Working with coating powders - employees
How can exposure to coating powders affect my health?
Exposure to different coating powders may affect your health in different ways. Some of the health effects are:
- irritation of the lungs;
- irritation of the skin and eyes;
- allergic skin reactions
Some components of coating powders can also cause long term health effects such as occupational asthma. There are some curing agents that may damage genetic material,which could lead to cancer or result in impaired fertility (see Specialist Powders webpage).
Figure 1 - Worker with coating powder on face and overalls
How can coating powders get into my body?
- If you breathe in the dust;
- If you swallow the dust. This can be transferred from your face and hands when covered in powder. This can easily happen if you eat, drink or smoke without washing your hands and face;
- Some powders can cause direct damage to your skin causing dermatitis.
What precautions should I take?
Ask your employer for details of the hazards of the particular coating powders you use, the precautions to take when you use them and the procedures to follow in an emergency. Make sure you follow them.
Read the supplier's material safety data sheet and container labels and follow the advice on them. Ask your employer for clarification if you need to.
Dust can easily be taken into your lungs when it becomes airborne eg when spraying powders and during cleaning activities. You should avoid breathing in the dust and also prevent skin contact. Below is a list of precautions to take to minimise your potential exposure.
- Do not lean into spray booths when spraying powders; there is no need to be close to the work-piece to ensure coverage;
- Do not spray towards a work colleague spraying from the opposite side of the booth;
- When you are working at a traditional open fronted spray booth, always spray into the booth. Never stand between the work-piece and the booth extraction/filters.
Figure 2 - Worker leaning too far into spray booth
Figure 3 - Worker correctly standing outside booth to spray
Figure 4 - Workers incorrectly spraying towards one another
Make sure your spray gun is set up correctly. Ask your employer or supervisor for information.
- Do not increase the powder delivery rate beyond what is needed. It does not improve the finish, wastes powder and may mean you breathe in more dust;
- Do not increase the 'corona' voltage unnecessarily. This may stop the powder coating the work-piece properly, lead to more powder being sprayed and may mean you breathe in more dust;
- Report any damaged or defective ventilation plant or protective equipment to your supervisor or employer.
Cleaning spray booths
If possible, stand outside the spray booth to clean it. Use equipment with long handles to enable you to reach inside.
- Make sure that the ventilation system is running;
- Minimise the use of compressed air;
- Avoid using brushes. Ask your employer for rubber scrapers and a vacuum cleaner;
Figure 5 - Worker cleaning spray booth from inside
Where access is unavoidable (eg for colour changes and where the booth design makes the use of long handled tools impractical) for maintenance or non-routine cleaning purposes, you must wear suitable coveralls, gloves and a dust mask or respirator to prevent you breathing in the dust.
Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)
- Wear the RPE provided for use. Keep it in a clean place, and make sure it is kept clean;
- Where a filter is provided, ensure it is changed regularly;
- Disposable respirators should be thrown away after each use or shift.
- Do not eat or drink in areas where coating powders are being used;
- Wash your hands thoroughly after working with coating powders, especially before eating, drinking or smoking.
What should I do if I think my health might be affected?
If you believe that your health is being affected through work with coating powders, or if you are concerned that adequate precautions are not being taken, you should approach your manager. You may do this through your supervisor or safety representative. Your employer may also arrange health surveillance at your workplace which you should attend.
If you visit your doctor with either skin or chest problems, tell your doctor about the substances that you are working with and refer them to this information.
For more information see the other webpages here