All activities that are carried out in car shops, particularly those which focus on paint and body repairs, present high risks. The reparation process of an automobile involves many operations on which the shop professional may use several different tools that may compromise his physical well-being.
According to Eurostat, in the year 2015, there were 3.876 fatal accidents in the workplace in all the European Union countries (EU); these add up to 102 more deaths than the previous year. Furthermore, three-quarters of the non-fatal workplace-related accidents were superficial wounds and injuries; dislocations, sprains and muscle strains; or cerebral concussion and internal injury.
Most high-risk activities present at the body shop differ from the ones that occur in the paint area. In regard to panel reparations, the most frequent procedures that may involve some risk have to do with cleaning operations, degreasing, and the administration of chemical products; and the use of tools in general-- assembling and dismantling car body components, paint and exterior casing removal, sanding, soldering, or replacing and repairing auto glass. All these activities must be performed with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Risks Related with the Paint Area
Nonetheless, the painting area also entails its own particular risks for the car painter professional, who must be well aware of the same in order to avoid them or, at the very least, be able to minimize their impact on his health and those around him. Dust, noise, fumes, vapours… are all fatal enemies for the technician who is carrying out his job, particularly in the spray booth.
Why is it that the spray booth plays such an important role in managing the occupational hazards at the body shop? It is basically because it can achieve some ideal workplace conditions which cannot be reached in any other area of the car shop. Furthermore, it can retain high quantities of paint particles thanks to the forced air circulation which sucks the remnants that come from the spray guns. In this way, when inside the booth, the painter works under controlled conditions that minimise the occupational hazards and protects his health.
Safety Inside the Booth
Having the tools and protective equipment in good condition as well as a powerful ventilation and extraction system are the keys to guarantee the painter´s health and safety. Making the correct investment in these elements will translate into fewer absences from work.
First of all, it has to be taken into account that during the re-painting process, chemical substances that can affect the eyes and the respiratory system are released which makes wearing a face mask a key element to protect the painter from inhaling dust particles and chemical substances. Face masks can be disposable or reusable.
Secondly, there are two moments when safety goggles must be used to avoid being exposed to probable splashing and particles reaching the eyes, which could cause eye damage. First, when the paint is getting ready for its use; this involves transferring liquids from one recipient to another and shaking them so that the mixture is homogenised. The second moment that may present a risk for the worker is when applying and cleaning the equipment and tools. Note that if using ultraviolet drying, specific safety goggles are also necessary as well because a prolonged exposure to this type of radiation may cause irreversible eye damage.
Noise. Work inside the painting area does not usually get very noisy. However, when several pieces of equipment are connected at the same time (suction, booth, sanding machine, etc.) the noise levels can go over 80 decibels, making the use of auditory protection necessary, whether these are internal (ear foam plugs) or external (ear muff plugs). All these protective devices indicate the average level of protection they render, measured in db, where the acronym SNR is showed.
Disposable gloves are not to be forgotten either. Disposable latex and nitrile gloves are designed to handle chemical and non-chemical compounds. Neither of them has talcum powder and they are resistant to disinfectants.
The greatest protection includes long sleeves, long trousers, and a special comprehensive tracksuit (with a hood) designed to avoid chemical hazards. Also, let us not forget about wearing appropriate safety footwear.
Spray Booth Maintenance
In this same way, it is fundamental to keep the spray booth in perfect condition. Thus, it is necessary to perform regular maintenance work for each of its different parts for optimal performance. For instance, cleaning of the walls (every 15 days and repainting every 3 months in case no protective system is being used); cleaning of the floor slats (it is recommended that these be cleaned, at least once a year, using pressurised water); and cleaning of the lamps (these should be cleaned regularly in order to prevent dust and dirt from diminishing the brightness level).
At the same time, the rubber door seals must be inspected (every six months) to check that there is not any damage that may develop in a loss of pressure and the consequent increment of fuel consumption. The extraction turbine’s rubber seals must also be checked (an annual cleansing is recommended as well as checking the high belt tensions).
Replacing the filters is also recommended. For instance, the pre-filters, placed at the entrance of the turbine, must be replaced after 800 hours work, the ceiling filters must be replaced after 1.200 hours work, and the floor filters every 150-200 hours work.
A paint booth is an investment for any car paint shop, which is why it is necessary to extend its lifespan through regular maintenance work which will keep its functionalities and protect the professional from any problem that may affect his health.