Compliance With Paints and Coatings Health and Safety Right-to-Know Laws
Since right-to-know laws require that managers make MSDSs readily available and explain them to users before exposure, managers make it a policy to provide comprehensive education. One effective way to implement this policy is to have a clearly marked right-to-know center that is centrally located and contains MSDS materials.
Managers also must ensure workers can understand and use MSDS information, which can contain more than 300 commonly used health and safety-related abbreviations. For example, permissible exposure limits (PEL) cover hazardous materials and expressed in milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) of air. PEL is a time-weighted average (TWA), which is the average exposure allowed during an eight-hour day. The TWA might be exceeded during some portions of the day, as long as this excess is offset by equal times when exposure is below the TWA.
In-house personnel must understand the MSDS before using the product, and it pays to have a list of these abbreviations and their meanings, and to use them as a part of the education process. In some cases, the MSDS abbreviation lists contain abbreviations without defining them. So managers need to search for and describe undefined acronyms. One example is ACGIH, which stands for American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists. This member organization establishes threshold limit values, (TLV), a different unit of measure than PEL for hazardous materials used in paint products.
A vendor's technical support group is an invaluable resource to help understand label and MSDS information, as well as to keep up to date with the latest developments in paints and coatings that best fit the applications. It also can assist with: inventorying paint supplies to recommend consolidating to reduce the inventory; upgrading to a combination primer and top coat; performing laboratory testing to develop solutions for difficult applications; and identifying more efficient application methods and other strategies to lower overall costs.
Two very important steps that combine safety awareness and effective paint job planning involve providing proper and working PPE, including respirators, and providing adequate ventilation. Other essential planning steps include providing frequent reminders about whom to contact and specific steps to follow for accidental release, fire, and first aid, as well as safety signage at paint lockers and in preparation areas.
The effective use of label and MSDS information can help managers achieve the goals of longer performance life, enhanced sustainability, a safe and satisfactory job, and lower cost.
This information, combined with common-sense specification guidelines — using paints with the green, environmentally friendly label; combining primers and top coats; measuring the area carefully, including making deductions for windows, door openings, and trim; specifying quantities according to label coverage instructions; buying in bulk to save even more on larger jobs when careful measurement is done; and using proper and safe application methods — can help managers achieve their goals for paint and coating applications.
Thomas A. Westerkamp is a maintenance and engineering management consultant and president of the work management division of Westerkamp Group LLC.