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Having your office re-painted could be hazardous to your employees... let me tell you more

by , 18 July 2013
If you expose your employees to hazardous chemicals then you must protect them from harm. Hazardous Chemical Substances (HCS) are chemicals present in the workplace that can cause harm to you or the environment.

This includes dust, paint, fuel and solvents.

Yes, even paint can be hazardous to your employees' health!


Let's look at a question from one of our subscribers to the Health and Safety Expert to get the


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Are paint fumes hazardous?

Johan's company decided to have their offices repainted. They bought enamel, solvent based paint for the painting of the inside walls. He was then faced with a number of unhappy employees with complaints about the paint fumes inside the buildings.

Johan wants to know if the paint fumes are hazardous.
Here's the answer from Nell Browne, our Health and Safety Expert

The solvent based paint is most hazardous to the people doing the painting and they should wear fume masks.

The solvents from the paint are hazardous and do affect the Central Nervous System (CNS) of the body. People who've been exposed to vapours can experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, tingling sensations, sleepiness etc.

The fumes will evaporate over a period of time and these symptoms will go away. It isn't a long-term risk to the people in your building.

Additional hazards could be to sensitive individuals and pregnant women.

You must get the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on the paint from your supplier for all the possible hazards. You also must make sure the newly painted areas are well ventilated so the fumes can disperse quickly.

In future, it would be advisable not to use solvent based paints in areas where people are working all the time.


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7 ways to prevent exposure to hazardous chemical substances (HCS)

  1. Implement engineering controls to demarcate and contain hazards, e.g. provide extraction fans for better ventilation.
  2. Provide protective clothing and equipment (PPE), such as masks.
  3. Provide separate facilities for eating, changing, washing and smoking. Encourage good personal hygiene and housekeeping.
  4. Train and educate your employees about risk, precautions, control measures and PPE. Include first aid training and what to do in an emergency.
  5. Ensure there is an Occupational Hygiene Programme in place to measure and monitor occupational exposure limits (OEL) in the environment, e.g. Biomarker (wearing a marker of exposure to measure the hazard) to assess if a health hazard exists.
  6. Provide medical surveillance and biological monitoring on site to measure and monitor possible exposures.
  7. Staff must report any damaged or defective plant equipment or PPE to a supervisor or safety representative.

Make sure you comply with the HCS regulations of the OHSA or you could face some heavy penalties! To find out more about HCS and how to train your employees on them read Chapter H02 of the Health and Safety Training Manual.

Remember you can also get your questions answered and answer other people's questions - all you have to do is register on the Health and Safety Club, It's FREE



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