When a powder-coat medium works together with the necessary equipment and procedures, certain safety measures should be utilized to ensure the well-being of those involved with any powder-coating processes.
Here are some basic safety procedures that responsible operators would utilize when any item – regardless of size – would go through powder-coating which involve electrostatic operations. The types of protective measures that should be taken during the powder coating procedures would be too numerous to mention, but the following serves as a good starting point.
As expected, coating powders can create airborne dust; and they should be dealt with, appropriately, since they may cause adverse skin or respiratory reactions. When working outside of the spray enclosure, be sure to wear a disposable dust mask. If, however, dust levels exceed the TLV, it is prudent to wear half-masks with cartridge filters. When working inside the spray enclosure, full-face masks with a fresh-air supply need to be worn.
Ideally, the installation of properly-constructed spray booths should be equipped with exhaust ventilation components designed to extract dust and maintain airborne concentrations. Additionally, the direction of the airflow should be from behind the operator, over the workpiece, and into the exhaust ducts. Respiratory protective equipment should be worn, also, when packages of powder coats are opened, hoppers are loaded, and when unused powders are collected. If you suffer from allergies or have difficulty breathing due to certain physiological conditions, avoiding powder-coating procedures, altogether, is prudent.
An extra safety precaution would include the powder-supply and coating-powder feedlines being interlocked with the air-extraction system. The reason for this is simple: in the event of the ventilation system failing, the coating powder and powder supplies would be cut off. Airflow monitor switches would detect any failure of the ventilation system. When cleaning any spills and equipment, dust-tight vacuum cleaners and/or wet brushing are preferred clean-up methods.
Electrical hazards can emerge if one does not take basic precautions. Protective clothing should be worn to limit skin exposure; and overalls, footwear, and gloves should be anti-static and meet the requirements of ISO 2023/2024. Protective covering is, especially, important in situations where powder coating concentrations exceed 10mg/m3.
Conditions that lead to combustion can be difficult to recognize. To avoid combustion, methodically and regularly cleaning powder build-up from part fixtures and racks is essential. Excess powder coating on metal fixtures or racks creates resistance to ground. Poor grounding is the No. 1 cause of fire in a finishing system.
As a side-note, automatic sprinklers are required in a powder booth, as deemed necessary by OSHA. Additionally, NFPA requires automatic fire suppression and flame-detection equipment (for automatic systems) inside booths.
Common-sense prohibitions from eating, drinking and smoking should be employed in any work area – smoking, matches, and lighters, of course, are predictably dangerous sources of ignition.
The oven should be positioned a minimum of 3 feet from the powder spraying installation; and powder should not allowed to accumulate or be spilled near the oven, the air intakes, any hot surfaces, or any electrical components. With conveyor ovens, the conveyor could, possibly stop; and to circumvent this possibility, an interlock should be in place to maximally reduce or shut down the energy source to prevent overheating and possible ignition of the coating powder.
Though there is far more to be covered concerning safety regarding powder application and recovery, powder coating has the potential to be dangerous if appropriate safety precautions are not taken, seriously. Safety should, always, be the top concern during any phase of the powder coating process.