U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Hot Work
Hazard: Over Exposure to Harmful Substances
A worker performing hot work on a bulkhead stripped back the paint four inches where the welding was to be done and began working. As the heat passed through the bulkhead the epoxy paint on the other side of the bulkhead in the adjacent space began to smolder. Several employees working in the adjacent space were quickly affected by the noxious fumes and exited the space. Their eyes were burning and their throats were already becoming sore.They were advised to go to the medical department for treatment. One of the employees was suffering considerably more than the others. Her medical record revealed a preexisting sensitivity to epoxies, due to past exposures.
Analysis and Preventive Measures
This accident could have easily been prevented. Whenever possible, hot work should be completed before painting is done. Some shipyards employ a technique called "no paint mark up," that identifies areas where hot work will be required later and no paint is applied until after the hot work has been completed. Others mask areas where hot work will be required before painting. These techniques are often not possible in repair work. However in new ship construction some rework after painting is inevitable. Prior to starting work the supervisor and the worker should ensure that the work set up includes checking the bulkhead, deck, or overhead in the space opposite where hot work is to be performed. If paint or some other coating is present it should be removed from the area to be heated. Alternatively, workers can be removed from the adjacent area or protected by some other means. Attention should also be given to any insulating materials that may be behind or between bulkheads that could potentially produce smoke, fumes, or gasses when heated.
It is always a good practice to check the backside of any bulkhead and take necessary precautions before commencing hot work.