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Safely Protected: Understanding the Safety Precautions in Coating Applications

Updated on June 21, 2019
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Phillro Industries is a family business that has been established as a specialist supplier of high quality, reliable coating equipment.

When given the choice between lax safety requirements and stringent safety requirements, for-profit companies will always choose the former option because a stricter regulation tends to mean more money. This is why even after 30 years have passed since the Montreal Protocol was first adopted, which banned the use and production of chemical substances that are responsible for ozone depletion, a study has found that emissions of the CFC-11, one of the substances that was banned, was found coming somewhere from around East Asia.

It's a bit like junk food. We all know they're not actually good for us but given the fact that they're cheap, fulfilling and ridiculously tasty, we can't help but gorge on French fries and deep fried foods every now and then. I suppose when it comes to food, we're allowed these rare moments of transgressions but when it comes to the coating industry, abiding by these safety precautions is paramount, whether it's to provide safety during the coating application process or to provide safety once the coated substrate is out in the field.

Safety comes first

That phrase right there isn't just a cliché. Safety does comes first in the coating industry which is why the safety requirements and other regulations should inform what type of coating should be used, how are they applied and other specifications of the coating and not the other way around. It's not rare for businesses to adapt their work with safety regulations retroactively instead of from the beginning because this way is easier. This is the wrong approach as there are times when these safety requirements are non-negotiable and it's important to bake these requirements right into the coating specifications instead of worrying about them later on.

Surface preparation and other application hazards

Before a substrate can be coated, that particular substrate has to be free from contaminants that might negatively affect how the coating can bond with the substrate. This is a well-known fact but it's also quite common for this idea of clean to be somewhat vaguely defined and this cleanliness can be achieved. To combat this, it's always a good idea for a specific surface preparation method to be explicitly mentioned in the coating specification to avoid any ambiguity and inadequate surface preparation as they can lead to premature coating failures.

Other factors that have to be considered is the coating application process. Coatings that come in liquid form and applied conventionally with a brush might seem simple but there's always the risk of VOC in solvent-based coating and that's something businesses must always get on top of beforehand. If it's powder coating we're talking about, things are more complicated as fire is always a risk and workers have to properly trained given that the process of application in powder coating is considerably more complex.

It's also important to make sure that the desired thickness level have also been met and it's always a good idea to include thickness measurement with gauges such as an Elcometer 224 within the specification so that any mistake can be quickly rectified.

The safety hazards of certain coating types

Circling back to the point I made at the beginning on CFC-11. The gas was heavily used in the past before it was found that the family that gas belongs in, chlorofluorocarbons, has the capability to cause serious damage to the atmospheric ozone. As a result, the use of that gas was outright banned and no amount of modification can be done to make CFC-11 somehow less destructive to the ozone. This is actually quite similar to how polyurethane-based coatings have been banned in several countries despite their usefulness in the coating industry.

Polyurethane-based coatings are waterproof and offer exceptional wear resistance but what makes them so versatile is the fact that they adhere extremely well to a wide range of substrates, typically requiring no additional curing process. However, polyurethane-based coating also contains isocyanates, which emits highly toxic vapors, when they're exposed to heat. This makes them highly dangerous during coating removal with a grinder and whenever the substrate in question has to be cut in some way, usually when the structure is about to be modified and/or repaired.

It's in light of situations like these that it should always be specified that polyurethane-based coatings shouldn't be used at all. Minimizing the amount of polyurethane in the coating is possible and so is limiting the amount of exposure during applications but trying to enforce these limits are never easy. It's always best to remove the possibility of dangers entirely by explicitly forbidding the use of polyurethane-based coating similar to the way countries like Norway has done, which leads into the next point.

Adhering to each country's regulations

This is highly important if you have a coating project being done in different countries. It's possible perhaps that you have facilities or equipments in multiple countries and each of them has to abide by the rulings of the country they reside in. However, it is possible that certain countries are more lax than others and in cases like these, it's important to figure out what regulations you should use as a baseline and make sure you conform to that baseline at all times. The goal is ensure the highest possible conformity while still abiding by the safety regulations of various countries.

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