It has always astonished me how many articles, white papers, presentations and videos have been made about spraying techniques and correct usage of refinishing materials in a bodyshop. On the other hand, I still don’t understand why so little is said or written on painters’ health-related issues. Simply Google about this subject, and you will find just a few quality articles. While the majority of the information comes from the government organizations, written in a rather incomprehensible manner.
From my point of view, the lack of coherent information reveals the ignorance all paint suppliers show towards their products’ end users. Whether we like it or not, but spraying automotive coatings, especially 2K materials is very dangerous for health. Asthma, breathing problems, allergies, fatigue, weakened immune systems, isocyanate poisoning and dermatitis are among numerous health problems that a car painter faces throughout his career. Nevertheless, in contemporary world, if properly trained and informed, the collision repair professional can avoid all of the above-mentioned dangers by following certain steps every single day.
Personal protection equipment
- A health conscious painter always uses respiratory protection while painting. Supplied-air respirators are the most effective to protect a sprayer from isocyanates, which all 2K urethane coatings contain. Half-masks with A1 or even better with A2 protection level are second best choice. The problem with visors is that many sprayers find them bulky, with limited visibility, yet it is all about your habits and getting used to it. Simply push yourself and in a couple of weeks you will easily sleep in it.
- A responsible sprayer always uses safety glasses while he is painting. Droplets of base or clear coat may easily penetrate through eyes causing irritation and sight problems (supplied-air visor protects eyes anyway, thus one more reason to use it).
- An educated painter on every occasion wears protective overalls, preferably category III, type 5 or 6. There should be no exposed skin in a spray booth.
- A professional painter uses nitrile gloves when mixing or spraying paint. Nitrile is the only affordable material to withstand solvents and isocyanates. Note that cheaper latex gloves do not provide adequate protection!
- An experienced sprayer wears disposable masks throughout the preparation process. Filler dust and other aerial particles have no place in your lungs!
Equipment maintenance for healthy working environment
- A serious-minded collision repair professional keeps a spray booth well-maintained and filters clean. Without mentioning quality problems when the spray booth filters are loaded up, by failing to keep them clean, you do not have enough air flow. As a result paint overspray is not exhausted as it is designed by spray booth engineers.
- A serious car body sprayer keeps his equipment in uttermost condition, because a spray gun with excessive overspray or a sanding machine with high noise and vibration levels do not help to keep the working place safer.
No-nonsense tips on personal well-being
- Take a real break for lunch, so that you have the possibility to eat decent food. Many of us just grab a sandwich and drink plenty of coffee, while overeating in the evenings. Bad habit for health, especially for those who struggle with the bodyweight.
- Drink a lot of water. Physical work, going in and out of spray booth dehydrate your body. Plain bottled water or water from the cooler is an inexpensive way to stay healthy.
- Visit regularly your family doctor or physician. Let her know the hurdles of your work. Frequent blood tests, screening your liver and lungs are the best ways to prevent serious chronic illnesses.
- Exercise and keep fit. I know that being a car painter is physically demanding job, however a lower intensity exercises like cycling, jogging or walking will help you recover. Stretching and yoga are very good for professions where you spend a long time in one body position.
The above list is not all-inclusive, of course. To stay healthy for yourself and your family requires discipline and good habits. Remember that there is nothing in this world more precious than your health. Take care of yourself!