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Safety issue with over-powered spray guns

Dutyholders need to consider the hazards of using over-powered spray guns when assessing risks at their premises, following an incident when a textile worker was injured:

A worker in a garment factory was checking finished jackets for quality prior to dispatch.  The company used a hydrocarbon solvent-based cleaning fluid in an electric spray bottle to spot clean any stains on the finished garments.  The worker picked up the garment, sprayed some cleaning fluid directly on to the material and then felt pain in their hand.  It appeared that the force of the gun was such that the cleaning fluid passed through the garment and was injected under the worker’s skin.  The site of the injury became very inflamed and infected over the following days and the worker was eventually admitted to hospital for surgery.  The surgeon had to open up the length of the finger to remove the fluid and poison from beneath the skin, leaving extensive scarring and some loss of movement in the finger.

HSE investigation revealed that the cleaning fluid was supplied with a safety data sheet and was fairly harmless.  The company had a COSHH assessment that indicated surgical type gloves were recommended (but not obligatory) and they were supplied.  The use of gloves was suggested by the hazard of contact with the chemical over a period of time rather than a risk of injection injury.  The fluid wasn’t used often and it would appear that gloves weren't worn by the worker in this case. Workers were trained in the use of the gun and were trained to spray the cleaning fluid onto a rag and then use the rag to clean - rather than spraying the garment direct.

The cause of the injury appeared to be that the spray gun was over-powered.

Updated 2013-11-12