U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Surface Preparation and Preservation
Common Hazards Associated with Surface Preparation and Preservation
Common hazards in surface preparation and preservation include: overexertion and heat stress, falls, chemical exposure, fires and explosions, as well as other traumatic and acute injuries.
Overexertion is the most frequently observed hazard. Shipyard workers are at risk of overexertion when performing surface preparation and preservation operations. This is mainly the result of the physical demands of the work, plus the heat stress burden from the protective clothing and respiratory equipment that workers must wear to reduce exposure to airborne particles and chemicals.
Abrasive blasting work environments require workers to continuously relocate heavy hoses and redirect blast nozzles. Paint removal and spray painting often require repeatedly moving hoses at the work site and relocating and filling pressurized paint containers. These activities, combined with heavy and heat-trapping protective clothing contribute to employees' risk of overexertion.
Overexertion and Heat Stress
Abrasive blasters have a demanding job. The addition of PPE to prevent chemical exposures amplifies the physical stress of the task, increasing the potential for overexertion.
It is important to remember that while protective measures help to seal out the hazard, they may also seal in heat and inhibit the body’s ability to adapt to thermal stress.
Abrasive blasters must wear some of the heaviest protective clothing found in shipyards. Their jobs require them to pull heavy blast hoses through tight spaces while managing air lines that supply their full-face respirators. They constantly wrestle with the force of blast nozzles to redirect streams of abrasive grit, while working in awkward positions. Spent grit accumulates on walking surfaces, making movement through the work area even more difficult.
Though protective clothing and respiratory equipment used by painters are typically not as heavy, heat and moisture can still become trapped. In addition, the work location needs to be factored in as a possible contributor to overexertion as a result of thermal stress. For example, paint buildings can accumulate heat at the upper levels of the workspace, and outdoor spray painting activities may expose workers to direct sunlight. Heat from direct sunlight can also accumulate in drydock and graving dock spaces.
In addition, painting jobs can be physically demanding, requiring workers to handle large paint buckets while replenishing supply containers, as well as sustaining awkward postures for long periods of time that can lead to overexertion.
Typical protective clothing worn by workers engaged in surface preparation and preservation activities.
Example of tight and awkward positions workers must face, while wearing heat-trapping protective clothing during surface preparation and preservation activities.