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WorkSafe campaign to look closely at powder coating activities

27 August, 2009

WorkSafe inspectors are conducting a targeted inspection campaign looking at businesses whose activities include powder coating.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said that previous inspection activity had established that safety and health concerns around powder coating activities may be widespread.

“Inspectors conducted a pilot study which uncovered a lack of awareness of some of the hazards in the industry, and this has led to a campaign to help ensure that employers and workers are made aware of the potential risks,” Lyhne said.

“Powder coating is a process in which the coating is applied electrostatically and is then cured under heat to allow it to flow and form a “skin”.

“In the past, the powder contained a very hazardous substance known as TGIC. This substance has been removed in most of the major brands, but inspectors have discovered that there may be some cheap powders being imported that still contain TGIC.

“We need to ensure that businesses using these hazardous coatings are aware of the precautions they need to be taking to ensure the safety and health of their workers.

“Even if the powder being used does not contain hazardous substances, workplaces still need to be aware of the nuisance value of dust and the fact that it can become combustible if combined with an ignition source.

“Inspectors also suspect a widespread lack of awareness in the powder coating industry of the hazardous nature of some other chemicals commonly used, especially hydrofluoric acid solutions and chromic acid solutions, a known carcinogen.

“Hydrofluoric acid is of particular concern because contact with skin at high concentrations can be fatal, and specific first aid measures must be available in workplaces where it is used. Powder coaters also need a permit from the Health Department to use hydrofluoric acid with a concentration greater than one per cent.

“These are just some of the safety issues that inspectors have identified in the powder coating industry, and the aim of the inspection campaign is to provide employers with the information they need to comply with safety and health laws.”

Powder coating businesses will be randomly selected and inspected between now and April next year, with the results of the campaign expected to be available by July 2010.

Contact has been made with the industry so employers can be aware of the campaign and what will be expected when an inspector visits.

In addition to the issues already mentioned, inspectors will look at WorkSafe’s priority areas including manual handling, electricity, new and young workers and slips, trips and falls.

“We firmly believe that raising awareness with proactive campaigns is the best way in which to lessen the risk of work-related illness and injury,” Lyhne said.

“In the case of the powder coating industry, the potential risks are quite serious and the consequences of not instituting safe systems of work could be disastrous, so we aim to spread the word on safety in the industry as effectively as we can.”

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