Do I need health What are my employer’s
If you are spraying with polyurethane paints, yes. Your employer must:
• Ask your employer to arrange for you to have a
medical check-up at his/her expense before you
• instruct workers on the hazards of working with
isocyanate-containing paints and how to use
start work with isocyanates. This should cover them safely;
lung function tests and review any chest prob- • provide all the necessary safety equipment. ISOCYANATE-
lems you may already have.
• The lung function tests should be repeated after
3 months and then at least annually to safeguard
What are my CONTAINING
• Ask for more frequent checks if you experience: You have a duty to use all the safety gear your
— a cough (day or night) which lasts more than employer provides. You owe it to yourself to protect
a month; your health — and the job you have spent years
— a chest illness. which keeps you off work learning.
more than 2 weeks.
Air line filter
What about first
You should know the first aid measures to take in an
• Coughing and breathing difficulties
— get the worker into fresh air;
— call a doctor.
• Eye contact
— irrigate with running water;
— continue for at least 15 minutes;
— obtain medical attention if irritation persists.
• Skin contact All the publications in the Publications Archive contain the best
— wash off with soap and water; guidance available at the time of publishing. However, you should
consider the effect of any changes to the law since then. You
— do not use solvents. should also check that any Standards referred to are still current.
DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
About this What are the health How can I protect
pamphlet hazards? myself?
If you are a spray painter, you need to understand If isocyanate-containing paints are used incorrectly The essential safety measures are:
the health risks involved in spraying polyurethane they can affect you in these ways: • Wear a compressed air fed respirator mask or
paints. • Breathing the aerosol — irritation of the nose, hood with eye protection whenever spraying
You will probably be familiar with the two- throat and lungs occurs either immediately on isocyanate-containing paints.
pack mixes of polyurethane paints and possibly also exposure or, more often, later, causing a dry • Make sure the air inlet supply is taken from
the one-pack moisture-cured mixes. These are throat, coughing, chest tightness and/or asthma. uncontaminated air and is suitably filtered to
widely used in the automotive and other industries • Eye contact —irritation; may cause severe remove oil mist, dust and water. Also check that
because of their excellent gloss, hardness, adhesion chemical conjunctivitis. the visor is clean and the air valves work before
and chemical resistance. • Skin contact — mild irritation; can lead to starting spraying. Wear suitable protective
This group of paints contains small quantities dermatitis. clothing and gloves.
of chemicals known as isocyanates, which are very Some people become ‘sensitised’ to • An air movement as prescribed by the Code of
dangerous to health. The major hazard is breathing isocyanates after inhaling the vapour. This can Practice for the Safe Use of Isocyanates is
the fine mist or aerosol droplets of the paint during happen after a single exposure or after exposure to required in the operator’s breathing zone unless
spraying and absorbing the liquid isocyanate into isocyanates over many years. the occupier can prove that the injurious fumes
your lungs. Sensitised workers experience asthma-type are removed by the booth’s existing ventilation
If, however, isocyanate-containing paint is symptoms whenever they are exposed to free system and do not exceed the TLV.
applied by brush, roller or dipping, in a cool, well- isocyanates. There is no cure for this condition, and • Do not smoke.
ventilated area; there is generally no more hazard a sensitised person has to give up working with Air hose respirator
than with ordinary paints. These methods usually do isocyanates permanently.
not produce a dangerous concentration of
isocyanate vapour. What is a safe exposure?
Mixing the two-pack paints is generally a safe
operation provided you do it, in a well-ventilated The maximum concentration of isocyanates you
place and take care in removing the lids. may be exposed to is set by the Occupational Health
After, curing, polyurethane paints contain no Advisory Committee at 70 micrograms/m3
isocyanates and are not harmful under normal expressed as NCO. This is known as the Threshold
conditions of use. Limit Value or TLV for isocyanates. Some people,
This pamphlet explains the health hazards of however, can be sensitised at concentrations much
isocyanate-containing paints and how you can lower than this.
protect yourself while spraying with them.