When applying epoxy coatings, there are precautions that your contractor must take to protect his installers and you, the customer. Is your contractor using proper techniques, safety equipment, and low-VOC epoxy coating products?
Protecting the Installers
Installers of epoxy coatings use hand grinders and large diamond grinders to prepare the concrete before coating. This is necessary to create a concrete “profile” so that the applied epoxy will properly adhere. But this process produces airborne dust and prolonged occupational noise. During mixing and application, installers make direct and indirect contact with epoxy products. These and other activities thus expose the installer to potential short-term physical and chemical hazards, and the longer-term hazards associated with breathing airborne dust.
Because they work each day under these conditions, it is important that they are furnished with personal protective equipment. Safety glasses, ear plugs, gloves, protective clothing, respiratory masks, dust masks and knee pads are examples of protective equipment that should be used on a regular basis.
Protecting the Customer
But it’s not just the installers. When hand and diamond grinding takes place during concrete preparation, a very fine dust is created (“respirable crystalline silica”). This dust can seep into a home’s doorways and ventilation systems and produce a potential inhalation hazard for the customer.
The good news is that none of this exposure is necessary. All you need is a responsible contractor that takes proper safety measures, uses low-VOC epoxy products, and ensures the installers use personal protective equipment.
What Can the Contractor Do?
Before the first grinder is turned on, turn the home’s ventilation off. Tape the spaces around access doors and the space between the bottom of each access door and floor. Tape plastic over the ventilation intake ducts and exhaust outlets.
During hand grinding or diamond grinding, ensure your installers use dust-reduction equipment. This includes a shroud and hose connecting the equipment to a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. This is critical to ensure air-borne dust is minimized. If you see clouds of dust emanating from the grinder, this is a bad sign! At the same time, the installers themselves must be fitted with a respirator mask and hearing protectors (ear muffs or ear plugs). By the way, these are minimum requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Once grinding is complete, avoid dry sweeping, dry brushing or the use of compressed air (leaf blowers) to clean up the residual dust. Instead, use industrial HEPA-filtered vacuums. And during this process, ensure the installers are wearing a respirator or a disposable dust mask.
Wherever possible, use low- or no-VOC epoxy products. During mixing and application of the epoxy coatings, ensure the installers are wearing a respiratory mask, gloves, protective clothing and safety glasses (especially during mixing).
What Can the Customer Do?
Make sure you hire a responsible contractor that does all these things to protect both the installers and you. Ask your contractor during the bidding process whether these protective measures are in place.
Does he or she use low VOC products? If yes, ask to see the Technical Data Sheets. Is dust-reduction equipment with HEPA filters used? Are the installers required to wear personal protective equipment? What techniques are used to ensure that you and your home are not exposed to unnecessary dust?
Ask all these questions and based on the response, hire a qualified professional installer of epoxy coatings. Don’t hire an inexperienced contractor or attempt a DIY…both can be unhealthy choices.
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