Think carefully before using epoxy. If you do use it, there is no room for errors. Just a single mistake can lead to allergy and eczema for the rest of your life.
You do not need to be exposed to epoxy for years before getting a condition that stays with you for life and reduces your options for your work, career, pay and quality of life.
The message was clear in January when SEAHEALTH held a go-home-meeting on avoiding epoxy paint. There are better alternatives. But if you do, think very carefully. Follow all the 10 (+2) commandments for using epoxy.
”Try using something else”
It is no secret that Anne Ries, who is a chemist and senior consultant at SEAHEALTH, is critical about the increasing use of epoxy. ”Try using something else. There are excellent alternatives. Epoxy is not easy to use and it is full of hazards too,” points out Anne, who is then often told: ‘But it lasts longer.’
A claim that she doubts is true.
Because epoxy paint is a so-called 2 component paint. The two components must be mixed very precisely according to weight and the paint must be applied to a clean, dry surface which is difficult to achieve at sea.
It sounds simple but if mixing is not done exactly as described and if the surface is not dry and clean, epoxy paint does not last longer than other paint. Moreover, there is a risk that it does not even harden properly.
Dust from epoxy paint is not dangerous once it has dried up but if it gets hot, during welding for example, it may in some cases give off vapour that can be harmful to health. You should also be aware of the dangers of the organic solvents in your exterior paint. They can lead to cancer and brain damage.
There has been a new focus ashore on epoxy and the consequences of incorrect handling in the wake of two very widely publicised cases from Siemens and Vestas. Several employees there contracted serious allergies and eczema because they had been using epoxy in making wind turbine blades.
”Before we heard about these cases, it was as if nobody was taking epoxy and its hazards seriously,” said Peter Herskind from the Confederation of Danish Industry at the SEAHEALTH go-home-meeting.
He was a member of the commission appointed by the Minister of Employment after hearing about the many industrial injuries at Siemens and Vestas. Jan Toft Rasmussen from the Danish Metalworkers’ Union also agreed that the quality of epoxy training courses should be improved and so also the training of individuals working with epoxy. They jointly sent 20 recommendations to the Minister of Employment, Troels Lund Poulsen.
See the recommendations on our webpage www.seahealth.dk
The 10 Commandments + 2
1. Consider substitution.
2. Requirement for training when using hazardous chemicals at work. For painting, this is described in SEAHEALTH’s training film and associated booklet: ”Chemicals - Take care of yourself and others, from knowledge to practice.”
3. Individuals with eczema, allergy and asthma must not use epoxy.
4. Spray painting forbidden.
5. A risk assessment must be done and workplace user instructions must be available for all painting, as must the manufacturers’ safety data sheet. The Health and Safety at Sea software programme can help you manage the chemicals you have on board.
6. Other people must be kept away.
Barriers to be erected around the work with a warning of epoxy
painting. It is important to keep barriers in place for the entire curing process.
7. Separate changing room must be available with access to showers for people using epoxy. Wash basins must not have manually operated taps.
8. Use good prevention practice such as long-handled rollers to keep individuals away from breathing vapours.
9. If the surface temperature is 35° C or more, increase the first Code Number by 1.
10. Since it is absolutely vital to prevent all skin contact, use protective gloves (e.g. 4H or Nitrile gloves) and replace them after use (max. 4 hours). Special protective clothing and face masks must also be used. +1. Other health hazards – protection against inhaling solvents, for example. Here it is important to provide the right kind of breathing protection (filter/air-supply). Use the Code Number table.
+2. Paints containing the solvent xylene also contain ethyl benzene which is a carcinogen. SEAHEALTH is often asked about registering personnel for a period of 40 years after having worked with these substances. This rule relates to substances that cause cancer.