis and respiratory conditions such as occupational asthma.

The role of personal protective equipment (PPE)

In environments such as paint shops, it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate exposure. Employers must, therefore, provide painters with suitable PPE. PPE is a last resort control measure. It only protects the wearer while it's being worn and if the equipment fails, it offers no protection at all. For this reason, it's important to:
  • Choose the most appropriate type of PPE for the conditions of the job
  • Only buy quality products which are CE marked and labelled as suitable for paint
  • Train painters how to use and store the equipment correctly
  • Carry out the correct maintenance checks and cleaning procedures
  • Ensure that the equipment is the right size, fit and weight for the wearer
Paint shops rarely achieve maximum protection, so there is always room for improvement.

Correct PPE for spray shops

Paint shop operatives use a wide variety of PPE, depending on the task that they are performing. Choosing the correct PPE for the job will minimise the health risks posed by exposure to particles, gases and vapours. Here are some of the more common items and a brief description of their function.

Respiratory protective equipment

Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) filters the air to remove harmful substances. The type of RPE required will depend on the substance being sprayed. The different mask types include:

Disposable half-mask

A very basic mask that protects against particles but not gases or vapour. Suitable for spraying certain types of aerosol. Can only be worn for up to an hour at a time.

Semi-disposable half-mask

A lightweight mask that protects against particles and/or vapours and gases. It has a wear-life of one month and therefore requires little maintenance and cleaning.  Can only be worn for up to an hour at a time.

Re-usable half-mask

Provides the same level of protection as a semi-disposable half-mask but can be re-used and is more durable. Can only be worn for up to an hour at a time.

Full face mask

A durable mask that provides eye protection as well as protection against particles and/or vapours and gases. Can only be worn for up to an hour at a time.

Powered hood

A comfortable and durable mask that offers eye protection as well as protection against particles and/or vapours and gases. It can be worn for more than one hour at a time and has low maintenance costs.

Air-fed hood

Provides the highest level of protection and can be worn for more than one hour at a time. Breathing apparatus (BA) supplies clean air for the worker to breathe. Not suitable for all applications. For more detailed information about selecting the right mask for the job, read What Respirator Should I Choose?

Visor or goggles

Visors provide face and eye protection while goggles only protect the eyes. Choose the level of protection that is most suitable for the work being undertaken. Use a disposable cover with visors to prevent overspray build-up from obscuring visibility.

Disposable overalls

Used universally in paint shops, overalls protect your clothing and skin from contact with chemicals. Opt for one with a hood to protect your head and neck. Both reusable and disposable overalls are available on the market. Disposable products are more popular. They are lightweight, breathable and convenient to use. Simply discard them at the end of every shift. Reusable overalls are heavier duty and worth considering if you need greater chemical resistance.

Chemical resistant gloves

Single-use nitrile, latex or vinyl gloves protect the hands from overspray and spills. Painters should discard gloves every time they take them off. Gloved hands can get sweaty and this can cause skin irritation. Regularly changing gloves can help to prevent this. Alternatively, choose reusable gloves with a breathable cotton lining. Reusable products offer a wider range of features, such as extended cuffs for additional protection, greater water resistance and cut protection.

Disposable overshoes

Shoes protect feet from exposure to some degree but they are still permeable. Disposable overshoes provide an extra barrier. Discard them on exit from the paint booth after every spray job to help keep the workshop clean.

What other safety equipment is available?

For more information on paint shop health and safety, download our health & safety guide for painters [insert download link]. Consider adding a 'Downloa d guide' call out button in addition to the text link above.

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