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Respiratory problems, skin irritation and fire are some of the common hazards facing painting operations. Fortunately, painting can be a straightforward, user-friendly activity when done properly. Following a few safety precautions should ensure potential hazards are avoided when completing any painting project, at home or at work.

Professional painting and decorating companies are responsible for the safety of their workers and the public. Scott Anson Painters is accredited with the highest level of health and safety certification as part of its commitment to health and safety. Selecting the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) should be the job of a specially appointed Shipyard Competent Person (SCP). Employers should also seek assistance from a Certified Marine Chemist (CMC) or Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) to establish correct PPE and maximise the safety of workers.

PPE selection guidelines include recommendations for the use of basic PPE for painting, consisting of a hooded chemical protection suit, respiratory protection, chemical-resistant boots and rubber gloves. Variations of recommended PPE may be required for spray or hand applications. Personal protection equipment must ensure that painters are protected from all forms of chemicals (solids, liquids, vapours, mists); the skin is protected from all spills, sprays and splashes; protection suits are hooded where there is any danger of face or neck exposure; and when respirators are used, hoods are sufficiently tightened to prevent interference with the face seal.

There are additional safety considerations such as wearing non-static-inducing materials, including shoe covers, when working with flammable solvents. Work boots should have slip-resistant soles when employees are operating on slippery surfaces. Gloves must be worn under the sleeves of the protective suit and the legs should go over the boots to minimise exposure.

With so much consideration given to health and safety operations in professional painting and decorating, it may be a daunting task for non-professionals when embarking on a painting venture. However, painting your own home can be safe and rewarding with proper respect for the task and some common sense. A personal painting project can be trouble-free with proper precautions in place.

Any area being painted should be well ventilated, with doors and windows opened and the use of fans, if available. A freshly painted room should not be occupied by anyone, especially young children, the elderly or pets. If proper ventilation is not possible, a respirator must be worn and work should be undertaken in short periods only. Safety goggles and a dust mask should be worn when sanding, and goggles kept on if using any chemicals such as paint stripper.

Floors should be protected with drop cloths made with cloth, not slippery plastic. Another important safety consideration should be the storage of the paint; not only can it dry out, but paint is usually highly flammable. Ladder safety should also be a priority as damaged ladders and over-stretching are common causes of accidents. Lastly, a careful and thorough clean-up should be done each day to reduce the risk of trip hazards or spontaneous combustion of chemicals.