Surface Preparation >> Mechanical Removers

Surface prep includes mechanical paint removal operations such as abrasive blasting, flame removal, use of power tools (e.g., needleguns, scalers, sanding) and the use of high-pressure equipment. These operations may expose workers to:

Some of these operations may also be considered Hot Work (including Welding, Cutting and Brazing).

Note: Confined space entry is one of the leading hazards associated with barge cleaning. Review the Shipbuilding: Confined and Enclosed Spaces and Other Dangerous Atmospheres chapter for information on how to protect workers from this hazard.

Figure 2: Drums and containers of flammable cleaning solvents

Potential Hazards

Mechanical paint removal operations include the following hazards:

Figure 3: Worker spray painting in enclosed space increases fire hazard
  • Working in or around spaces that are not "gas free."
  • Flammable and combustible residues (e.g., combustible dust, oil residue).
Figure 4: Warning sign clearly informs workers of fire and explosion hazards of smoking and hot work in a spray area

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • Equipment that can generate static electricity (e.g., ventilation systems, abrasive blasting) must be grounded/bonded. [29 CFR 1915.13(b)(11)]
  • Hot work must not be performed in the space and/or adjacent spaces when flammable or combustible cleaning solvents are being used. [29 CFR 1915 Subpart P]
  • Flame or heat must not be used to remove soft or greasy coatings. [29 CFR 1915.34(b)(2)]
Figure 5: Shipyard Competent Person testing flammability and other hazards in spray area

Additional Resources

Figure 6: Workers protected from toxic cleaning solvents

Potential Hazards

Mechanical paint removal operations produce dust, which may present significant health hazards when used in confined or enclosed spaces. Hazards include:

  • Dry ice (C02) when used as blast media.
  • Heavy metal dust including lead, arsenic, cadmium, chrome and beryllium.
  • Silica dust.
  • Toxic fumes produced by flame removal of paint.
Figure 7: Ventilation provided for painting in confined space

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • Ensure adequate ventilation to maintain concentrations below the PEL. [29 CFR 1915.34(a)(4)]
  • Airline respirators may be necessary if ventilation is not adequate.
  • Abrasive blasters working in enclosed and confined spaces must be protected by hoods and airline respirators. [29 CFR 1915.34(c)(3)]
  • When not working in enclosed and confined spaces, abrasive blasters must be protected with appropriate respirators. [29 CFR 1915.34(c)(3)(ii)]
  • Other employees near the area of operation require appropriate respiratory protection. [29 CFR 1915.34(c)(3)(ii)]
  • Respiratory protection for heavy metal and silica dusts require as a minimum a high efficiency filter (HEPA). See Respiratory Protection eTool.
  • Workers must be protected by an airline respirator when doing flame removal of paint. [29 CFR 1915.34(b)(1)]
  • Respirators must be NIOSH approved and used in accordance with 29 CFR 1915.154. [29 CFR 1910.134]
Figure 8: Airline respirator for use when ventilation does not provide adequate safety

Additional Resources

Figure 9: Improper practice - Ventilation hoses blocking exit from opening

Potential Hazards

When working in confined or enclosed spaces workers may become trapped and unable to exit due to:

Figure 10: Special ventilation hose (flat) to avoid blocking exit
  • Improperly located equipment.
  • Ventilation ducts and hoses running through the opening.
Figure 11: Two access holes for equipment or access

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • When employees work in confined spaces with limited access, the access must not be blocked or impeded by ventilation ducts, hoses or other equipment. [29 CFR 1915.76(b)(2)]
  • More than one means of access must be provided where practical. [29 CFR 1915.76(b)(1)]
  • Additional openings should be provided for ducts, hoses, and other equipment.
Figure 12: Improper practice - Wet and oily surfaces create slipping hazard

Potential Hazards

Workers performing surface preparation are exposed to slick conditions and tripping hazards.

Figure 13: Improper practice - Tripping hazards due to poor housekeeping
  • Slipping and falling on oily decks.
  • Slipping on slick, wet or grit covered surfaces.
  • Tripping over equipment, hoses, and vessel structures.
  • Pressure changes causing surges in blast hoses.
Figure 14: Lead racks used to remove tripping hazards (welding leads, hoses, etc.) from the deck

Requirements and Example Solutions

Figure 15: Improper practice - Improper use of step ladder

Potential Hazard

Fall hazards are a leading cause of shipyard fatalities. Shipyard employees are often required to work in dangerous environments that may include fall hazards. Accidents involving elevation equipment such as ladders and scaffolds are often serious, even fatal.

Figure 16: Improper practice - Several unguarded deck openings

Abrasive and Water Blasting

  • Surges from drops in pressure in the hose line may be able to throw the worker from the work surface.
  • Blasting can create static electricity. This may shock the worker and result in a fall.
Figure 17: Properly guarded deck edges

Deck Openings and Edges

  • Falls from deck openings.
  • Falls into open holes.
Figure 18: Worker on scaffold protected by guardrails


  • Falls from ladders.
  • Falls from scaffolds.

Requirements and Example Solutions

Abrasive and Water Blasting

  • Blasters shall be protected by proper fall protection. [29 CFR 1915.34(c)(3)(v)]
  • Blasters who's vision is obstructed by the hood, shall not work from ladders. [29 CFR 1915.77(c)]
  • Blaster should wear appropriate boots and gloves to insulate from static electricity.
  • Blasting equipment should be grounded and bonded.

Guarding of Deck Openings and Edges

  • Openings and deck edges must be guarded. [29 CFR 1915.73]
  • Flush manholes and other small openings must be guarded after opening. [29 CFR 1915.73(b)]
  • During the installation of guards on large openings and deck edges, fall protection (e.g., harness with lanyard) must be used. [29 CFR 1915.73(d)]
  • When floor plates or gratings (e.g., bilges, engine rooms, pump rooms, machinery spaces) are removed, the openings must be guarded or planked. [29 CFR 1915.73(f)]

Fall Protection for Scaffold Work

  • Guardrails or other appropriate fall protection shall be used when working on scaffolds five feet above surfaces. [29 CFR 1915.71(j)]
  • Fall protection must be used during the installation of guards on scaffolds. [29 CFR 1915.73(d)]
  • Maritime Labor/Industry recommends that personal fall protection including lanyards and harnesses be used and secured during installation of guardrails.
Figure 19: Full body suit can increase potential heat related illnesses for worker

Potential Hazards

Environmental hazards include temperature, humidity, and air movement within the work area. A combination of PPE use, heat producing equipment, work activity, and environmental conditions can cause temperature related illnesses.

Heat related illnesses include:

  • Heat Stress
  • Heat Stroke
  • Heat Cramps
  • Dehydration
Figure 20: Air supplied to hood also reduces heat related problems

Cold related illnesses include:

  • Hypothermia
  • Frost Bite

Additional Resources

  • OSHA Technical Manual (OTM). OSHA Directive TED 01-00-015 [TED 1-0.15A], (January 20, 1999). Identifies heat stress as part of the evaluation process in the following:
    • Heat Stress. Contains useful sections on the signs and symptoms of heat stress, sampling methods, control suggestions, and guidelines for investigating heat stress in the workplace.
  • Heat Stress. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page.
Figure 21: Workers can be trained to recognize and avoid temperature related hazards

Example Solutions

The following are recommended for heat related illnesses:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Use a cooling vest.
  • Take breaks in shaded or cooled areas.
  • Use ventilation.
  • Reduce the inner temperature of work spaces by using water sprinklers on outside metal surfaces.
  • Conduct awareness training.

It is recommended that the following be implemented to prevent cold related illnesses:

  • Wear appropriate insulated PPE.
  • Use warming areas for breaks.
  • Conduct awareness training.

Potential Hazards

The use of high pressure equipment may expose the operator as well as bystanders to the following hazards:

  • Contact with high-pressure steam, water, or air streams from cleaning equipment.
  • Contact by uncontrolled high-pressure hoses.
  • Contact with steam, water, or air leaks from high-pressure equipment.

Injuries associated with these hazards include:

  • Loss of body parts (e.g., fingers, hands, etc.)
  • Lacerations
  • Burns
  • Loss of sight

Requirements and Example Solutions

Figure 22: Portable electrical tools must be double insulated or properly grounded

Potential Hazards

Employees who work with electrical equipment in wet or damp locations have an increased risk of getting shocked or electrocuted due to:

  • Faulty electrical connections in power tools.
  • Open lighting parts.
  • Broken insulation on power cords.
  • Blasting may cause shocks from static electricity.
Figure 23: Worker inspecting broken insulation on power cable

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • Portable electrical tools must be grounded or double insulated. [29 CFR 1915.132(a)]

  • Temporary lighting must be grounded. [29 CFR 1915.82(b)(8)]

  • Power and lighting cables must be inspected by a person competent to evaluate electrical hazards. (Note: This is not the Shipyard Competent Person). [29 CFR 1915.36(a)(5)]

Figure 24: Visual inspection takes defective welding tong out of service
  • All electrical tools or equipment should undergo a visual inspection prior to use.
  • All portable electric hand tools and temporary lighting systems should utilize Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI).
  • Electrical tools and equipment should correspond with the requirements of the job.
  • Electrical equipment and tools should be used with proper circuit protection for the voltage and amperage used.
  • Only qualified electricians should attempt repair of electrical tools and equipment in use.
  • A Ground Assurance Program should be in place for all electrical tools and equipment used including:
    • Records of tools inspected and repaired.
    • Records of electrical boxes inspected and repaired.
    • Records of electrical extension cords inspected and repaired.
    • Recall of records of the above.
  • The requirements of the Ground Assurance Program should be performed on a regular basis.

Potential Hazards

Mechanical paint removal produces excessive amounts of noise, which may cause hearing loss. Some of the loudest operations include:

  • Abrasive Blasting
  • Needle Gunning
  • Scaling
  • Grinding

Requirements and Example Solutions

Additional Resources

Potential Hazards

Mechanical paint removal operations may expose workers to impact from:

  • Blasting agents (e.g., sand)
  • Sparks
  • Mental particles
  • Grinding debris
  • Paint debris

Injuries may include

  • Particles becoming imbedded in the skin
  • Eye damage
  • Skin burns
  • Skin trauma

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • Proper use of PPE.
  • Portable rotating tools must be adequately guarded to protect both the operator and nearby workers from flying objects. [29 CFR 1915.34(a)(2)]