Health & Safety: What all spray painters should know

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The DeVilbiss air-fed respiratory protection system is one way to prevent injury or illness resulting from two-pack paint spraying.

It is a well-know fact that two-pack paint includes various types of polyurethane, epoxy and acrylic systems, consisting of a base component, in combination with a hardener or catalyst.

It is a toxic concoction that can cause a series of health issues, so two-pack paint should only to be applied by people with appropriate knowledge and training.

The hazards associated with spray painting typically occur during three key work stages:
• Preparation including set up of job, paint and surface preparation, mixing and pouring
• Use of two-pack paint systems
• Clean up

Hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) are commonly found in most automotive paints, primers and clear coats. They can be the cause of:

Asthma, heart attacks, bronchitis, premature mortality (particulate matter)
Asthma and bronchitis (volatile organic compounds)
Neurotoxicity, lung cancer (hazardous air pollutants – toxics, including lead, chromium and cadmium)
Occupational asthma; skin and lung sensitisation (diisocyanates)
Irritation, headache, nausea, liver, kidney, nervous system damage (solvents)
Sensitisation; in effect becoming allergic to the paint.

Risks to health
People working in the spray painting industry must understand the risks which different substances cause and always think and consider the following:

1. How the substance could enter your body, and affect health – Inhalation, ingestion, absorption and injection.
Surface preparation can create dusts containing substances such as lead and carbon fibres. Pouring liquids from one container to another could release toxic vapours.
Inhalation of vapours and aerosols, injection by high pressure equipment, skin contact and absorption are the most likely ways substances used in spray painting can enter the human body.
The MSDS of a substance and labels will provide the basic information about possible short and long-term health effects and recommend protective measures amongst other things.

2. The number of people who might be exposed
Consider how many other people are in an area where they could possibly be exposed. These could be contractors, visitors or suppliers.

3. How often and for how long people might be exposed
Typically, how often and for how long are all, or some of the employees, exposed. The outcome of this assessment factor will also depend on what measures are currently being used to prevent exposure.

4. The nature of the object that is being worked on
The size and shape of the object, but most importantly the location of the object in relation to the painter and other people are to be considered.
The direction of the stream of ventilating air is crucial in assessing risks. Direction of airflow has a significant effect where the over-spray blows back to the operator or is directed toward other people in the vicinity.

5. Work practices resolving the issue of how to effectively isolate people from the spray hazards, ventilation, personal protective equipment, basically everything from preparation to the final clean-up stage.

Inappropriate PPE
Observations of common practices in spray painting indicate that poorly chosen and the inappropriate use of PPE are factors contributing to unnecessary exposure to hazardous substances.

PPE is an essential part of reducing risks and should be used as an additional measure to booths. First of all, the PPE used should be in line with the recommendations on the MSDS.

Consultation with the PPE supplier can also assist in matching the most appropriate equipment to the spray painting jobs at hand, proper fit, correct use and maintenance of the equipment.

Too many businesses often don’t use standard methods for painting, and they do not comply with accepted industry practices or current control technologies. The fact is, only through implementing best practices can toxic exposures expected to be controlled.

Spray painting, whether in an outdoor or indoor environment, needs to be performed in a safe manner, and as this might be somewhat difficult to manage outside, it is probably best to apply the paint with rollers.

Two-pack paint spraying is best to only occur within a spray booth, restricting air movement through ventilation ducts or air conditioning vents into occupied areas of a building. Fans should be available to exhaust contaminated air outside the building and adequate fresh air should be supplied if need to.

In addition appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn:

Full protective clothing, such as disposable coveralls. Any remaining exposed skin should be coated with barrier cream, as these paints stick very well.

Nitrile or butyl rubber gloves must be worn as they provide protection from a variety of chemicals, as opposed to latex gloves.
An airline respirator is required for spraying two-pack polyurethane. If an airline respirator is not available when applying two-pack epoxy or acrylics, a full-face air supply respirator (i.e. battery operated filter unit) fitted with organic vapour cartridges (type A class 2, or type AX or A + K, class 2) with a pre-filter, may be used for short periods of time. However, this filter-type respirator is not suitable for paints containing isocyanates. A full-face piece, which also provides eye protection is required to prevent absorption of mists and vapours through the eye and irritation of the eyes. If paints containing isocyanate are used, filters must be changed regularly, or immediately when solvent smell can be detected.

MPV respirators
The MPV supplied air respirators are the proven safety solution when clean compressed air from a source outside the contaminated area is needed.

Air passes through an airline to the face piece or hood, with the continuous flow creating increased pressure inside. This pressure cools the user’s face and reduces fogging, a common problem in many working situations. The user’s airways and face, neck and head areas are totally protected.

The MPV full-face air-fed visor combines safety with comfort and excellent freedom of movement for the professional refinisher.

Breathable air is gently and quietly dispersed through the tough, lightweight visor at a positive pressure, without misting or discomfort, so every sprayer can work at their best. The wrap-around visor provides excellent vision, even spectacles can be worn underneath, while the ratchet headband adjustment is fast and convenient.

The crown strap is adjustable and the visor has a flip-up, nod-down facility. The integral visor includes a low cost ‘face seal cassette’ available in foam or soft paper which quickly and easily clips to the rigid visor moulding. Clear view tear off strips are available as are replacement screens.

The MPV integral visor outfit includes all the necessary components to provide both breathing and spraying air by connecting a single air supply line to the waist belt filter regulator, which contains a replaceable activated carbon cartridge for effective odour filtration and has a colour change indicator for oil contamination.

All DeVilbiss respirators are CE certified and independently tested and approved to Australian Standards. Assigned Protection Factors (APF) for the MPV-623 is 40 (full-face visor suitable for spraying with isocyanates). 

Please note that all respiratory equipment must be supplied with air filtered to 0.01 microns using a coalescing filter such as the DeVilbiss DVFR 2.

Each of the points mentioned above will need to be considered for everyone to work safely, and action taken to effectively minimise the risks.

For more information contact: ITW Finishing Technologies (02) 8525 7555 or visit

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