Staying Safe in the Wash Bay: A Pretreatment Operator’s Guide to PPE

Managers: it’s our job to keep our pretreatment operators safe in the wash bay. The good news is that doing so is not hard. We simply have to provide the operators with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and then make sure they wear it.

Pretreatment may require more PPE than any other role in the powder coating shop, but don’t let that intimidate you. Follow these rules to keep your people safe.

Keep the operator dry

What would you wear if you were facing the prospect of spending eight hours a day in the rain? You’d probably start with rubber boots, rain pants, and a rain jacket with a hood. Faced with the prospect of a long day in wet elements, you’d do everything you could to keep your skin and clothes dry. Your pretreatment operator needs that, too. Pretreatment PPE should be waterproof.

Respect the chemicals

Pretreatment chemicals may be highly diluted, but long-term exposure is still a hazard. Keep chemicals (and any associated vapors) off your operator’s body at all costs. At minimum, I recommend chemical-resistant gloves, a respirator with appropriate cartridges for the chemicals you’re using, and a face shield. For added protection, consider safety glasses under the face shield, and over-ear protection to keep chemical out of the operator’s ear canals.

Invest in quality PPE

While a garbage bag could theoretically keep someone mostly dry in the rain, that won’t cut it in the wash bay. Your operator needs to be able to move around freely without fear of ripping their PPE. Make sure their rain gear is high quality and the right size, so as not to limit their mobility.

Maintain the PPE

I replace my pretreatment operator’s rain gear several times a year. I’ve provided him with a locker for his respirator. I make sure he cleans his respirator (and changes the cartridges) on a regular basis. As his manager, it’s my job to ensure that he has everything he needs to stay safe; if I notice that he’s not using these resources, I will talk to him about it. His safety is our shared responsibility.

While pretreatment requires more PPE than powder coating, it’s not a complicated undertaking. If your operator’s body and clothing is dry at the end of the day, you’re doing something right. Learn more here.



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