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How to Safely Do Spray Painting

Updated on June 19, 2013

Preparation ensures safety

Whether you are spray painting a small piece in your garage or workshop at home, or you work as an industrial spray painter, there are safety concerns that need to be addressed to ensure the safety of the painter and the people around him.

If safety systems are not put in place with due diligence, serious illness or death and serious property damage can occur, either through long term exposure of the noxious fumes, or a sudden explosion due to poor ventilation.

Safe Working Environment

The first rule of thumb to doing any type of work involving chemicals is having a safe and controlled space in which you can successfully accomplish your work.

Containers of chemical products such as paint thinner, or other acid or alkaline solutions for controlling p.h. of water curtains should be properly identified in accordance to WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Material Information System) or MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet).

You should also keep work spaces clear and uncluttered. A cramped work space is an invitation for someone to trip and fall. A cramped space can also prevent safe exit from a situation where a mass evacuation with limited visibility is necessary. In the event of a fire, or any situation where a first responder or a rescue crew need to access a worker in distress, it is crucial they have a clear path to access the situation.

This applies to any type of job involving any type of dangerous physical work involving chemicals, heavy machinery and equipment, or jobs requiring heavy lifting cranes or welding. Safety first!

Spray Paint Respirators

A common occurrence is painters using the wrong equipment when it comes to wearing the right protection for their lungs.

What is needed is a proper spray paint respirator which includes the correct spray paint or organic vapor cartridges installed. This type of respirator will offer good protection from the paint fumes that are present in the spray painting environment.

The wrong type of respirator is the paper filter or particulate respirator. These types of filters are made for dusty applications, such as sweeping or sanding, not for chemical vapors. Wearing this type of filter for painting can have an adverse effects on your health. What happens is the paint fumes are not filtered, instead they pass right through the filter media. The Paint fumes are then concentrated inside the paper mask and you are breathing in the concentrated, unfiltered fumes. You will get high. You are in effect "hot-boxing" the paint fumes.

In this situation you are actually better off not wearing any filter at all! If you do not have access to this type of equipment you should provide yourself with the ultimate ventilation and paint outside.

Eye Protection

Air and fluid hoses under pressure can burst and pose a threat to your vision.

Safety glasses are always a good idea, they may offer more protection than not having any eye wear at all.

However the single most important safety device to have near the spray painter is the eyewash station. Eyewash stations consist of a plastic squeeze bottle filled with sterilized saline solution. A special cup attachment that fits close to the eye is at the neck of the bottle. In the event that a harmful chemical is splashed into the eye, the eyewash saline solution is flushed into the eye by squeezing the bottle repeatedly.

The bottle and solution in the bottle must be replaced on a yearly basis or after each use. This is to prevent the growth of bacteria in the unit.

Ventilation and Filtration

When it comes to spray painting, ventilation is one of the most important factors to consider when planning your project. The home spray painter must take into consideration how much spray painting is to be done and think about re-locating the job outside if possible.

The more ventilation you have the better. Industrial spray painters often work in large paint booths which have heavy duty fans and duct systems which remove the fumes from the air and trap the paint particles in fiberglass type filters for disposal later on. Also very common in industrial settings are water wash paint booths. The water wash paint booth consists of a large basin of water installed at the back of the spray booth. Metal lats installed vertically right behind the spraying area have water from the basin pumped up to the top of the lats and create what looks like a waterfall.

It is very pretty.

As the paint particles from the over-spray hits the water curtain, the paint particles are trapped by the water and are left to coagulate in the water basin. A floculant is added to the water to make the coagulated paint particles float. The floating goo is then sent to a skimmer where the waste matter is collected for safe disposal and recycling.

Volatile Flash Point

Without careful attention to the ventilation and reduction of paint fumes of the work area you not only endanger the health of the painter and people around him, but you also can increase what is called the "volatile flash point".

Paint is flammable. What makes paint flammable is the solvent used to thin the viscosity of the paint to make it liquid. When the paint is sprayed it is mixed with air and atomized to very small particles and becomes fumes. With inadequate ventilation, paint fumes can collect to a dangerous concentration to a point that the slightest electrical spark, even static electricity can cause the fumes to ignite. The point at which the fumes can ignite is called the "volatile flash point".

Filter systems prevent the fumes from accumulating in the first place. Another important precaution which would prevent the risk of explosion, is having the paint booth is grounded to prevent static buildup.

Health and safety above all else

The precautionary measures mentioned above have all been derived from trial and error.

With every invention there is a necessity... each of these inventions were brought to life for a reason.

Think of early spray painters who did not have any of these safety systems in place. Imagine the first victims of volatile flash point! Or those who died from lung cancer because they had inadequate safety equipment.

Appreciate and use the equipment that is made available to us today.

Life is precious.

© 2013 Ardot


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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You are right about these effects from paint. It can be toxic if inhaled continuously. Certainly a helpful way to avoid such issues.