Kick butt tips, tricks and tutorials.

Understanding Safety Procedures While Painting


The obligations and responsibilities of workers, employers, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with regard to safety.

Nature of the hazard(s) and safety rules and guidelines for job site safety

  • Personal hygiene and work clothing
  • Personal protective and lifesaving equipment
  • Respiratory hazards
  • Fall hazards
  • Hazardous chemicals and materials
  • Lead hazards
  • Asbestos hazards
  • Confined space hazards
  • Painting tool and equipment hazards
  • Hot and cold weather hazards
  • Electrical hazards

Purpose of Hazardous Communication (HazCom) programs

  • Elements or parts required of a HazCom program
  • Use of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)
  • Use of Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes

Trade Terms Introduction

Acute effects of overexposure: The adverse effects that are normally evident immediately or shortly after a short term period of exposure (seconds, minutes, hours, or days) to a hazardous material without implying a degree of severity.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI): A non-profit organization that has established voluntary standards for the design, testing, and use of various products.

Chronic effects of overexposure: The effects that develop slowly over a long period of time (weeks, months, years) from exposure to a hazardous material without implying a degree of severity.

Flash point (FP): The lowest temperature of a liquid at which it gives off sufficient vapor to form an ignitable mixture with the air near the surface of the liquid or within the container used. Materials with flash points below 100°F (38°C), such as most solvents and solvent-borne coatings, are considered flammable hazards.

Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS): A hazard communication system of codes developed by the National Paint and Coatings Association. It uses colors, numbers, letters, and symbols that quickly identify the health hazards, flammability, and reactivity of a material. It also identifies the proper personal protection equipment and other information pertaining to the material.

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter: A high-efficiency filtering device designed to remove 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns.

Immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH): The definition of an atmosphere that poses an immediate hazard to life or produces immediate, irreversible, and debilitating effects on health.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): A data sheet issued by a manufacturer or producer of material containing information and instructions on the chemical and physical characteristics of a substance, its hazards and risks, safe handling requirements, and actions to be taken in the event of a fire, spill, overexposure, etc.

Micron: A unit of measurement equal to one-millionth of a meter or approximately 0.00003937 inches (25 microns equal about 0.001 inches).

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): An agency that performs studies, analyzes data and publishes information, guidelines, and recommendations related to worker health and safety.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): An agency of the U.S. Department of Labor that is responsible for developing and enforcing regulations to support the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the federal law designed to protect people from unsafe work environments.

Permissible exposure limit (PEL): The airborne concentration that has been established by OSHA as the enforceable exposure limit. PELs are expressed in parts per million (ppm) or micrograms per cubic meter (mg/m3). Unless otherwise indicated, they are based on time- weighted average (TWA) concentrations for a normal 8-hour workday and a 40-hour workweek.

Short-term exposure limit (STEL): The airborne concentration to which workers can be exposed for up to 15 minutes without suffering ill effects.

Spontaneous Combustion: The process of a material catching on fire and burning as a result of the heat generated by internal chemical action.

Threshold limit value (TLV): The airborne concentration of a substance to which a normal, healthy worker may be exposed for eight hours a day, 40 hours a week during a working lifetime without adverse health effects. TLVs are recommended limits established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Normally, the TLV represents a time-weighted average (TWA).

Toxic: Poisonous. Any material which can cause illness or injury.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.


Using incorrect safety procedures and having a poor safety attitude can make painting a hazardous trade. Painters must climb ladders, rig tall structures, and work on platforms and other scaffolding. They use high-pressure cleaning and painting equipment as well as high-speed power tools. They are often required to work around high voltages and in confined spaces. Painters use a wide variety of materials that can have negative health effects. These materials include paints, solvents, blast materials and residues, chemical strippers, cleaning agents, and etching agents.

The focus of this module is on safety issues and practices specific to the painting trade. This module supplements some of the general safety information studied earlier in Basic Safety and it introduces new safety topics of importance to painters.

Employer And Employee Safety Obligations

It is important to understand the obligations that exist for everyone’s safety. An obligation is like a promise or a contract. In exchange for the benefits of your employment, you agree to work safely. In other words, you are obligated to work safely. You are also obligated to make sure anyone you happen to supervise is working safely. Your employer is also obligated to maintain a safe workplace for all employees. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Some employers will have safety committees. If you work for such an employer, you are then obligated to that committee to help maintain a safe working environment. This means two things:

  • Follow the safety committee’s rules for proper working procedures and practices.
  • Report any unsafe equipment and conditions directly to the committee or to your supervisor.

Here is a basic rule to follow every working day:

If you see something that is not safe, REPORT IT! Don’t ignore it. It won’t correct itself You have an obligation to report it.

Suppose you see a faulty electrical hookup. You know enough to stay away from it, and you do-but then you forget about it. Why should you worry? It’s not going to hurt you. Let somebody else deal with it. The next thing that happens is that your best friend accidentally grabs the live wire.

In the long run, even if you don’t think an unsafe condition affects you-it does. Don’t mess around. Report what isn’t safe. Don’t think your employer will be angry because your productivity suffers while the condition is corrected. On the contrary, your employer will be very pleased.

Your employer knows that the short time lost in making conditions safe again is nothing compared with shutting down the whole job because of a major disaster. If that happens, you are out of work anyway. So don’t ignore an unsafe condition. In fact, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require you to report hazardous conditions.

This applies to every part of the construction industry. Whether you work for a large contractor or a small subcontractor, you are obligated to report unsafe conditions. The easiest way to do this is to tell your supervisor. If that person is ignoring the unsafe condition, report it to the next highest supervisor. If it is the owner who is being unsafe, let that person know what you think. If nothing is done about it, report it to OSHA. If you are worried about your job being on the line, think about it in terms of your life being on the line.

The U.S. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. The act also created OSHA. It is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. The job of OSHA is to set occupational safety and health standards for all places of employment, to enforce these standards, and to provide research and educational programs to support safe working practices.

OSHA requires each employer to provide a safe and hazard-free working environment. OSHA also requires that employees comply with OSHA rules and regulations that relate to their conduct on the job.

According to OSHA standards, you are entitled to on-the-job safety training. As a new employee, you must be:

  • Shown how to do your job safely.
  • Provided with the proper personal protective equipment.
  • Warned about specific hazards in the work and in the surroundings.
  • Supervised for safety while performing the work.

OSHA was adopted in 1970 with the stated purpose “to assure as far as possible every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources.”

The enforcement of this act of Congress is provided by the federal and state safety inspectors who have the legal authority to make employers pay fines for safety violations. The law allows states to have their own safety regulations and agencies to enforce them, but they must first be approved by the U.S. Secretary of Labor. For states that do not develop such regulations and agencies, federal OSHA standards must be obeyed.

These standards are listed in OSHA Safety and Health Standards for the Construction Industry (29 CFR, Part 1926), sometimes called OSHA Standards 1926 (Figure 2). Other safety standards that apply to the painting trade are published in OSHA Safety and Health Standards for General Industry (29 CFR, Parts 1900 to 1910).

Painting Safety

The most important general requirements that OSHA makes on employers in the construction industry are:

  • The employer must perform frequent and regular job site inspections of equipment.
  • The employer must instruct all employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions and to know the regulations that pertain to the job so they may control or eliminate any hazards.
  • No one may use any tools, equipment, machines, or materials that do not comply with OSHA Standards 1926.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Personal Hygiene and Work Clothing

Personal Hygiene

Personal hygiene plays a large part in avoiding painting hazards. For example, poor hygiene habits can allow chemicals to enter the body and cause harm. Depending on the type of chemical, it can be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested. This could cause acute or chronic problems later on.

The basic hygiene guidelines for all painting job sites are:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before eating and/or drinking (Figure 3).
  • Avoid sticking objects in your mouth while working.
  • Do not rub your eyes. More diseases are transported by your hands than by any other means.
  • Long hair must be neat and secured to avoid a vision or safety hazard.
  • Mustaches and beards should be trimmed neatly. However, you must be clean shaven if required to wear a half-mask respirator.

Wash Hands Before Eating And/Or Drinking

Lead hazards are covered in detail later in this module, but basic hygiene guidelines for lead paint removal job sites are:

  • Face, hands, and arms must be thoroughly washed prior to eating, drinking, or smoking.
  • Hands must be thoroughly washed before and after using the restroom.
  • Eating, drinking, or smoking is allowed only in approved areas at the lead paint removal site.
  • Disposable coveralls, shoe covers, gloves, etc., must be removed only in the decontamination area. The disposable clothing is to be placed in the hazardous waste disposal container. Hazardous waste disposal must be in accordance with all local, state, and federal regulations.
  • After you have washed and changed back into your normal work or street clothes, re-entry into the lead paint removal site is not allowed.

Work Clothing

You must dress properly for construction work. The actual type of clothing worn usually depends on your company’s dress code. A painter typically wears white painter’s pants or overalls, a white long-sleeved shirt, and a painter’s cap or a hard hat (where required). Work clothing should be in good condition, fit properly, be comfortable, and not interfere with the free movement of your body.

  • Pants should not be so long as to create a tripping hazard.
  • Long-sleeved shirts are recommended because they offer better protection against skin contact with hazardous materials. Long shirt sleeves should always be buttoned to prevent a sleeve from getting caught in rotating and/or moving machinery.

Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment

Depending on the specific job and conditions, protective equipment is often needed. Protective – equipment can include:

  • Foot protection
  • Hand protection
  • Eye and face protection
  • Head protection
  • Hearing protection

Foot Protection

OSHA requires that protective footwear be worn when working where falling, rolling, or sharp objects pose a danger of foot injuries, and where feet are exposed to electrical hazards. Leather footwear with reinforced soles, or inner soles of flexible metal are recommended for any construction site. Steel-toed safety shoes should be worn for operations involving the handling of heavy materials. Protective footwear must comply with ANSI Z41-1991. Sneakers, tennis shoes, or similar types of footwear should never be worn at the job site.

Hand Protection

A painter’s hands may be exposed to a variety of hazards (i.e., temperature extremes, abrasive materials, paints, and solvents) that may cause inflammation of the skin or dermatitis. Gloves (Figure 4) are the primary type of hand protection. They may be made of leather, rubber, cotton, or a variety of plastics or synthetics. There is no all-purpose glove. You must select your gloves on the basis of the hazards involved in doing the work.

  • For abrasive blasting, you should wear heavy duty canvas or leather gloves.
  • For water blasting, you should wear gloves that protect against chemicals (if you are using chemicals) and water.
  • For spraying, brushing, or rolling paint, you should wear solvent-resistant gloves or use a skin barrier cream or lotion to protect and control drying of the skin.

Gloves Are The Primary Type Of Hand Protection

WARNING! Never wear gloves around machinery because the moving parts can snag the gloves and pull your hands into the machinery.

Eye and Face Protection

You only have one pair of eyes. Lost vision cannot be replaced. Proper eye wear and face protection must be worn for the job at hand. There are tinted safety glasses for working out-of-doors and prescription safety glasses of all types. Have new glasses fitted properly and wear head straps when necessary.

Use Proper Eye And/Or Face Protection For The Job At Hand

When spray painting or performing similar tasks, it is difficult to maintain clean lenses on safety glasses, goggles, shields, etc. As it is often difficult to prevent overspray from falling on your lenses, you should consider keeping an extra pair of glasses handy to exchange as necessary. Clean the lenses often using a non-abrasive cleaner and keep them in a protective case to prevent scratching.

Some tasks require the use of safety goggles, chemical-resistant goggles, dust goggles, or face shields. Always check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product being used to find out what type of eye protection is needed. Detailed information on the types of data provided by Material Safety Data Sheets is given later in this module.

Head Protection

An approved hard hat must be worn on the job site in all posted areas and other areas where there is any danger of head injury due to falling or flying objects. Non-conductive hard hats must be worn when working in the vicinity of equipment or electrical lines that expose you to high-voltage electrical shock hazards. Hard hats used for protection against falling and/or flying objects must meet Vancouver’s Best Painters National Standards Institute.

Wear Head Protection In All Posted Areas And When There Is A Danger Of Head Injury From Falling Or Flying Objects

(ANSI) Z89.1-1969 requirements. Those used to protect against electrical shock must meet ANSI standard Z89.2-1971. The ANSI standard for a hard hat is stamped or labeled on the inside of the hat by the manufacturer. Only hard hats stamped or labeled with the correct ANSI classification should be used.

The correct way to wear a hard hat is to adjust its inner suspension so that the hat is slightly raised off the head. A suspension that is too flexible will permit contact with the head upon impact and can result in a skull fracture or concussion. A suspension that is too rigid can transmit the shock impact and fracture the neck vertebrae. Never remove the hard hat’s inner suspension for any reason or keep anything under your hard hat. Both actions will prevent the suspension from working as a shock absorber. Other practices that should be followed are:

  • Clean your hard hat and suspension at least every 30 days.
  • Immediately replace a broken or punctured hard hat.
  • Never drill holes in your hard hat for ventilation.
  • Never leave your hard hat in the rear window of your car or truck. The sunlight may affect its protective quality, and an emergency stop can turn your hard hat into a dangerous projectile.

Hearing Protection

Construction site activities and/or the use of some equipment can sometimes create noise at unhealthy levels. If you find yourself saying “What?”, “Pardon”, or “What did you say?” because you can’t hear what another person is saying, then you are probably in an area that contains a noise level that can cause permanent hearing loss.

Not all sounds have the same effect on hearing. Sound or noise has three changing factors: intensity, pitch, and length of exposure. Intensity means loudness of sound and is measured in decibels, or dBAs. Pitch refers to the frequency of sound waves. A high-frequency (high- pitched) whistle, even though it isn’t any louder than a low-pitched thud, is generally more harmful than the low-frequency sound. Length of exposure refers to the amount of time a person is subjected to a noise. Continual exposure to certain noises can be more harmful than occasional bursts of offensive sound. Exposure levels can range from 0 dBA (the faintest sound a human ear can hear) to 140 dBA (the threshold of pain) and higher. Table below shows the relative sound levels for some common noises.

Sound Level (dBA) Source
60 to 80
Threshold of human hearing
Soft whisper
Normal conversation
Printers and copiers
Lawn mower
Chain saw
Loud discotheque
Portable stereo headset on high setting

Sound Levels Of Some Common Noises

OSHA regulations allow workers to be exposed to no more than an average of 90 dBA of continuous noise (as opposed to impact noise, such as a shotgun blast) over an 8-hour period. When exposed to sound levels that exceed allowable levels , OSHA requires that approved ear plugs or earmuffs be used to provide hearing protection.

Duration Per Day (Hours) Sound Level (dBA)
1/4 or less

OSHA Permissible Noise Levels

Use Hearing Protection When Sound Levels Exceed Allowable Limits

Disposable ear plugs are the most common form of hearing protection used in the industry today. These devices usually have an outer layer of pliable foam and a core layer of acoustical fiber which filters out harmful noise, yet allows you to hear normal conversation. To use disposable ear plugs, simply roll into a cylinder and insert the tapered end into the ear canal. The ear plugs will expand, filling the ear canal and making a proper fit. Reusable ear plugs are also common.

Earmuffs are usually worn in severe noise environments. They offer greater protection from all noise, including low frequencies. Most earmuffs have adjustable headbands that can be worn over the head, behind the neck, or under the chin. To use earmuffs, adjust the tension on the headband and ear cushion pads to obtain the best possible seal. Check the earmuff shell for cracks and the ear cushion pads for tears before each use. Any damaged, cracked, or torn part must be repaired or replaced.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment

Performing painting tasks or being in an area where vapors, fumes, or particles are being released into the air can be dangerous. Painters continuously come into contact with and inhale vapors emitted from chemicals contained in paints, solvents, cleaners, strippers, and other materials. They can also inhale very fine dust particles when sanding, performing abrasive blasting, or cleaning with power tools. Dust particles finer than 10 microns in diameter are not visible, but they are respirable, which means they can enter the lungs.

A micron is equal to one-millionth of a meter or approximately 0.00003937 inch. OSHA has set permissible exposure limits (PELs) for a number of toxic materials found in the work place. Appendix A lists the PELs for some common materials used while painting.

Types of Respirators

Respiratory (lung) protection is required whenever there is a danger of a respiration hazard or suffocation from lack of oxygen. There are four general types of respirators:

  • Half-mask – A half-mask with a mechanical filter is used only in areas where dust or other solid particles can be inhaled. With the proper chemical canisters, half-mask respirators can be used for protection from vapors or fumes.
  • Full face mask – Full face masks with chemical canisters are normally used for exposure to dangerous vapors or fumes. A distinction is made here concerning the terms vapors and fumes because it makes a difference to painters. Most painting products emit vapors. Examples of fumes are the smoke billowing from a fire or fumes generated when welding.
  • Supplied-air respirator – A supplied-air respirator or hood uses a remote compressor or air tank. A hose supplies air from the tank to the mask or hood. It is used under the same conditions as half-mask and full face mask respirators. Some supplied-air respirators are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to be used in atmospheres where there is a lack of oxygen or those that contain vapors, fumes, and/or particle contaminants which are immediately dangerous to life and health. An atmosphere is considered to have a lack of oxygen when there is less than 19.5% oxygen by volume at sea level. An atmosphere is considered immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) if it poses an immediate hazard to life or produces immediate, irreversible, and debilitating effects on health.
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) – SCBA respirators have their own air supply carried in a compressed air tank. They may be used in areas where there is a lack of oxygen or those that contain vapors, fumes and/or particle contaminants which are immediately dangerous to life and health.

Painting Safety_Picture12

Respiratory Program

Local and OSHA procedures must be followed when selecting the proper type of respirator for a particular job (Figure 9). A respirator must be properly selected (based on the contaminant present and its concentration level), properly fitted, and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. It must be worn during all times of exposure. When sandblasting, make sure to use a respirator designed for that purpose, since most types of respirators are not designed for sandblasting. Regardless of the kind of respirator needed, OSHA regulations require employers to have a respirator protection program consisting of:

  • Standard operating procedures for selection and use
  • Employee training
  • Regular cleaning and disinfecting
  • Sanitary storage
  • Regular inspection

Before using a respirator you must determine the following:

  • The type of containment(s) for which the respirator is being selected.
  • The concentration level of that containment.
  • Whether the respirator can be properly fitted on.

As an employee, you are responsible for wearing respiratory protection when needed. When it comes to vapors or fumes, both can be eliminated (in certain concentrations) by the use of air purifying devices as long as the oxygen levels are acceptable. Always check the cartridge on your respirator to make sure it is the correct type to use for the air conditions and contaminants. Read what it says: “Chemical Cartridge for Organic Vapors.” Remember that there is a difference between vapors and fumes. Look at the limitations marked on the cartridge. Does it say “Approved only for use in atmospheres containing (1) at least 19.5% oxygen, (2) less than 0.1% organic vapors by volume”? What does all this mean?

Since painters usually work in well-ventilated areas, we can assume that the oxygen level is OK. We must also check the product’s MSDS to see what the “percentage by volume” is. Most water-based latex paints have a PEL of 50 ppm. The chemical cartridge for the respirator is good for 1,000 ppm (that is 20 times the PEL for this particular type of paint). To safeguard yourself, always read the product’s MSDS. It should list the type of respirator and cartridge recommended for use with the product.

Limitations that apply to all half-mask (air-purifying) respirators are as follows:

  • These respirators do not completely eliminate exposure to contaminants but will reduce the level of exposure to below hazardous levels.
  • These respirators do not supply oxygen and must not be used in areas where the oxygen level is below 19.5%.
  • Do not use these respirators in atmospheres which are IDLH.
  • Do not use these respirators in areas where chemicals have poor warning signs (no taste, odor, etc.).

If your breathing becomes difficult, if you become dizzy or nauseated, or if you smell or taste the chemical or have other noticeable effects, leave the area immediately, return to a fresh air area, and seek any necessary assistance.

Positive And Negative Fit Checks

All respirators are useless unless properly fit tested for each individual. To obtain the best protection from your respirator, you must perform positive and negative fit checks each time you wear it. This test fit must be done until you have obtained a good face seal. To perform the positive fit check, do the following:

Step 1: Adjust the face piece for the best fit, then adjust the head and neck straps to assure good fit and comfort.
Step 2: Block the exhalation valve with your hand or other material.
Step 3: Breathe out into the mask.
Step 4: Check for air leakage around the edges of the face piece.
Step 5: If the face piece puffs out slightly for a few seconds, a good face seal has been obtained.

To perform a negative fit check, do the following:

Step 1: Block the inhalation valve with your hand or other material.
Step 2: Attempt to inhale.
Step 3: Check for air leakage around the edges of the face piece.
Step 4: If the face piece caves in slightly for a few seconds, a good face seal has been obtained.

Respirator Inspection, Care, And Maintenance

A respirator must be clean, in good condition, and all of its parts must be in place for it to give you proper protection. Respirators must be cleaned every day. Failure to do so will limit their effectiveness and offer little or no protection. For example, suppose you wore the respirator yesterday and did not clean it. The bacteria from breathing into the respirator, plus the airborne contaminants that managed to enter the face piece, have now made the inside of your respirator very unsanitary. Continued use may cause you more harm than good. Remember, only a clean and complete respirator will provide you with the necessary protection.

  • Inspect the condition of your respirator before and after each use.
  • Do not wear respirators if the face piece is distorted or if it is worn and cracked. You will not be able to get a proper face seal.
  • Do not wear respirators if any part is missing. Replace worn straps or missing parts before using.
  • Do not expose respirators to excessive heat or cold, chemicals, or sunlight.
  • Clean and wash your respirator each day. Remove the cartridge and filter, hand wash the respirator using mild soap and a soft brush, and let it air dry overnight.
  • Sanitize your respirator each week. Remove the cartridge and filter, then soak the respirator in a sanitizing solution for at least two minutes. Thoroughly rinse with warm water and let it air dry overnight.
  • Store the clean and sanitized respirator in its resealable plastic bag. Do not store the respirator face down. This will cause distortion of the face piece.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Fall Hazards and Protection Devices

Fall Hazards

The hazard of falling enters into the daily work of almost every painter and decorator. Falls can occur even from a stepladder if the painter is careless. Working with rigging or scaffolding requires a good attitude about safety and training in the proper use of the equipment.

Equipment, work practices, electricity, and weather conditions are all factors in safely working from elevations. If rigging, scaffolding, and climbing equipment are not in good condition, it might fail and cause a fall. If it is makeshift, it might fail because it does not comply with safety standards. It may also fail if it is improperly selected.

Unsafe work practices include general carelessness, failure to anticipate hazards, poor housekeeping that increases the possibility of tripping on platforms or scaffolds, and failure to obey load limits. Electrical power lines create a hazard of electrocution when ladders or other access equipment are used nearby. Finally, weather conditions such as rain and high winds can make climbing and work from elevations especially hazardous.

Fall Protection Devices

Fall protection devices come under two main categories: fall arrest devices and fall restraint devices. Fall arrest devices and systems are those that activate and catch workers after they have fallen. Fall restraint devices and methods are used to prevent a fall from happening.

The three main types of fall protection a painting and decorating craftsman is likely to use are:

  • Guardrails on scaffolds and work platforms
  • Body harnesses, lifelines, and lanyards
  • Safety nets

Elevated work platforms and scaffolds are required to have guardrails, mid rails, and toe boards on open sides and ends. OSHA outlines the specific requirements, dimensions, and construction materials for these safeguards.

Personal fall arrest equipment includes a body harness, lanyard, and lifeline. This fall protection system, which may also include a deceleration device such as a rope grab, is designed to prevent a worker from free falling more than six feet from an elevated workplace. Each part of the system must meet OSHA minimum tensile load or break strength requirements.

Use Fall Protection Equipment When Working At High Elevations

CAUTION As of January 1, 1998, body belts are prohibited by OSHA for use in personal fall arrest systems. This is because they do not provide the same protection as a body harness, which straps around the torso and absorbs the impact of a fall over a larger part of the body.

Safety nets are another device commonly used for fall protection. More information about the safe use of ladders, scaffolds, and the three types of conventional fall protection (guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems) is given in the next module, which covers ladders, scaffolds, and lifts.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Hazardous Chemicals and Materials

Most paints, coatings, and solvents will fall under one or more of the OSHA definitions of hazardous materials, as listed below:

  • Chemical – Any element, chemical compound, or mixture of elements and/or compounds.
  • Hazardous chemical – Any chemical which is a physical hazard or health hazard.
  • Health hazard – Any chemical for which there is evidence to indicate acute or chronic effects may occur in exposed individuals. Health hazards include chemicals which are:
    • Carcinogens
    • Toxic or highly toxic
    • Reproductive toxins (chemicals which affect reproductive capabilities)
    • Irritants and corrosives
    • Sensitizers
    • Vancouver’s Best Painters: Painters painting in Vancouver
    • Hepatotoxins (chemicals which produce liver -damage)
    • Nephrotoxins (chemicals which produce kidney damage)
    • Neurotoxins (chemicals which produce their primary toxic effects on the nervous system)
    • Agents which act on the blood or hematopietic system (blood-forming system)
    • Agents which damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes
  • Physical hazard – Any chemical for which there is scientifically valid evidence that it is:
    • A combustible liquid
    • A compressed gas
    • Explosive
    • Flammable
    • An organic peroxide
    • An oxidizer
    • Pyrophoric (capable of spontaneous ignition)
    • Unstable (reactive)

Hazard Communications Programs

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom) requires that all employers make their employees aware of and knowledgeable about the hazardous chemicals and materials they may be exposed to on the job. OSHA mandates that information on the various hazardous materials be obtained by the employer, then given to employees by means of a comprehensive communications program or system which includes:

  • Evaluating the hazard – As required by federal law, manufacturers or producers of materials conduct scientific and laboratory studies on their products, then based on the results generate an MSDS for each of their products. Copies of this MSDSs are made available to your employer or a contractor when the material is purchased. As applicable, MSDSs list the contents, hazards, precautions, recommendations for safe use, and emergency procedures used with the product.
  • Product labeling – Manufacturers label their product containers with their name, the name of the material, and safe use and storage information. If applicable, the label also provides a hazard warning and identifies what parts of the body or internal organs could be affected.
  • Training – As part of HazCom information system, your employer will provide training so you can learn more about materials that you work with and how you can protect yourself. You will also learn emergency and first aid procedures, how to recognize when there is a problem, and where to go or who to contact if you want more information.
  • Written program – Your employer or contractor has taken the time to document how the system works for you. This also includes a list of all the hazardous materials and the system for keeping it up to date.

Depending on the state and/or local requirements, HazCom and/or “Right To Know” systems used by your employer or contractor may only focus on hazardous chemical materials, while others may also include many of the physical problems such as noise, temperature extremes, encountered on the job.

Your responsibilities under OSHA’s HazCom at the job site are:

  • Know the location of MSDSs.
  • Spot and report hazards.
  • Know the physical and health hazards of any hazardous material.
  • Know and practice the actions necessary to protect yourself from any hazards.
  • Know the actions necessary in an emergency.
  • Know the location and content of your employer’s HazCom program document

Understanding Material Safety Data Sheets

All MSDSs must contain the same basic information in at least nine required sections. However, some MSDSs may have more sections covering transportation, environmental issues, etc. as deemed necessary by the manufacturer. Depending on the manufacturer, MSDSs are often formatted in ways that make them look different from one another. Figure 11 shows an MSDS produced by one major manufacturer. The information contained in the nine required sections of an MSDS are described below. Note that manufacturers may list information on their MSDSs in a different order than that given below.

Section 1. Material Identification – This section lists the trade name and may also contain the chemical name, chemical formula, original manufacturer, and so on.

Section 2. Ingredients – The chemical ingredients of the subject will be listed in this section, along with the relative percentage of each, either by weight or by volume.

Section 3. Physical Data – This section contains the physical data that would generally be of use to professionals with technical expertise in chemical safety, such as toxicologists, industrial hygienists, safety engineers, and so on. The data includes boiling and melting points, vapor pressure, specific gravity, and so on.

Section 4. Fire and Explosion Hazard Data – This section lists the physical parameters necessary for a fire or explosion to occur, as well as the measures that should be taken to fight fires involving this substance.

An important item listed here is the flash point (FP). This is the lowest temperature at which a liquid will begin to give off vapors that will ignite when an ignition source is held close to the liquid’s surface. The FP is used to classify a liquid as being flammable or not. Substances with an FP of less than 100°F (38°C) are classified as flammable liquids. Gasoline, a highly —flammable substance, has an FP of 45°F (7°C). Liquids with flash points higher than the flammable classification are considered combustibles.

Section 5. Health Hazard Data – This section lists the known effects of overexposure, both acute (high exposure concentration over a short period of time-i.e., minutes or hours) and chronic (low concentrations with exposures of at least several days). Emergency and first aid procedures are also provided in the event overexposure occurs.

Section 6. Reactivity Data – This section lists those conditions, if any, that will cause the compound to become unstable and to react chemically (possibly resulting in an explosion or fire). Included is a list of incompatible materials known to react with the substance. The chemical should not be mixed, stored, or transported with any of these materials. This section also lists the hazardous decomposition products that might be given off in the event the substance is involved in a fire or is heated to extreme temperatures.

Section 7. Spill or Leak Procedures – This section lists the steps to be taken in the event the chemical is accidentally released or spilled.

Section 8. Personal Protection Information – Specifies the personal protection equipment (safety eyewear, respirators, and so on) that should be worn when handling the chemical. The equipment prescribed is usually for protection against continuous “worst case” occupational exposures that may be present in an industrial setting.

Section 9. Handling and Storage Precautions – Special precautions, if any, for handling or storage will be listed in this section.

Hazardous Materials Identification System

Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) and National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) codes are used on MSDSs and product containers and packages to show the characteristics of materials. These codes use colors, numbers, letters, and symbols that allow for quick identification of a material’s chemical hazards relating to health, flammability, and reactivity. They also identify the proper personal protective equipment and other information pertaining to the material.

HMIS Codes: The HMIS hazard and personal protection codes (Health Hazard Index) are summarized below:

Health Hazard Index:

4 Severe hazard

3 Serious hazard

2 Moderate hazard

1 Slight hazard

0 Minimal hazard

Personal Protection Index:

A – Safety glasses: Safety glasses, gloves

C – Safety glasses, gloves, synthetic apron: Face shield, gloves, synthetic apron

E – Safety glasses, gloves, dust respirator

F – Safety glasses, gloves, synthetic apron, dust respirator: Safety glasses, gloves, vapor respirator, safety goggles, synthetic apron

I – Safety glasses, gloves, dust and vapor respirator: Safety goggles, gloves, synthetic apron, dust and vapor respirator, air-supplied hood or mask, gloves, full body protection (coveralls), boots X Ask your supervisor for guidance

National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Codes

The NFPA hazard identification coding system uses a set of four colored diamonds to indicate health, fire, reactivity, and specific hazard information. Each of these areas is ranked from 0 to 4 by the degree of hazard and the numbers inserted in the appropriate diamond. The NFPA codes are summarized below:

Health Codes (Blue Diamond):

4 Deadly

3 Extreme danger

2 Hazardous

1 Slightly hazardous

0 Normal material

Fire Hazard Flash Points (Red Diamond):

4 Below 73°F

3 Below 100°F

2 Below 200°F

1 Above 200°F

0 Will not burn

Reactivity (Yellow Diamond):

4 May detonate

3 Shock and heat may detonate

2 Violent chemical change

1 Unstable if heated

0 Stable

Specific Hazard (White Diamond):

OX Oxidizer

C OR Corrosive


ALK Alkali

W Use No Water

At Radioactive

Chemical Hazards

There are four major hazards associated with chemicals:

  • Flammables
  • Corrosives
  • Toxic materials
  • Reactives


Flammable materials include those which will burn when ignited at, or below, room temperature. Combustibles (also included in this category) must be heated before they will burn. All flammable materials burn only when there is a sufficient concentration of the material in the air. Solvent, fuel materials, and fuel gases are the most common flammables. The best way to find out if a material is flammable is to check the label (Figure 13). Flammable materials may become more hazardous when mixed with other kinds of chemicals. Corrosives, when stored with flammables, can deteriorate the containers and release the material into the atmosphere.

The Best Way To Find Out If A Material Is Flammable Is To Check The Label

To use flammables safely:

  • Don’t smoke. Eliminate all sources of flame or ignition.
  • Keep containers of flammable materials as small as possible.
  • Reduce surface area of all containers.
  • Use adequate ventilation.
  • Clean up spills promptly.
  • Cover containers when not in use.
  • Store flammable-soaked rags in covered protective containers.
  • Bond and ground all containers when dispensing.
  • Use explosion-proof wiring and equipment.

Safe handling of flammables often requires personal protective equipment. Repeated skin contact can remove the oily protective layer of the skin and lead to irritation. Some flammables are also toxic and may require the use of a respirator. Also, take care to avoid splashes onto the skin and into the eyes.

Flammables, especially solvents, should be stored in an unbreakable container designed for this purpose. It should have flame arresters and a spring-loaded cover. If storage is indoors, a small amount can be kept in a special cabinet. Larger amounts should be stored in special storage rooms which have devices and controls to minimize the risk of fire or explosion.

Care should be taken to provide storage of flammables away from oxidizers and corrosives. Oxidizers may ignite an otherwise non-flammable mixture. Corrosives may destroy the container and allow the release of flammable vapors into the atmosphere. Concentrated vapors may sink to the floor and travel some distance to a source of ignition, with the flashback traveling back to the source container.

Small leaks should be cleaned up quickly. If it is possible to limit the leak by closing a valve, shutting down the equipment, or moving the container, it should be done. Turn off electrical equipment which may provide a source of ignition.

If the leak is large or your skin, eyes, or clothes are contaminated, leave the area immediately. Wash eyes, skin, and clothes with lots of water. Get to fresh air. Notify your supervisor as soon as possible. Unless you have special training and the proper protective equipment, do not try to clean up a large leak.


Corrosive materials can cause damage on contact with the skin or eyes, or when inhaled. They can come in many forms and many strengths. Weak corrosives are sometimes called irritants. Acids can range from mild citric acid in fruit to strong mineral acids, such as sulfuric or nitric. Even strong acids and bases can be diluted so that they are less dangerous. Caustics (or bases or alkalis) can be weak, like baking soda, or strong, like potassium hydroxide.

Strong acids are usually liquid. The shipping containers are marked “corrosive” and have the Department of Transportation (DOT) sign for corrosives. The shipping containers are usually plastic or a combination of plastic and stainless steel. Bases can come in the powdered form or strong solutions. Some acids are also found as powders.

Be sure to read the label to see if a material is corrosive. Acids and bases come in different forms and are used for many purposes. In construction, most corrosive materials are found in cleaners. Examples of acids are phosphoric, nitric, sulfuric, hydrochloride, acetic, and chromic. Even mild concentrations can cause burns which go on long after the splash is washed off.

Caustics are used to clean metal and to treat water. Examples of caustics include ammonium, potassium and sodium hydroxide, sodium bicarbonate, trisodium phosphate, and lime.

Acids react violently when combined with bases or water. If combining acids with water, always add acid to water. Keep caustics and acids stored separately. Use appropriate personal protective equipment when working with acids and bases. Gloves, aprons, and goggles are usually required. In some cases, boots or other foot protection is also required. Always use ventilation. Contact lenses may aggravate eye injury from corrosives and should not be used when working with them.

Read The Labels And Signs to Find Out If A Material Is Corrosive

Acids and bases should be stored in separate places. Keep all corrosives away from flammables. They may cause leaks in the flammable containers and lead to a fire. Some corrosives, such as nitric acid, are also oxidizers and may contribute to any combustion processes. Again, check the label or MSDS for storage instructions.

If a corrosive material is splashed in the eyes or on your skin and clothes, immediately wash the affected area with water for 15 minutes. Use safety showers and eyewashes if available. If not, get water from a pail or hose. Remove any contaminated clothing. Get to fresh air if you feel burning in the nose or lungs. Do not vomit if you swallow a corrosive; drink large quantities of water and see a doctor.

Spills or leaks should be stopped or contained as soon as possible. Proper protective equipment must be used to deal with leaks and spills. Turn off any leaking valve or process, then dike or dam the spill. If the spill is too large, contact emergency authorities. Ventilate the area before resuming activities.

Toxic Materials

Any material can be hazardous under the wrong conditions. The degree of the hazard depends on the dose. Small amounts of most materials can cause mild symptoms which disappear once the person is removed from the exposure. Larger doses can cause more severe illness, and extremely large doses can cause irreversible illness and even death.

Each person responds differently to hazardous materials. OSHA permissible exposure limits are intended to protect the average person from the harmful effects of chemical exposures over a working lifetime. OSHA’s definition of the toxic or highly toxic material applies to only a very few potent poisons seldom used by construction trades. We will use the more common definition of toxic as any material which can cause illness or injury. Toxic materials can poison the body and cause harmful effects (Figure 15). There is a difference between the acute effect and the chronic effect of exposure to toxic chemical hazards. Acute effects are usually due to a sudden overexposure to large quantities or concentrations of a material. The acute effects usually disappear after the exposure ends. Sometimes, supportive medical treatment is needed, but the body usually returns to normal.

Chronic toxic effects are not as easy to recognize. They are often the result of lower levels of exposure over a long period of time. Typically, they affect one or more of the body’s organ systems. If the problem is identified, the effect can often be reduced. If the exposure to a toxic material is stopped, healing of the organ or organ system can return the body to normal. Because of the slow nature of some diseases caused by exposure, irreversible damage can be caused by long-term exposure to a chemical hazard. Asbestosis is a debilitating, chronic disease common to older insulation workers. It results from long-term exposure to asbestos fibers in the air.

Chemicals can enter your body in three ways:

Inhalation – Whenever you are doing a job that uses a toxic material, you need to be careful not to breathe too much of that material. This is the most common way that chemicals get into the bloodstream. As we breathe the material, it enters our lungs. It is then easily transferred into our blood and taken throughout the body. To prevent this from happening, good ventilation is very important. Open doors and windows or set up a fan that directs the air away from you. Respirators may also be necessary to protect you. Be sure you choose the correct one and know how to use it. Air filtration respirators take the toxic material out of the air you breathe, while air-supplied respirators provide you with clean air from a tank or other source. If you think you need a respirator, check with your supervisor and read the label or MSDS.

Ingestion – Some chemicals can hurt you if you accidentally eat or swallow them. Good personal habits can stop this route of entry. Washing hands before you eat and keeping your clothes clean are good practices. Check the MSDS or label for emergency and first aid procedures, and see a doctor, if necessary.

Skin absorption – Some materials have the ability to pass through unprotected skin into the bloodstream. Wearing proper gloves and other skin or face protection will reduce the chances of this happening. The label and MSDS both tell you if gloves or other equipment is recommended. Remember that not all gloves are alike, nor will they protect you from all materials. Use the right ones.

Solvents are among the most common toxic materials in the workplace. Many processes (mixing and cleaning) use or give off solvent vapors. They are also used as thinners in paints and adhesives. Solvents vary in their toxicity from practically non-toxic materials such as freons and acetones, through moderately toxic materials such as alcohols, ketones, and halogenated solvents, to the very toxic such as dimethyl acetamide, methyl acrylate, and other materials. Some solvents are also flammable or reactive.

The following list provides a rough guide to the toxicity of solvents or other toxic materials you may work with. The values listed represent thethreshold limit value (TLV), which is the airborne concentration of a substance to which a normal, healthy worker may be exposed for eight hours a day, 40 hours a week during a working lifetime without adverse health effects. TLVs are recommended limits established by theAmerican Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Normally, the TLV represents a time-weighted average (TWA). Check the glues, solvents, or cleaners you use against this list. So you don’t get confused, the more hazardous chemicals have the lowest TLVs, while the safer ones usually have high values listed.

Mildly toxic: TLV 500 to 1,000 ppm

Moderately toxic: TLV 50 to 500 ppm

Toxic: TLV 1 to 50 ppm

Highly toxic: TLV less than 1 ppm

Another method for rating toxicity is known as the short-term exposure limit (STEL). This represents the airborne concentration to which workers can be exposed for up to 15 minutes without suffering ill effects.

All solvents may irritate the eyes and skin in high concentrations. Most will dissolve the protective layer of oils on the skin and leave it looking white in the small cracks. Solvents should never be used to clean the skin; if there is a problem with contamination, some form of glove or barrier cream should be used to protect the skin. The early signs of overexposure often include headaches, dizziness, and nausea, but there are many other causes of these symptoms.

In general, minimizing contact with toxic materials will minimize their toxic effect. Use controls, such as ventilation, to draw contaminants away from the workplace air. Use respiratory protection to minimize the inhaled dose. Use goggles, gloves, aprons, and other protective gear to keep the material off the skin, out of the eyes, and away from the body. Although the body can get rid of a certain amount of most toxic chemicals and the standards are there to maintain the level below that point, you can minimize your exposure by understanding the routes of entry and methods of control.

Storage methods which minimize the release of volatile materials should be used. Keep solvents tightly capped and stored in ventilated areas whenever possible. Keep the number of cleaning tanks and trays to a minimum. Use local exhaust ventilation to capture any vapors released during storage. Be sure to keep flammable and corrosive materials apart during storage.

For small spills (usually under a gallon), immediately clean using wipes or other absorbent material. For larger spills or spills of moderately to a highly toxic material, leave the area and notify your supervisor. If you are unsure how to deal with a problem, leave the area, alert others in the area to the problem, and let trained personnel deal with the situation.


Reactives are materials which can change violently when combined with certain other materials or conditions. There are very few reactives in use by the construction trades. However, knowing the hazard can help you when you do come in contact with a reactive material.

Oxidizers add oxygen to any situation where burning is occurring and make the fire more intense and more difficult to put out. Some reactives explode or give off gas and heat in air or on contact with water.

Many materials can act like reactives when mixed with incompatible materials. Acids and bases react strongly with each other, giving off heat, often enough to cause boiling and splattering of the mixture. The MSDS should tell you what materials may be incompatible with the chemical you are working with and what other materials to avoid.

The most common reactive mixture in construction is found in gas welding or brazing. Acetylene gas mixes with oxygen gas to provide an extremely powerful reaction in the form of a very intense flame.

Oxidizers are the most commonly found reactive class. Most oxidizers are also corrosive, so keep them away from the skin and eyes.

The Most Common Reactive Mixture In Construction Is Found In Gas Welding And Brazing

Reactives should be stored away from other types of materials. Read the MSDS carefully when you see the words oxidizer or reactive. Note what chemicals are compatible with the materials that you are using and avoid situations where they might become mixed. Be sure to use any protective clothing or respiratory protection required by the MSDS or the process documentation. Many reactives are toxic, corrosive, or both. Protect yourself against the health hazards as well as the physical hazards of reactives. In an emergency, if it is practical, shut down any electrical equipment. If possible, stop the —- spill or leak from continuing, but if there is any doubt, leave the area and notify your supervisor. Do not try to neutralize the material or clean up the spill unless you have appropriate protective equipment and have been properly trained.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Lead Hazards and Protection Measures

The use of lead-based paint has been banned in all residential buildings since 1978. When preparing surfaces in older buildings previously painted with lead-based paint, painting contractors and painters must take precautions to prevent lead poisoning. These precautions are as set forth in the Occupational Safety and Health Standards for the Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926.62).

Lead Hazards

Lead is a toxic metal that can enter your body through inhalation or ingestion. It is not absorbed through your skin. Lead-based paint becomes dangerous once it is disturbed by a removal process, normally through sanding, power tool cleaning, or abrasive blasting. The smaller the lead particles, the more dangerous they become because they are more easily ingested when eating, drinking, or smoking. At 10 microns or smaller, lead particles in the air become respirable. Inhalation or ingestion of lead allows it to get into the bloodstream. It is then circulated throughout the body and stored in various organs and tissues and can result in damage to the blood, nervous, digestive, kidney, and reproductive systems.

The adverse effects that are normally evident immediately or shortly after a short-term period of exposure (seconds, minutes, hours, or days) to a hazardous material are called the acute effects of overexposure. For lead these can be: weakness, vomiting, loss of appetite, uncoordinated body movements, convulsions, stupor, bloody stools and possibly coma. The effects that develop slowly over a long period of time (weeks, months, or years) from exposure to a hazardous material are called the chronic effects of overexposure. For lead these can be: weakness, insomnia, hypertension, metallic taste in the mouth, anemia, headache, and muscle and joint pain. There is also a risk to developing fetuses and the reproductive systems in both men and women.

Protection Measures

Currently, OSHA has established a permissible exposure limit of 50 mg/m3, averaged over an 8-hour period, for workers exposed to lead. It also established an action level of 30 mg/m3 over an 8-hour period. If the action level is reached, your employer must conduct exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and employee training. If any lead is present in the workplace, your employer must monitor workers’ exposure.

Methods used to control exposure to lead include the use of other paint removal methods, such as chemical stripping instead of abrasive blasting, or the use of special ventilated containment structures to reduce exposure levels when abrasive blasting is used. Containment structures to protect the surrounding environment are often built to enclose a lead hazard work area. However, this can seriously endanger the health of the worker inside the containment structure because it increases the level of exposure to lead dust unless strict protection measures are put into place. Respirators must be worn when other forms of control cannot lower the exposure below the permissible exposure limit. Workers who wear respirators in lead exposure zones must comply with a rigorous respiratory protection plan and a demanding hygiene plan in order to keep exposures below the permissible limit.

To control lead hazards when working in lead exposure zones, OSHA requires that the actions be implemented. In addition, as applicable, you must strictly comply with the following guidelines:

  • Wear your respirator at all times.
  • Clean your respirator daily and sanitize it weekly. Properly store it when not in use.
  • Always perform a positive and negative fit check each time you put the respirator on; if you cannot obtain a good face seal, you will not be permitted to enter the work area.
  • Change HEPA cartridges and filters as needed to assure maximum respiratory protection. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter – cartridges and filters are those designed to remove 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 micron.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after using the restroom.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before eating, drinking, or smoking.
  • Do not bring food or beverages into the lead-based paint removal work area.

Do not enter the lead paint removal site wearing your normal work or street clothes. Wear the disposable coveralls, shoe covers, head covers, and gloves that are provided for you.

At the end of your shift, you must remove the contaminated disposable clothing in the decontamination area only, and place the contaminated clothing in the hazardous waste container. Then thoroughly wash your face, neck, hands, and arms before leaving the area.

Strong oxidizers or acids are incompatible with lead paints. If these chemicals come in contact with each other, it creates a reactivity hazard which may result in the release of hydrogen gas.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Asbestos Hazards and Protection Measures

Airborne asbestos fibers can be inhaled, allowing them to penetrate into the lungs. Inhaling asbestos fibers usually shows no immediate symptoms, but can cause a long-term risk of a lung disease called asbestosis and cancer that attacks the lining of the chest cavity or abdomen. Smokers have an increased risk of developing asbestos-induced lung cancer.

Asbestos can occur in many forms, including amosite, chrysotile, and crocidolite. In construction materials, it can be found both indoors and outdoors, although as a result of asbestos abatement programs, its use has been severely limited in recent years. Materials containing asbestos were commonly used in a duct and pipe thermal insulation, fireproofing materials, insulation cladding for structural members, acoustical materials, floor tiles, and roofing materials. Where asbestos material was used and is in good condition, exposure is normally insignificant. However, elevated levels of airborne asbestos fibers can occur when asbestos-containing materials are deteriorating or have been disturbed or abraded, releasing its fibers. It is best to leave asbestos material alone if it is not damaged.

For work areas that contain hazards from airborne asbestos fibers, OSHA regulations require that your employer monitor the air to make sure that no worker is exposed to a concentration in excess of 0.2 fibers per cubic centimeter (cc) of air (8-hour TWA) or exposed to a concentration in excess of 0.1 fiber per cc of air over a sampling period of 30 minutes. Where possible, your employer should use negative-pressure enclosures or other engineering solutions to reduce exposure in the work area before starting any removal and/or renovation of asbestos materials. Your responsibility when working in such an area is to strictly follow your employer’s asbestos containment plan. This includes wearing the proper respirator and protective clothing, such as coveralls (or similar whole body clothing), head covering, gloves, and foot coverings.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Confined Space Hazards and Entry


A confined space is any space that has limited or restricted openings for entry or exit that would make escape difficult in an emergency. It is also any space that could contain moving or rotating machinery, dangerous levels of toxic air contaminants, flammable or explosive atmospheres, a lack of oxygen (less than 19.6% by volume), or excess amounts of oxygen (more than 23.5% by volume).

When oxygen in the air decreases from the normal 21%, a person suffers increasingly severe effects, beginning with accelerated breathing and heartbeat at about 16% to rapid death at 6%. Many processes inside a confined space can deplete the atmosphere of oxygen. These include flash rusting of metal, fermenting of matter, and rotting of debris. Vancouver’s Best Painters: All rights protected under the laws of Her Majesty The Queen.

Worker Entering A Confined Space With A Restricted Opening For Entry And Exit

Fires and explosions can occur in confined spaces as a result of the presence of residual chemicals, the accumulation of vapors from paint and solvents, or the release of trapped gases from disturbed sludge or scale. At explosive concentrations, gases or vapors can be ignited by sparks from tools, from static electricity created by air movers or other equipment, or by lights. Under these conditions, explosion-proof lights, motors, exhaust fans, etc. should always be used to prevent fires and/or explosions.

While not all gases and vapors are explosive, they are often toxic. In poorly ventilated spaces and at high levels of exposure, some paints and solvents can be very toxic. Even in lower doses, some chemicals can adversely affect the respiratory or nervous systems. Many toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, are deadly but cannot be detected by sight or smell.

In some confined spaces, there can also be physical hazards. For example, moving or rotating gears, augers, etc. might accidentally be energized and injure a worker. In tanks, there is the hazard of valves being opened accidentally and allowing liquids to pour in. Where solids such as grain are stored, there is the hazard of engulfment, which may lead to crushing or suffocation. Noise, excessive heat, and the potential for falls are also hazards of confined spaces.

Confined Space Entry

To overcome the hazards of confined spaces, OSHA requires a program of strict compliance with regulations on confined space entry that apply to all persons involved with the entry into confined spaces. These include the owners of facilities with confined spaces, contractors who place workers in confined spaces, the worker(s) who enter confined spaces, and entry attendants and supervisors who monitor the access into confined spaces. As part of any compliance program, OSHA also requires training for the entrants, attendants, and supervisors.

By OSHA requirements, the owner of the facility where the confined space is located has the following responsibilities:

  • Identify confined spaces in the facility and put warning signs at the entrances; also, establish policies preventing unauthorized entry.
  • Identify hazards associated with each confined space, and establish test procedures for monitoring atmospheres.
  • Establish a written permit system for entering confined spaces.
  • Train and certify the proficiency of entrants, supervisors, and attendants on how to test, enter, and work safely inside confined spaces.
  • Develop an emergency action plan and establish rapid response rescue teams and train them in confined space rescue. The elements of an emergency action plan are described later in this module.
  • Provide specific equipment necessary for safe confined space entry, including equipment for monitoring, communicating, ventilating, rescuing, locking and tagging out, breathing, and warnings.

Contractors who place workers in confined spaces must comply with the confined space program of the facility owner. As part of this process, the facility owner must inform the contractor about:

  • The location of all confined spaces.
  • The required entry permit system.
  • Details of the hazards to be encountered.
  • How workers can be protected from the hazards.

Authorized entrants to a confined space have the following responsibilities:

  • Know the hazards to be encountered.
  • Recognize the symptoms of asphyxiation or toxic exposure; understand the result of such exposure. Make sure the confined space has been isolated, ventilated, and tested for hazardous atmosphere before entering and during the operations conducted there if a hazard is being generated.
  • Maintain contact with the attendant; know how to escape when necessary.
  • Understand the need to exit immediately upon hearing an evacuation alarm.
  • Wear a harness and lifeline for aid in evacuation.
  • Be trained in the use of retrieval lines, barriers, signs, respirators, and protective clothing. Know when to use explosion-proof equipment.

Attendants have the following responsibilities:

  • Maintain a station at the exit of the confined space; keep a count of personnel inside; know what work is allowed or disallowed in the space.
  • Recognize hazards; know how to monitor for safety; recognize safe and unsafe amounts registered on air testing and other monitoring equipment.
  • Test the atmosphere remotely using a probe inserted into a small hole.
  • Maintain contact with entrants; order evacuation when problems occur; recognize symptoms of physical distress.
  • Know how to summon rescuers and use the alarm system.
  • Refuse entry to unauthorized personnel.
  • Do not enter the space for rescue attempts.

Entry supervisors have the following responsibilities:

  • Authorize and oversee entry; be highly trained in entry procedures.
  • Know the hazards of the confined space; assure the correctness and completeness of the entry permit.
  • Assure that proper lockout/tagout procedures are performed to deactivate all equipment.
  • Assure that procedures and equipment for entry are available.
  • Assure that workers understand the scope of the work and safe work practices.
  • Assure the availability of rescue plans and personnel.
  • Be responsible for canceling entry authorization and terminating entry when unacceptable conditions are present, and then for evaluating the problem and recommending the point at which reentry is allowed.
  • Conclude the entry operation and transfer control of the confined space to the facility owner.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Painting Tool and Equipment Hazards

The operation of tools and equipment without the proper training can be hazardous to yourself and others on the job. The dangers of any tool or piece of equipment should be well known by every worker before using it. Only trained and qualified painters should operate air abrasive and water blast equipment, spraying equipment, or climbing or lifting equipment. When untrained persons use such equipment for the first time, it must always be under the guidance and direct supervision of an experienced operator so that proper safety and skills training are received in the use of the equipment.

To prevent accidents or injury, always read and fully understand the manufacturer’s operating literature for the equipment before using it for the first time. Pay particular attention to and follow the instructions given in all Warnings, Cautions, and Notes contained in the manufacturer’s literature. If asked to use equipment that you are unfamiliar with, don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor to provide you with proper instruction in its use before doing so. This can prevent injury to you, others, or both. Information about the operation and safety procedures that pertain to specific tools and equipment used in the painting trade is given where appropriate in the modules you will be studying throughout your training.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Hot and Cold Weather Precautions

Performing work outdoors in extremely hot or cold weather requires that appropriate precautions be taken to prevent an abnormal gain or loss of body heat.

Hot Weather Precautions

Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or heat cramps can result from heavy exertion while working in high temperature or high humidity conditions. When working in these conditions, you should dress in loose, cool cotton clothing. You should also take periodic cool-down breaks and make sure not to overexert yourself.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke can be life-threatening. It happens because the body’s heat-regulating mechanism stops working. This can cause convulsions, unconsciousness, and even death if the body is not cooled quickly.

WARNING! If heat stroke occurs, get immediate medical attention.

To help reduce the body temperature, move the person to a cool place and remove as much clothing as possible. Douse with water or wrap in a wet sheet. Symptoms of heat stroke are:

  • Sudden onset
  • Dry, hot, and flushed skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Early loss of consciousness
  • Full and fast pulse
  • Deep breathing at first, later shallow or almost absent
  • Muscle twitching, growing into convulsions
  • Body temperature reaching 105°F or higher

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion happens when body fluids are lost through heavy sweating but the sweat cannot evaporate fast enough from the body to cool it properly. It may be accompanied by heat cramps. To help reduce the body temperature, the affected person should be moved to a cool place and as much clothing removed as possible. The person should be given sips of salted drinking water (about one teaspoon of salt to one quart of water). Following this, get medical attention or qualified medical advice.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion are:

  • Weak pulse
  • Rapid and unusually shallow breathing
  • General weakness
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Heavy sweating
  • Dizziness, disorientation
  • Temperature slightly above normal body temperature

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms. They can result from heavy exertion and the related loss of water and salt by heavy sweating. The affected person should be moved to a cool area and given sips of salted drinking water. The cramped muscles can also be gently stretched and massaged.

Symptoms of heat cramps are:

  • Painful muscle cramps
  • Sweaty skin
  • Faintness

Cold Weather Precautions

Working in extremely cold weather, especially outdoors, requires that you dress adequately to protect against the loss of body heat that can result in possible hypothermia or frostbite. You should dress in layers in order to allow you to adjust to the prevailing temperature conditions. Cotton or lightweight wool should be worn next to the skin with wool layers over the undergarments. Outer garments should be made of waterproof, wind-resistant fabrics such as nylon. Since a great deal of body heat is lost through the head, a hat with ear protection should be worn. Water chills the body far more rapidly than air or the wind. For this reason, it is recommended that a dry set of clothing be taken along whenever working outdoors. Waterproof boots should be worn in damp or snowy weather.


The effects of hypothermia are gradual and can often go unnoticed until it is too late. It is recommended that a buddy system be used when working in extreme cold for an extended period of time, where each person checks on the other for overexposure to the cold. If working alone, let someone know where you will be and what time you expect to return.

WARNING! Get immediate medical attention for a person affected by hypothermia.

Move the person indoors as soon as possible to warm up. If necessary, remove any wet clothing. If the person is conscious, they can be given hot liquids and/or a hot bath to help speed up the warming process.

Symptoms and the progression of hypothermia are:

  • Shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Mental confusion
  • Drowsiness and weakness
  • Glassy stare
  • Respiration and pulse rate become slower and slower
  • Extremities freeze
  • Death


The ears, nose, hands, and feet can be affected by frostbite as a result of exposure to intensely cold air or liquids.

WARNING! Cover the frostbitten area to protect it and get immediate medical attention.

Symptoms and progression of frostbite are:

  • Exposed skin reddens
  • Skin takes on a gray or blotchy appearance, especially the ear lobes, cheeks, and nose
  • Exposed skin surface becomes numb
  • All sensation is lost and the skin becomes dead white

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Electrical Hazards

There are three possible results when electrical current shocks a worker. One is bodily harm from the shock itself that can range from minor to severe; another is injury or death resulting from an accident caused by involuntary muscle response to shock, such as falling from a scaffold; and the third is death from electrocution.

The amount of current that passes through the human body determines the outcome of an electrical shock. The higher the voltage, the greater the chance for a fatal shock. Electrical current flows along the path of least resistance to return to its source. If you come in contact with a live conductor, you become a load. Figure 19 shows how much resistance the human body presents under various circumstances and how this converts to amps or milliamps when the voltage is 110V. Note that the potential for shock increases dramatically if the skin is damp. A cut will also reduce your resistance. Currents of less than 1 amp can severely injure and even kill a person.

WARNING! High voltage, defined as 600 volts or more, is almost ten times as likely to kill as low voltage. On the job, you spend most of your time working on or near lower voltages. However, lower voltages can also kill.

Less than 1 milliamp No sensation.
1 to 20 milliamps Sensation of shock, possibly painful. May lose some muscular control between 10 and 20 milliamps.
20 to 50 milliamps Painful shock, severe muscular contractions, breathing difficulties.
50 to 200 milliamps Up to 100 milliamps same symptoms as above, only more severe.Between 100 and 200 milliamps, ventricular fibrillation may occur. This typically results in almost immediate death unless special medical equipment and treatment are available.
Over 200 milliamps Severe burns and muscular contractions. The chest muscles contract and stop the heart for the duration of the shock.

Current Effects On The Human Body

In addition to shock, electricity poses the hazard of fire from short circuiting or overheating, and the hazard of explosion from arcing in an atmosphere that contains combustible dust or flammable vapors. Even the low energy discharge of static electricity from the operation of electrical equipment can cause a major disaster. The severity of these hazards makes it necessary to take careful precautions to avoid them.

There are two areas where electrical hazards must be considered. The first is general electrical tools and equipment; the second is high voltages, which are encountered most often in industrial plants and on transmission, substation, and power generation equipment.

Following precautions can be taken to minimize the hazards of electricity when using power tools and equipment:

  • When available, use double-insulated power tools (ones that are encased entirely in a nonconductive, shatterproof material and have a nonconductive switch).
  • Do not use electrical tools in a wet environment.
  • Inspect the cords and plugs of tools before use to make sure they are serviceable.
  • Do not trim the larger, polarized prong of a two-pronged plug to make it fit into an outlet. This prong is for safety.
  • When using an adapter for a three-pronged plug, secure the grounding wire on the adapter to the faceplate of a grounded outlet box.
  • Wherever possible, use an outlet box with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) which is designed to protect workers when current leakage is detected.
  • Use properly grounded, three-wire extension cords.
  • Use jacketed extension cords with power tools, and especially rated cords with heating devices that require large amounts of current.
  • Protect extension cords from sharp surfaces. Tape them down in areas of foot traffic.

When working around high voltages, workers must have special training, use standard operating procedures, and follow a site safety plan. Safety measures must be taken to avoid high voltages, which can lead to death. Chief among these safety measures are locking and tagging out equipment to avoid accidental energizing. Lockout and tagout procedures involve placing locks and warning tags on each means used to de-energize circuits or equipment to prevent their use.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.

Safety Planning and Emergency Action Plans

Planning is critical to safety. Accidents occur if you let them, but if you anticipate and plan — ways to avoid them, accidents can be reduced or eliminated. Hazards in painting can arise from conditions at the work site and from the tools, equipment, and materials being used. Before work begins, the site should be surveyed for hazardous materials and unsafe conditions.

If the job only involves painting a room in a house, the survey will be less extensive and time-consuming than if it involves painting structures such as an industrial tank or bridge. Regardless of the size of the job, the site should always be evaluated to reveal any hazard such as confined spaces, unguarded openings, possible electrical hazards, etc.

Once all potential hazards have been identified, a comprehensive emergency action plan should be developed to deal with all emergencies. Depending on prevailing OSHA standards and the number of people involved, the plan may be required to be in writing or it may be communicated orally. As appropriate, an emergency action plan must include the following elements./

  • Emergency escape procedures and emergency route assignments.
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to perform or shut down critical equipment before evacuating the area or remain to take corrective actions.
  • Procedures that account for all employees after any emergency evacuation has been completed.
  • Rescue and medical duties for those individuals who are to perform them.
  • The preferred means for reporting fires and other emergencies including all phone numbers, etc.
  • Names and/or job titles of persons or departments to be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.


Accidents are very harmful to employees and employers both, and they are often caused by poor behavior and unsafe conditions. However, most accidents can be prevented. By knowing and avoiding the behaviors that cause accidents and keeping working conditions safe, it is possible to avoid injuries and reduce hazards. The most important governmental agency concerned with accident prevention is OSHA, which has imposed requirements on trade workers designed to keep job sites and personnel safe from harm. OSHA rules apply to protective clothing and equipment, housekeeping, electrical safety, and all types of tool and machine operations. Particular hazards are presented by chemicals, ladders, scaffolds, and tools. Developing an attitude of safety is an excellent way for every worker to avoid or reduce all of these hazards.

Safety is the responsibility of each and every one of us. No one person can constantly watch and guide every operation that is going on at the job site. You should know how to do your job safely. The training you receive, complying with your employer’s safety program, and the use of everyday common sense will prevent you from being involved in an accident. An employee trying to bluff his way through a job he does not understand is just asking for trouble. Even if you think you know the correct procedures, a review may bring out an important part of the job that you may have forgotten. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The responses you receive may help a new or less experienced coworker get answers to questions they may be too bashful to ask.

Practicing good safety attitudes means that you:

  • Report all unsafe conditions and acts immediately.
  • Keep work areas clean and orderly at all times.
  • Immediately report all accidents and injuries, no matter how minor.
  • Be certain you completely understand the instructions given before starting work.
  • Know how and where needed medical help may be obtained.
  • Wear the required protective devices when working in a hazardous operation area.
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs. If you are ill and must take prescribed medication, notify your supervisor immediately.

Vancouver’s Best Painters: © 2017. All rights reserved. Do Not Copy: Copying content will result in criminal prosecution.