The Painter’s Safety Kit: Essential Gear for Contractors

Painting your residential or commercial property in the Bay Area is essential to maintaining the building’s aesthetics and structural integrity. When looking for the best painters in the Bay Area, many homeowners and business owners are primarily concerned with the usual factors such as experience, reliability, quality workmanship, and cost. 

While these are essential points to focus on as people vet different contractors, they often tend to overlook another vital factor – the importance of safety.

Specifically, the right residential or commercial painting contractor for your next project should be licensed and fully insured and provide a solid safety program for its employees. Putting workplace safety as a top priority is one vital aspect you should never forget when looking for a contractor for your next paint project.

Safety is important for a couple of reasons. The first answer is obvious – no one wants to get hurt, right? You don’t want your home or commercial property damaged or your assets or investments at risk. The second answer is less obvious but just as crucial – a focus on safety indicates a sense of responsibility, commitment, and respect.

These are the hallmarks of a reputable painting contractor. Consistent and rigorous pursuit of quality, safety, improvement, standards, and the use of cutting-edge technology indicates that your painter is committed to their work, your property, and the well-being of everyone involved.

The common risks in paint jobs

Painting is less labor-intensive and more cost-effective compared to remodeling. However, it doesn’t mean it’s totally free of risk or hazard.

Painting a home or commercial building may get someone seriously sick or injured, like other trades or activities, if the right precautions are not taken. Here are some hazards that painters have encountered while on the job:

  • Trips and slips
  • Falls from heights
  • Falling objects 
  • Chemical exposure from paints, primers, thinners, cleaning products, etc. It could result in a range of short-term and long-term ailments, such as skin rashes from chemical burns, eye irritation, respiratory problems, kidney ailments, and certain cancers. The fumes from the chemicals in paint and other supplies can also trigger asthma.
  • Exposure to sanding dust can lead to occupational asthma, respiratory problems, and cancer
  • Lead exposure (especially when working with older buildings)
  • Lack of proper ventilation
  • Confined spaces
  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Exposure to mold and mildew
  • Exposure to mold and mildew
  • Extreme weather conditions, especially in exterior painting
  • High-frequency noise (which is more common in commercial painting projects than residential ones)

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Act in 1970 establishes and enforces safe workplace conditions and standards. This law establishes workplace standards to make sure that workers are protected from hazards that threaten their health and safety.

OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) when it is used to comply with OSHA standards, with just a few exceptions. These PPEs typically include face masks, respirators, hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, goggles, safety shoes, welding helmets and goggles, face shields, chemical protective equipment, and fall protection equipment.

Respiratory protection

  • Respirator – A painting respirator is usually worn over the mouth and nose to prevent paint fumes, paint mist, sanding dust, and other contaminants from getting into the wearer’s breathing zone. The respirator should fit tightly around the wearer’s face so that there’s no chance for contaminants and dust to get through the gaps in the mask. The N95 respirator is commonly used among professional painters. This is the best choice, especially when spraying paint.
  • 3M face mask – Most ideal for DIY home painters, this inexpensive and disposable half-mask will protect the wearer from VOC fumes.
  • Powered respirator – This purifies the air in addition to filtering it. It uses a pump to push the air into the hood the user wears. 

Eye and face protection

Eye protection should conform with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines, including goggles, safety glasses, and face shields.

  • Goggles – A pair of goggles protect the wearer’s eye from splatters, vapors from chemicals, paint mist from overspray, and sanding dust while painting. Some goggles have tinted lenses to help block the sun’s ultraviolet rays when working outdoors or glare when working under bright lights.
  • Safety glasses – Safety glasses with side shields protect your eye area from fumes and flying-object hazards such as floating sawdust. Many safety glasses are available tinted to protect the eyes against glare and the sun’s UV rays.
  • Face shield – A face shield guards your face from splashes, heat, glare, and flying particles. However, wearing a face shield alone doesn’t ensure eye, nose, or mouth protection, so the face shield is usually over other protective eyewear and/or face mask

Protective clothing

  • Overalls – Overalls have long sleeves and legs to protect the arms and legs from paint drips and sanding dust and a hood to protect the head from paint drips and splatters. They are usually worn over other clothes as protection. 
  • Coveralls – It is also another term for a similar type of clothing. Today, overalls and coveralls are also available in disposable options. Overalls and coveralls protect your body and clothes from paint drips and splatters and offer convenience and comfort.
  • Apron – An apron protects the wearer’s clothes underneath it from drips, splatters, splashes, spills, and smudges while painting.

Wear overalls or coveralls to ensure it doesn’t feel too tight or loose. It’s essential that an overall should fit just right for your body size.

Hand and foot protection

  • Gloves – A pair of good gloves will sufficiently protect both hands from skin rashes and allergies caused by chemicals from paint and similar products, as well as abrasions and cuts from sharp tools and rough surfaces. They should fit snugly around the fingers, palms, wrists, and knuckles to prevent paint, sanding dust, sharp objects, etc., from getting into them. Some gloves are reusable and can be washed properly, while others are disposable and thrown away after use.
  • Shoe covers – Shoe covers protect the wearer’s footwear and any exposed skin that could become irritated by contact with paint, sanding dust, cleaning chemicals, thinners, etc. Shoe covers are available in both disposable and reusable (that can be washed properly after use).
  • Safety footwear – The choice of footwear should depend on the present or potential hazards. It’s a good idea to assess the workplace and work activities that the employees work in. However, it is essential that all safety shoes for the workplace be slip-resistant and sufficiently protect the soles and toes because slips and falls can occur at any time, especially in wet, slippery, and greasy environments. For workers who are regularly exposed to heat, they need a pair of footwear that can withstand extremely high temperatures. On the other hand, high-cut safety boots are ideal for workers who are typically exposed to rough or damp environments. They also help keep the feet comfortable, clean, and dry.

Fall protection equipment

Both house and commercial painters often work at heights, such as painting the high ceiling of a home or painting a multi-story office building. Such activities require the use of raised surfaces such as step ladders, scaffolding, and mechanical lifts. Depending on the project’s working conditions and environment, it may involve various types of safety equipment. 

For working at heights, painters require the use of fall protection equipment, which is either designed to prevent workers from falling or designed to protect the workers should a fall (or an impact from a fall) occur. 

  • Hard hat – A hard hat protects the wearer’s head in the event of a possible impact caused by a falling object or collision during a fall.
  • Harnesses, safety belts, and carabiners – A fall restraint system shall protect the wearer from injurious or fatal falls. Harnesses, safety belts, and carabiners make up of a fall restraint system. The harness and belt are usually attached to a stable and stationary object (such as a railing) by way of carabiners, which are coupling links with a safety closure. These pieces of safety equipment are designed to ensure that the wearer will not hit the floor or ground if he slips and falls. 
  • Reflective safety vest or jacket – Painters working above ground should wear a reflective and high-visibility safety vest or jacket to be easily seen by others and protect themselves from potential hazards. These vests and jackets allow the worker to be seen and alert that someone is present, which is helpful, especially in low-visibility situations.
  • Lifelines and anchors – Painters working above ground should be tethered to anchors or lifelines to prevent them from falling to the ground if they slip, trip, or fall. Lifelines and anchors include all fall arrest and restraint systems that protect people working above ground instead of collective fall protection systems.
  • Roof guardrails and safety rails – Roof guardrails and safety rails are roof barriers that should be installed to protect the workers from falling off the edge or balcony. The guardrails should have self-closing safety gates together with the rails, especially if there is a point of access to an elevated area.
  • Covers and domes – When painting or construction is done on a roof, covers and domes should be installed over or around skylights or roof lights to prevent the painters or workers from falling through them.
  • Safety nets – OSHA requires that safety nets should be installed in workplaces that are 25 feet above (or greater) the ground or water surface or other surfaces where the use of ladders, scaffolds, temporary floors, catch platforms, safety lines, or safety belts is impractical.

Hearing protection

OSHA establishes that employers should implement a hearing conservation program when exposure to noise is at or above 85 decibels averaged over 8-work hours or an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA)

In addition, OSHA requires employers to provide hearing protectors available to all employees exposed to such high-frequency noise over eight working hours or an eight-hour TWA, free of charge. Hearing protection equipment shall be replaced as needed.

Commercial painters and other workers exposed to high-frequency noise on a regular basis should be provided by their employers with necessary hearing protection like high-attenuation earplugs and earmuffs. If the noise levels are too high or if a person has very sensitive hearing, earplugs and earmuffs can be worn together.

Work safety protection equipment

Safety gear maintenance and care

Care and maintenance of PPE is essential to keep them in good working condition and continue providing safety for the workers. 

  • Make sure to inspect PPEs before and after each use.
  • Take care of PPEs always.
  • Always clean and sanitize PPEs after use.
  • Refrain from sharing used PPEs, as this practice can result in high levels of accidental contamination.
  • Refrain from reusing disposable PPEs, either. When the label says “disposable,” you must throw the items away after use.
  • After using PPEs, store it in a clean and dry place, free from sunlight, moisture, and contaminants.
  • Repair or replace damaged PPEs.

Training and Awareness

Painters work in various environments – homes, commercial buildings, factories, industrial facilities, etc. – where they encounter various hazards. Therefore, protection for the paint crew is essential and necessary to minimize injuries and illnesses.

Suppose PPEs are to be used in the workplace. In that case, employers should provide their paint crew with a proper and solid health and safety training and awareness program to prepare them for any eventuality, protect themselves, and minimize risks. 

The PPE program should address the following:

  • The present and potential hazards of a workplace
  • The selection, maintenance, and use of PPEs
  • The training of employees
  • Monitoring of the program to ensure its ongoing effectiveness

Employers are required to train their employees who must use PPEs, while employees must be subjected to undergo training to make them aware of at least the following:

  • When PPE is necessary
  • What PPE is necessary
  • How to put on, take off, adjust, and wear PPE properly
  • The limitations of PPE
  • The proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of PPE

Employers must ensure that all employees demonstrate an understanding of the PPE training (e.g., in the language they understand) and the ability to properly use and wear PPE before they are permitted to work in environments that require PPE.

If the employers believe that an employee does not understand the PPE training, that employee should undergo another training. Other conditions or situations that require additional training or retraining of employees include changes in the work environment or in the type of required PPE, which may make the prior training no longer applicable.

Conclusion

Workplace safety, including exterior painting in Fremont, CA, is vital regardless of your industry. Thus, wearing safety equipment in the workplace is not an option but an absolute requirement. 

As residential and commercial painters are exposed to various hazards, their employers should provide them with a solid safety training program. The primary goal of a safety training program is to minimize the risk of illness, injury, or fatality to workers through the proper use of PPE. 

The proper use of PPEs and compliance with industry safety standards are still the most reliable solution to minimize risk among employers and their paint crew, protect their assets and properties, and establish a safe working environment. Any responsible paint service company in the Bay Area and elsewhere always ensures that its paint crew uses the proper safety equipment on the job.

When you’re ready for a large painting project to be completed, contact Custom Painting, Inc. by calling 510-795-0903 or by completing the contact form on our website.