Safely Using Isocyanate Paints

By Ralph Large

Safely Using Isocyanate Paints

You can find isocyanates everywhere. These high-performing paints, coatings, foams and glues are resistant to chemicals, impervious to the elements and can incorporate high levels of pigments for a bold finish. They are ubiquitous across the manufacturing industries and commonly used on vehicles and machinery for a high-colour, high-shine finish that can last for years. In short, isocyanates are the benchmark for high performance. But, there’s a downside too. These powerful substances can prove hazardous to health if not handled correctly. Here, we’ll delve deeper into the effect isocyanates paints can have on health and the best practices for protecting workers and preventing incidents.

How can isocyanate paint affect health?

The list of potential hazards to health is long. From minor eye irritation to long-term breathing difficulties, isocyanates are harmful to humans. Below are just some of the potential health concerns associated with isocyanate use:

  • irritation of the eyes, nose and throat
  • dermatitis and skin conditions
  • chest tightness (which may still be present days or weeks after exposure)
  • a persistent cough
  • wheezing
  • breathlessness
  • long-term asthma
Controls to put in place to prevent harmful exposure to isocyanates

The (Health and Safety Executive) HSE has clear rules designed to protect paint sprayers in the workplace. The COSHH act of 2002 states that employers must:

  • Assess the risks posed by hazardous substances – this is known as a COSHH assessment.
  • Prevent exposure to harmful chemicals where possible or control exposure where prevention isn’t possible.
  • Ensure that all control measures are maintained, tested and examined.
  • Monitor workers for their exposure to hazardous substances.
  • Provide training and supervision for staff who are likely to be exposed to hazardous substances.
  • Have arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving hazardous substances.
The benefits of a spray booth

Paint spraying is one of the main sources of isocyanate exposure. It’s therefore a good idea (and in a professional setting, a legal requirement) to install a spray booth or room. Which spray booth you opt for will be dependent on your requirements. There are a plethora of spray booths available on the market but all have the same primary goal, to protect workers from hazardous exposure limits. Please see below our other articles that should help in determining which booth you need.
Do i need a spraybooth ?
Dry Filter vs Water Wash Booth
How much will a booth cost ?

Once a spray booth or room is in place, it’s imperative that this is well maintained with consistent checks, daily cleans and regular filter changes to confirm that it’s working properly. In addition, the COSHH supervisor or personnel manager should draw up a list of standard operating procedures to ensure that staff understand the best ways to use the machinery and protect themselves from harmful exposure.

For more advice on the right spray booth for your business, contact a member of our team today

Which PPE is required when handling isocyanate paint?

Air-fed breathing apparatus BA – Users of isocyanate paint are required to wear air-fed breathing apparatus (BA) when spraying, cleaning and throughout clearance time (the period of time it takes for the ventilation to clear the paint mist). Users should be fully trained in how to wear and maintain such a mask.

Coveralls – if there is any chance of paint splatter, it’s highly advised that operators use full body coveralls.

Suitable protective gloves – to prevent hands from coming into contact with isocyanates.

Protective Eyeware – to prevent eyes from harmful exposure

Safe disposal of isocyanate paint

There are a number of do’s and don’ts when it comes to disposal of isocyanates. This is classified as a hazardous material so must be disposed of properly. Never attempt to put isocyanate paints down the drain or mix with other rubbish – this can cause harmful chemicals to be released into the atmosphere, will increase the risk of chemical fires and result in heavy fines. Always look to use a hazardous waste disposal company directly to dispose of leftover paint and paint cans or here at Elmbridge we can arrange for the paint to be collected and dealt with correctly.

Learn more about hazardous waste disposal here.

The final word

Isocyanates, while a useful industry standard in paint and coverings, can cause great harm if not handled correctly. If you have questions, want to know more about the Elmbridge spray booths , PPE or want to enquire about our hazardous waste disposal service, please contact a member of our team today.

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