No matter the industry, safety boils down to the habits you form.
Kaser’s safety program has evolved over the years. We’ve gone from a single employee to a team of twelve. As the workload grows, so do the risks; but no matter how sophisticated the safety protocols become, your safety in the powder booth depends on two things: 1. Your employer giving you the resources you need to stay safe; and 2. You choosing to use them.
Powder coating is physically demanding.
Let’s start with the fact that you’re on your feet all day, on a concrete floor. Factor in that between the oven and Nebraska’s humid summers, the shop’s temperature will be above 100 degrees F at times. Add on a full-body Tyvek suit and thousands of pounds’ worth of metal parts to move around every day, and you’re in for a sweaty experience.
Of course, we take precautions. I close the shop early when the heat index gets too high. I supply bottled water and sports drinks. Whenever possible, we hang parts on rolling carts to minimize lifting strain.
Powder coating poses (avoidable) respiratory risks.
While powder coating materials aren’t inherently dangerous, dust inhalation is unhealthy. I provide a full-face respirator, which must be worn at all times during spraying. Employees must also be clean shaven, so that the respirator forms a tight seal against the face.
I spend a lot of my time reminding employees to clean, store, and maintain their respiratory equipment. If you’re considering a career in powder coating, take note – you will be expected to form a co-dependent relationship with your respirator. Failure to do so could result in disciplinary measures or, worse yet, a risk to your health.
Powder coating poses (avoidable) auditory risks.
Hearing loss is permanent and debilitating. I provide all employees with hearing protection, which must be worn anytime they’re exposed to noise levels at or above 85 decibels. For powder coaters working in job shops, this typically occurs when blowing down the spray booth with compressed air.
This activity takes up a small percentage of the day, making it tempting to forego hearing protection – but for the love of your eardrums, don’t. I can’t stress this enough. If you’re given hearing protection on the job, use it, even if you think you don’t need to.
A respirator won’t protect you if it’s sitting in your locker. If you want a long, healthy career as a powder coater, be proactive about your own safety.