Spray painters are the profession that are at most risk of developing occupational asthma because they work with particular chemical called isocyanate which is known to be the most common cause of causing asthma in the workplace.
The type of isocyanate is found in paints in the motor repair and manufacturing industries so it is important that the employer is familiar and adheres to the COSHH regulations.
A short list of best practices when dealing with isocyanates in the workplace is to –
- Never spay outside of the booth because spraying produces invisible mist.
- The mist from spraying will take time to settle so make sure that you and everyone that might be in the area are aware of the time that it will take to settle and become safe.
- Never remove protective clothing directly after spraying has just been completed. Allow a suitable clearance time.
- Always wear air fed breathing apparatus while there is spray mist in the air.
- Ensure that there is suitable health surveillance and checks in place.
For detailed information for employers of vehicle spray painters see the detailed isocyanate COSHH page.
The HSE provided a case study on the effects of isocyanate in the spray painting industry when they detailed the cases of two employees that were working in an electroplating factory that were both displaying the symptoms of asthma. At the time is was unknown what was causing the symptoms, but after both employees were given lung function tests it was proved that they have developed asthma.
It was later found that a lacquer was being used by the staff that contained isocyanates and the HSE uncovered the fact that the employer was exceeding the workplace exposure limits. Fume extraction was then installed by the employer and this dramatically cut the levels of isocyanates in the workplace.
Unfortunately, the health of the two workers was badly affected to the extent that one worker had to retire early on medical grounds, whilst the other had to change employment. Compensation for their occupational asthma was sought by both people.