Why it's so important to provide correct PPE in the paint & hazardous substances industry

May 12, 2018 Posted by Jodie Hughes

Selecting personal protective equipment (PPE) for chemical hazards can be a complicated and daunting task to undertake as the wide-ranging forms and applications of chemicals mean that they carry a huge number of variable factors. This can make for a confusing and difficult process without the proper knowledge and expertise.

This can be exacerbated by the fact that chemicals carry a significant risk factor at various stages of their life cycle, from their initial manufacture to end use and sometimes even for a long time after that. The wide range of chemicals that are used across industries makes it difficult to provide catch-all safety measures for all of the risks that they can present; chemicals are capable of causing harm in several ways: they can injure through skin contact, an inadvertent ingestion as well as inhalation of fumes, vapours and dust.

PPE is the crucial equipment that serves to protect the user against health and safety risks, often serving as the final barrier between hazardous substances and the employee. It can include items such as, but not limited to, safety helmets, overalls, eye protection, high-visibility clothes, gloves, harnesses, safety footwear and respiratory protective equipment. Employers have a duty to provide and properly advise staff on the use of personal protective equipment in the workplace and are expected to carry this out in a conscientious manner.

Why it is so important to ensure the provision of correct PPE

When it comes to risk control, PPE is often considered as an option of last resort; it is absolutely crucial to workplace safety, as it is generally used where other measures are not quite sufficient which makes it a vital part of the prevention and reduction of occupational injuries and fatalities. It is only appropriate when the hazardous substances in question cannot be fully controlled or removed in a way that eliminates the possibility of harm, and there are various reasons for this:

  • PPE only protects the person using it, but measures that control the risk at its source helps to protect everyone in the wider workplace
  • The theoretical and practical 'maximum' level of protection is rarely achieved through the use of PPE; the real level of protection actually offered can be hard to assess, because of factors such as users failing to wear it when required or wearing it incorrectly. To ensure effective protection PPE must be correctly fitted, used, and maintained.

General good practice for the handling of hazardous substances

Distinctly because it can be difficult to ascertain the exact extent of protection that occurs through the use of PPE, it is important that employers look at the wider safety picture in order to make sure they are doing their utmost to educate workers against unnecessary exposure to chemical hazards.

If you are ever unsure exactly what a chemical is, then it is vital to treat it as hazardous.

  • Never try to use an unlabelled chemical product
  • Always be aware of hazards associated with any given chemicals that you use and ensure you know how to use the product safely
  • Never attempt to mix chemicals unless the appropriate training has been received
  • When possible consult the manufacturer for further safety advice and make sure to read the label of chemical products
  • Consult with and purchase from a reputable supplier when in the process of selecting PPE for chemical hazards, taking safety, wearability and durability all into account.

Essential PPE for painting

Respiratory problems, irritation of the skin and eyes and increased fire risk are some of the most commonly posed hazards in painting operations. Providing the proper PPE helps to protect workers from such hazards and as such this needs to be set out by qualified and knowledgeable experts. There are also various methods you can consider to minimise risk; for example, direct to metal paint reduces the time spent painting as it does not require primer and can be an effective way to reduce the risk of injury. However, when an aesthetically pleasing finish is of importance, industrial primers provide excellent coverage and create a platform for you to get the ultimate finish for your job.   The specialist resin in the product provides a hardness and durable coating. 

Different kinds of PPE are needed for varying spray and hand applications in painting, with basic equipment often consisting of a chemical protective suit complete with hood, respiratory protection, chemical resistant boots and rubber gloves. It is important that the PPE provided protects employees from all chemicals, whether they are solids, vapours, liquids or aerosols and for a lower risk option, employers can opt to use polyurethane paint coatings which do not emit any harmful vapours.

The specific uses of PPE can be manifold; if in doubt, seek expert advice

Making the optimum choices in terms of PPE necessitates good judgement, a sound understanding of relevant hazards and a thorough knowledge of technical standards and principles surrounding personal protection. Helpful products can be as far-ranging as simple masking products for the protection of surfaces, while abrasive velcro sanding discs are a popular choice for a smoother, quicker and safer performance. For other sanding requirements, Abranet sanding products are revolutionary in their improvement of safety standards; it is virtually dust-free, which reduces the dust load and dramatically reduces the chance of dangerous particles in the lungs.

This blog post was contributed by Jodie Hughes. Jodie is part of the Ultrimax team, who are specialists in total paint shop support. She is passionate about providing advice & training, keeping painters ‘up to speed’ with the latest techniques and H&S requirements.

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