Sanding, painting, or applying solvent or fillers is a daily duty of professional and practicing collision repair technicians. But no technician or hobbyist should ever put their health in danger for the perfect paint job.
At ATC, we take auto body painting safety seriously and our shop-based training sessions are always accompanied by the proper safety apparatus and procedures. We aim to arm our students with a sturdy foundation of the proper technique required for a quality result and the safety intuition that will help them go far in the industry.
Before you load your spray gun, remember the following:
1. Always Paint in a Ventilated Space
Paints and solvents contain harmful chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOC) that are immediately released into the air when a paint can is opened. Even after the job is complete, these vapors can stick around for up to 3 days.
While shop spray booths must meet strict standards for ventilation, DIY-ers should never paint in an enclosed space. Paint on a dry day, keep your garage door open, and equip windows with box fans that will aid in removing harmful fumes from the work area.
2. Use a Respirator
The auto body industry mandates the use of a respirator anytime you paint with a spray gun. An air-supplied respirator is the top choice of auto body shops.
In second place is a cartridge-based respirator that filters out chemicals before you breathe in. When filters are changed on a routine basis, cartridge respirators are a safe option.
Professionals working in shops are required by law to be test fitted for their respirator to ensure the correct fit and optimal protection.
3. Cover Exposed Skin
Not only can the chemicals that leech out from paint be harmful to our lungs, they can also be harmful to skin. Paints that contain isocyanates, most of which are found in two-part polyurethane-based paints, are particularly toxic to the skin and lungs.
Wear a full-body paint suit with a hood and nitrile gloves as well as safety glasses to protect yourself from exposure to these harmful elements. Expert auto body painters refer to these items as their personal protective equipment, or PPE.
4. Take Care of Spills Immediately
If you spill paint, stop what you’re doing and clean it up. Aside from posing as a physical hazard should you or someone else step into the spill, the chemicals can easily attach to the bottom of your shoes and get tracked to other areas of your workspace.
Additionally, always be mindful to keep paint can lids tightly closed between uses.
5. Read Your Paint Product’s MSDS
A paint’s material safety data sheet (MSDS) lists all harmful toxins in the paint you’re using. Paint manufacturers make this information available online and searchable by product, and auto body shops must keep an up-to-date MSDS on file for each product that’s readily accessible to employees.
Aside from knowing which chemicals the paint releases and at what degree, an MSDS will also give insight into pertinent prep and application information such as dry time, appropriate paint environment temperature, and cleanup requirements.
Time to Apply Our Painting Safety Tips
Whether you’re filling in a scratch or giving your ride a total color transformation, safety should always come first. By following the tips listed above, you’ll be able to continue your industry path or passion at home without jeopardizing your health.
Now that you know a little bit about the industry’s painting safety standards, check out how the pros color match and recreate a factory-level finish.