Spray Booth SafetyPosted 6/1/2008
By Rachael J. Mercer
With some basic education and a commitment to following safety standards, your collision shop can offer a healthy and safe working environment for you and your employees.
So often in a place of business it is said, “Safety is the No. 1 priority.” Signs in factories and other businesses often celebrate “days since an accident” or the number of “injury-free hours.” Today in many businesses, a new concern has joined the focus on safety.
Environmental preservation and care is reaching new heights in the automotive refinishing arena. This focus is reflected in the number of regulations at all levels of government that deal with everything from mixing practices to disposal of waste. But is it possible to preserve the environment and still protect employees from job-related accidents and injuries? Actually, the two goals go hand in hand, and can be accomplished easily.
Regulations concerning the use of a spray booth in your collision center trickle down from the federal level and include regulations from the state and local level as well. Getting to know your local fire marshal or building inspector can help you become knowledgeable about what safety precautions and steps you must take to keep employees safe in the spray booth. Your paint booth vendor can also be a helpful source of information when understanding the more general federal and state level regulations.
Lastly, the National Fire Prevention Agency (NFPA) Bulletin 33 is considered the manual on codes for designing and installing a spray booth. The bulletin can be downloaded for a fee at www.nfpa.org. Consulting it when installing your spray booth may save time and money and prevent accidents down the road.
Spray Booth Filters
Many collision shops experience a “dusting” of cars in their parking lot when the spray booth is in use. This dusting is an indication that the filters are overused and in need of replacing.
The EPA released an article in April 2008 titled “Spray Booth Filters: The Key to Quality Jobs and Clean Emissions.” In this article, the EPA addressed the issue of filter maintenance. According to the EPA, “Well-maintained filters ensure clean air enters the booth and efficiently removes overspray particles and mist from exhaust air.” The EPA recommends a change-out schedule for your shop that can be developed using readings from a manometer or magnehelic pressure gauge. These readings should help you form a schedule for changing intake and exhaust filters according to the recommendations of the manufacturer. Some paint booths don’t have this pressure gauge, and if yours is one of them, schedule the filter changing based on number of hours used or number of jobs performed.
Spray Booth Stacks Inspection and Cleaning
Fundamentally, spray booths are designed to direct harmful particles up the stack and away from employees, neighboring buildings and people in the area of the collision business. Spray booth stacks must meet distance and height requirements, which vary in different parts of the country.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), spray booth stacks in Texas must provide vertical upward airflow, and must be at least 1.2 times higher than the tallest building within 100 feet of the stacks. To protect those around the area of the spray booth, stacks must be at least 50 feet away from any residence, recreation area, church, school, child care facility and medical or dental facility, according to the TCEQ.
Because regulations vary from state to state, it’s important to learn about spray booth stack regulations in your area. Lastly, the TCEQ requires that any rain protection used on an exhaust stack must not cause “a restriction or obstruction to vertical upward airflow.” To this end, cone-shaped rain caps or gooseneck exhaust systems are not allowed in Texas because of the restrictions of vertical upward flow.
Bob Keith, AAM, director of environmental safety and production for CARSTAR Franchise Systems Inc., said, “Static discharge when cleaning plastic parts is a big issue. We had a shop in Kansas City, Kan., experience fire created by static discharge. Fortunately, the employee was not injured but there was extensive damage to the spray booth.”
According to the Queensland (Australia) government Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, electrocution and burns are the main health risk associated with using electricity in spray painting.
Every effort should be made to prevent static discharge during the process before, during and after electrostatic spray painting. For example, touching two metal cans together during decanting can cause static discharge.
Other preventive measures are recommended, including removing metal items from the body (such as watches), wearing antistatic or conductive footwear to stop the buildup of electrostatic charge, removing paint and cleaning solvent from the spray zone and ensuring that the electrostatic spraying system is operated only by trained spray painters.
Fire and explosion are a possibility when painting mist comes into contact with a source of ignition such as that caused by static, lit cigarettes, grinding wheels and equipment that produces sparks. Fire extinguishers should be well marked and strategically placed through the business and around a spray booth.
Ventilation is key – be sure that as much ventilation as possible is provided to the work area, including having a room for mixing and pouring that is naturally vented and has no ignition sources.
Fire Suppression Systems
Dustin Eckhart, ASA-Georgia vice president and ASA Collision Division Operations Committee member, recommends that shops look into fire suppression systems for their mixing rooms as well. “Most shops do not know that these are required by law in some states to be within ‘code,’” he said. In any case, good communication with the local fire department and inspector will help collision centers maintain safe working environments.
Eckhart recommends a general safety and pollution prevention course once a year, which is something he and his employees participate in. Additionally, his employees complete an annual training course in respiratory protection.
Signage is also an important safety tool in the collision center itself. In many states signage is required in toxic areas such as the spray booth, mixing room and in waste storage sites. Signs that communicate “no smoking,” “hazardous waste,” “safety protection required” and that provide emergency numbers should be posted prominently in your collision center.
Eckhart says, “It is a good idea to post any local authority contact information at the nearest phone(s) to your paint booth area(s). We have a phone in each of our two bays that house our four paint booths.”
Finally, it is important that employers realize that employees who operate their spray booths be protected. In fact, federal law requires that protection. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Section5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, often referred to as the General Duty Clause, requires employers to “furnish each of his employees employment and a place of employment, that are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees. Section 5(a)(2) requires employers to ‘comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act’.”
Through training, proper personal respiratory equipment, regular maintenance of spray booth filters and the spray booth in general, employers can create a safe, secure environment in which employees can conduct their job without danger. When employees see that you take their safety seriously, they will likely be more productive and will take the steps required to stay safe.
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