Social media is a blessing and a curse for the finishing industry. On one hand, it’s an effective way to spread awareness about a line of work that’s poorly represented in trade schools; on the other, bad habits and misinformation – on any topic – seem far more contagious than knowledge.
It’s not uncommon, for instance, to see videos of experienced powder coaters doing truly remarkable work without wearing a shred of personal protective equipment.
Their technique suggests they should know better. The good ones have clearly been doing this a long time, and while I’m grateful that they’re sharing their insights with the public, I wish they modeled better safety practices while doing so.
It’s entirely possible that these content creators engage in rigorous safety protocols off camera, and only remove their respirators when they’re filming. At least, I hope they do. I know that spraying a single small part bare-faced now and then probably won’t hurt anyone, and I can appreciate that it’s better for the video’s aesthetics. But what message is it sending?
Any new powder coater will tell you that their top priority is putting out a good product. That was certainly true for me in Kaser’s early days. I cared more about the quality of the coating than I did about my own safety, which wasn’t as big a risk when I was coating a few parts a week. As Kaser’s workload grew and I became responsible for the health and wellbeing of a larger team, however, I had to start paying better attention. I couldn’t let my employees inhale powder and chemicals for 8 unprotected hours a day.
I will tell you two things I’ve learned from this experience:
- It’s MUCH easier to instill good safety instincts in a new powder coater than it is to break a veteran’s bad habits; and
- The people who look up to you (as a boss, as a content creator, or as a role model) are far more likely to copy your actions than they are to follow your advice.
I’m concerned that as new coaters consume social media content in the hopes of gleaning fresh insights (as they should, and as I continue to do myself), they will become desensitized to bad habits. They’ll start to imagine that spraying a part without PPE is common, normal, and safe, when it is none of those things.
Don’t let Tik Tok trick you into thinking that it’s ok to spray powder coating without a respirator.