According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, automotive repair specialists, facility owners and industry specialists have cited a great need for compliance assistance because of the many hazards that result from materials and procedures used in the industry. Auto bodyworks garages have a particular need for safety precautions because of the many hazardous materials that technicians encounter, as well as potentially dangerous procedures they perform. As a result, the EPA has published manuals, documents and guides for auto body repair shops.
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Solvents and Other Hazardous Substances
Many of the chemicals and solvents used by auto body technicians are flammable substances that produce vapours. Inhaling vapours from these products can cause lung damage, brain cell damage and irritation to mucous membranes. Xylene, a component of many solvents, can affect the central nervous system and cause irritation to the throat, lungs and eyes. Accidental spills can also unknowingly expose technicians to hazards from vapour inhalation.
Airborne particles come from several sources in an auto bodyworks garage. Technicians frequently have to sand with orbital or inline sanders to remove rust, paint and coatings from vehicles. Particles from these substances enter the air when abrasion is applied to the car body. Additionally, isocyanate particles in airborne sprays such as paints, primers and clear coats can enter the lungs or can be absorbed by the skin. Isocyanates are highly reactive, low molecular chemicals that occur in paints, varnishes and coatings. These chemicals cause asthma, skin inflammation, irritation of the mucous membranes and problems in the gastrointestinal tract.
Although many automotive paints are safe, several of them contain paint pigments that can be hazardous to the user unless proper precautions are taken. Paint pigments may contain lead, cobalt, cadmium or other dangerous substances. These pigments can be absorbed through the skin or into the lungs, causing irritation, allergic reactions or brain damage.
Auto body technicians frequently use welding and cutting equipment to repair or remove body parts. They may also use chains and heavy machines to straighten car frames or panels. Utilising this equipment poses hazards to technicians because of the potential for fire, injury or death.
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- U.S. Department of Labor--OSHA Safety and Health Topics: Autobody Repair and Finishing
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Managing Worker Health and Safety
- Washington State Department of Labor and Industries: Collision Repair
- U.S. EPA: Consolidated Screening Checklist for the Automotive Repair Facilities Guidebook
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Isocyanates