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CA Tank Painter’s Death Spurs Alert

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

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California occupational safety officials have issued a Fatality Alert about methylene chloride paint strippers after a painter died in a tank while using the toxic solvent.

The Fatality Alert is the second in recent weeks to warn of the deadly dangers of methylene chloride strippers. On Feb. 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a similar warning after linking the stripper to 13 accidental deaths in two years.

Painter Killed

The new Alert comes from the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health and was issued under California’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (CA/FACE) program.

 CA Department of Health

 CA Department of Health

The worker was removing dried paint inside a tank with a 2-by-7-foot opening (left). He was found unconscious at the bottom of 7-by-7-by-9-foot tank (right). A coworker was overcome by the toxic fumes when he attempted a rescue.

Officials said the worker had been using a methylene chloride-based chemical stripper to remove dried paint from the inside of a 7 x 7 x 9-foot tank at a paint manufacturing company when he was overcome by fumes. The tank had a 2 x 7-foot opening at the top and was a permit-required confined space under California OSHA regulations.

A co-worker who found the victim unconscious at the bottom of the tank was also overcome when he attempted a rescue. Such confined-space rescue attempts are frequently fatal to an untrained would-be rescuer. In this case, the co-worker survived after being hospitalized and treated for methylene chloride poisoning.

Authorities did not identify either of the victims, their employer or the plant’s location.

Lack of Ventilation, Training Cited

Authorities said the space had not been adequately ventilated and the victim had not been trained in confined-space entry. Nor had an attendant been stationed at the tank entrance as required to monitor the worker inside.

The cause of death was asphyxia due to inhalation of dichloromethane (methylene chloride). Authorities said the stripper contained at least 60% methylene chloride, methanol and mineral spirits.

The victim was wearing a cartridge respirator that did not adequately protect against the solvent vapors, and “proper testing, entry and rescue procedures were not in place to prevent both workers from being overcome by toxic vapors,” the Fatality Alert said.

50 Deaths

Federal OSHA has linked methylene chloride to more than 50 worker deaths since the mid-1980s, primarily from its use in poorly ventilated spaces, the Alert said. Many U.S. regulatory agencies consider the chemical a carcinogen, and it is banned from many uses in Europe.

The Fatality Alert advises employers to:

• Establish procedures to clean paint tanks more frequently with water-based materials, before the paint is cured;

• Use abrasive removal methods rather than chemical strippers to remove cured paint; and

• Train workers in confined-space safety and follow relevant OSHA regulations for such work, including providing proper ventilation, supplied air respiratory protection, air monitoring, communications, and means of rescue and retrieval.


Tagged categories: Coatings manufacturers; Fatalities; Health and safety; Methylene chloride; OSHA; Paint and coatings removal; Painters

Comment from Louis Hickman, (3/8/2012, 7:18 AM)

So sad. This is senseless.

Comment from Kevin Schweikhart, (3/8/2012, 8:03 AM)

I'm surprised you can still buy that stripper in CA. The government will likely move to completely outlaw it instead of just go with the OSHA fines for improper work environment, lack of training and human error.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/8/2012, 8:10 PM)

I have thought seriously about Not comenting on this, look at the picture of this tank guys What IDIOT is sending people in there with out ventelation Honestly if the person who was in charge is reading this article I pray first for the men and there families that we lost,now I pray you get locked up for 10 years for proffesional incompetance,this was senseless not quite sure you just didnt figure out after the first guy was lost to stop sending guys in there,it is people like you is why I want a data base to track the names of people who disregard safety like you and companies that actually hire you,I hope I get a project in california soon cause I will clean this mess you got going up BET on it!!!!!!! you cant fix STUPID

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/8/2012, 8:15 PM)

I bet you sent them in there with particulate cartidges and didnt think to change to vapor believe it or not I find this on bridges alot guys wondering why they are tasteing paint through there resperator Boston and new york.........kid you not

Comment from Scott Dandy, (3/11/2012, 6:01 PM)

Correct Spelling is; Commenting (not ccomenting),without (one word, not with out), ventilation (not ventelation), professional (not proffesional), incompetence (not incompetance), didn't (not didnt) can't (not cant), cartridges (not cartides) a lot (not one word alot), tasting (not tasteing), again respirator (not resperator) No, you can't fix stupid, but this is a good start.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/12/2012, 8:32 AM)

Did I miss the name of the employer somewhere in the article? I think it would be a service to the readers to know which paint plant employer was so callous with confined space safety.

Comment from Mary Chollet, (3/12/2012, 9:00 AM)

Tom, we have been trying to obtain this information. California DOL did not release it. We will provide details if/when we have them.

Comment from Mary Chollet, (3/12/2012, 3:56 PM)

CalOSHA advises that the manufacturer was Vista Paint. PaintSquare reported on this incident in November, although the chemical in question was not identified at the time as methylene chloride:

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/13/2012, 8:26 AM)

Thank you!

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