OSHA Releases Marine Coatings Hazards Guide


The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released a new fact sheet regarding the hazards related to the use of preservative coatings in hot work processes.

The sheet, titled “Evaluation and Control of Hazards from Preservative Coatings during Hot Work on Vessels,” outlines the evaluation of preservative coatings on marine vessels and techniques for preventing exposures to toxic substances.

According to OSHA, while preservative coatings containing lead, chromium, cadmium, zinc or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been eliminated, potential for worker exposures to these compounds at dangerous concentrations still exist. When applying heat to preservative coatings used on vessels, such as paint, workers can be exposed to gases, vapors and aerosols that are flammable and harmful.

As a result of this inhalation exposure, workers can experience neurological, reproductive, developmental or respiratory damage. Fires and explosions can also result from the gases created from heating toxic preservative coatings.

It is recommended that, when using hot work processes, employers follow the most protective occupational exposure limits. Coatings should be sampled and evaluated by a professional to determine if hazards are present and ensure worker protection.

OSHA outlines several safety measures that must be taken prior to starting hot work where preservative coatings are present:

  • Evaluate work areas to identify potential hazards, including the atmospheric testing to ensure there are no concentrations of flammable vapors 10 percent or greater than the lower explosive limit;
  • Sample and test preservative coatings with unknown flammability to determine if hot work can be safely performed. Preservative coatings must be considered to be highly flammable when scrapings burn with extreme rapidity;
  • Remove highly flammable hardened preservative coatings from the location of intended heat application to prevent ignition. Verify that the method used for removing the flammable coating, such as chemical removers, will not cause a reaction, leading to fire or explosion; and
  • Strip toxic preservative coatings at least four inches on all sides surrounding the area of intended heat application, or provide workers with air line respirators in enclosed and confined spaces. Air purifying respirators must be worn by workers in open air operations during hot work on surfaces coated with toxic preservatives. Ensure filters, cartridges, or canisters used are appropriate for the specific air contaminant of exposure.

The recommended four inches should be assessed as a minimum distance, depending on the temperature of the heat process and surface area that the heat contacts. Because of this, the surrounding area of coatings should also be evaluated for hazardous substances.

One method to test this includes applying a 500 F temperature-indicating crayon, or temp-stick, to visually ascertain the area of heat application. Insufficient coating removal will be indicated if the crayon melts.

When possible, OSHA recommends that shipyard employers should also consider alternatives to hot work, including cold work. Artificial cooling equipment can be used to cool surface areas to limit the amount of preservative coatings that need to be removed.

A flow chart is also featured in the sheet, allowing users to determine the best processes when working with preservative coatings.


Tagged categories: Coating Materials; Coatings; Hazards; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Marine; Marine Coatings; NA; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Paint and coatings removal; Paint Removal; Program/Project Management; Protective Coatings; Regulations; Safety; Ships and vessels

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