Noxious fumes, chemical skin contaminants, flammable liquids, they are all part of your paint booth operation. Your employees are at the highest risk for contamination and serious injury if you don’t follow these 5 tips for ensuring safety in your paint booth.

#1: Make Handling Precautions Automatic

Repetition is a marketing technique that plays on your brain’s automatic retention of information that you receive in repetition. It’s how we remember the chorus to our favorite songs. Use the same technique to drill safe handling procedures so that it becomes automatic to your employees.

#2: Post Safety Instructions Everywhere

Reinforce the repetitive safety mottos that you go over in your monthly safety meetings by posting safety instructions everywhere. For every nook and cranny of your body shop there are hazards.

Alert employees to the safety postings and make sure that you have different posters hung in different areas. For instance, for your paint mixing room, there should be a poster right at the entrance to the mixing room that reads: “Before you enter…”

  • You have authority to enter
  • You are wearing protective gear
  • Check your safety mask and goggles
  • No Food or Drink Allowed Beyond this Point

The more detailed the instructions the better. Use illustrations highlighting the proper safety attire and other safety procedures. Do the same for your paint booth, your prep station, curing area, etc.

#3: Prevent Inhalation of Toxic Fumes with Proper Gear

Speaking of safety gear, all of your employees should be trained on the dangers of inhaling toxic fumes. The proper attire related to paint chemicals is broken down by OSHA by the type of contaminant and the amount of chemical that a worker is potentially exposed to. They also list the symptoms that could indicate contamination, they include:

  • Skin Irritation
  • Discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Strong Odor Perception
  • Chest Pain
  • Nausea
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Blurry Vision

Masks, gloves, sealed suits, and goggles vary by degree of the hazard and regulations differ from state-to-state. The OSHA website is your guide to understanding the safety clothing requirements where your shop is located.

OSHA also offers guidance for respiratory protection. These standards are set based on your particular shop’s operations, though some OSHA standards for respiratory protection are universal, and include:

  • The Type of Chemicals You Use
  • Nature of Your Business
  • Concentration Levels of Hazardous Materials
  • The TLV Levels
  • Duration of Potential Exposure

Generally you should wear rubber boots, protective gloves, skid-resistant mats/stripping, protective suit, and masks. Also, employees who suffer from asthma, allergies, and other respiratory illnesses should not be permitted to work in areas where toxic fumes are present.

#4: Understand the TLV (Threshold Limit Value)

One of the standards used to estimate the proper safety equipment for your employees is the TLV or Threshold Limit Value. This is a number calculated by OSHA to determine what the level of exposure is that a person can receive over their lifetime before they become ill.

This measure is part of what will determine what type of protective equipment and gear you will need to operate your paint booth safely. You can speak to your local OSHA representative for more guidance.

#5: Stay Up-to-Date with Safety Codes and Standards

Probably our most important tip is to stay up-to-date with safety codes and standards. Paint booth operators must comply with more than OSHA. There are several agencies that regulate paint booths including the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

Naturally the NFPA codes are meant to prevent fires since paint chemicals so highly combustible. The EPA not only regulates the air within your booth but also chemical removal and disposal.

As discussed earlier, OSHA issues codes to protect workers operating paint booths and today, new regulations for energy efficiency standards are also coming online that are affecting rules for your paint booth. Take a look at this article with a lot of useful information about paint booth codes and compliance.