Safety Program


Most disabling injuries to painters – in fact, four out of every five injuries – are caused by four things:

1. Falls from scaffolds and other elevations

2. Slips and falls on the same level

3. Overexertion

4. Striking objects and structures, or being struck by them.

If you prevent injuries from these sources, you will prevent almost all painting injuries.
When do these injuries occur, and how can they be prevented?




One out of every four painting injuries results in a fall from an elevation, usually from a scaffold or staging.

They frequently occur when scaffolds are raised or lowered or are moved from one place to another or when painters are climbing around them or reaching from them.


To Prevent These Injuries:

  1. Be sure that all scaffolds, ladders and related equipment conform to OSHA, State Safety Commission and Local Safety Ordinances. 
  2. Be sure that swinging stages have at least one safety hand line from the roof to the ground for each man on a scaffold.
  3. Be sure all scaffolds are in safe condition.
  4. Do not use handrails and platforms that are splintered or cracked.
  5. Do not use hooks and other tackle that are cracked or deformed. 
  6. Place painter’s hitch carefully, so the load line will not slip off the lower block hook and thus allow one end of the scaffold to fall.
  7. Be sure that planks or ladder stages are long enough to extend well beyond the supports. Stirrups that support staging should be at least 18 in. from the end of the plank or fastened so that the plank cannot slip.
  8. Know the ropes!
    1. Check for worn and broken fibers on the outside.
    2. Inspect the inner fibers by untwisting the rope in several places. If the inner yarns are bright, clear and unspotted, the rope is probably fairly strong.
    3. Unwind from the rope a piece of yarn about 8 in. long and break it with your hands. If you can break the yarn easily, the rope is probably unsafe.
    4. Rope used around acid or caustic should be inspected frequently. (Some make a daily inspection) If black or rusty-brown spots are noted, test the fibers as described in ©. Discard all rope whose fibers do not pass the test.
    5. If rope cannot be easily bent or worked, or if its fibers seem to be dry and brittle, it might be better not to use it, especially for scaffolding.
    6. Do not use wire rope that has many worn or broken wires (three or four broken wires in a foot of wire rope would not be hazardous if the rope were otherwise good, but 10 broken wires in a foot of wire rope would call for a careful check)
    7. Wire rope, not fiber rope, should be used near sandblasting, or where there is exposure to chemical washing solutions.


    SLIPS and FALLS (on the SAME LEVEL)


    One out of every seven painting injuries results from slips and falls on the same level.

    These injuries usually occur where rubbish and waste and slippery materials are allowed to remain, or where walkways and working surfaces are uneven.


    To Prevent These Injuries:


    1. Remove waste and litter to a place provided for them.

    2. Fill in holes around the place where you are working.

    3. Clean up spilled oil, grease, paint and other materials at once.




    One out of every four painting injuries results from painters striking objects or structures, or being struck by them.

    This occurs where materials or objects fall or roll; when sudden movements on the part of workers or equipment are made; when vehicles are moved without warning; or when workers are inattentive.


    To Prevent These Injuries:


    1. Watch where you are going.

    2. Make sure you have a clear working space around you.

    3 Avoid roads or ramps usually used by vehicles on the job, if possible.

    4. When handling, piling or storing materials, do so in such a manner that you will not be likely to drop them or cause them to move to the danger of yourself or others.

    5. Have a proper place for all tools, material and equipment, and keep them there when not in use.




    One out of every seven painting injuries results from overexertion.

    These injuries usually occur while objects or materials are being lifted, pulled, pushed or carried.


    To Prevent These Injuries:


    1. Use tools to loosen stuck windows. Do not attempt to do it by hand, unless you are standing on a firm support and can use both hands.
    2. Follow the ten rules for safe lifting. Among these are:
      1. Size up the load. If it seems more than you can easily handle yourself, get help.
      2. Keep a straight back, and lift by straightening your legs.
    3. In “team lifting” – where two or more persons work together – let only one man give the signals, while both or all lift together.




    In working with paint products, proper precautions should be taken to eliminate health and fire hazards. 

    Government regulations today protect the worker to a greater extent than ever before. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) have numerous regulations intended to preserve the health of the user of manufactured products, including paint, as well as to insure safe working conditions. Thus, painters can be reasonably sure that the products they use are safe.




    Solvents sold under various trade names are often used as paint thinners, lacquer thinners, degreasing agents and paint and varnish removers.

    Those commonly used by painters include products such as denatured alcohol, turpentine, naphtha, benzene, benzoyl, mineral spirits and toluol.

    Exposure, which would not harm a strong, healthy individual, may cause serious injury to an individual suffering from liver, heart or other illness. Heavy drinkers are particularly susceptible.

    Early signs of excessive vapor exposure may be nausea, headache, and dizziness, followed by more serious discomfort a few hours later. Liquid solvents may act as skin irritants by removing the natural oils from the skin, leaving the skin rough, reddened and open to dermatitis infections. As with vapor, the extent of the reaction depends upon the susceptibility of the individual.


    To assure safe use of solvents, these precautions should be observed:


    1. Flammable solvents should never be used where vapors may come in contact with gas or electrical heating units, grinding wheels or any other source of ignition. The fact that there is no source of fire in the immediate vicinity where the solvent is used is no guarantee of safety. Solvent vapors are invisible and heavier than air and may travel 30 ft. or more to a source of ignition, such as a lighted cigarette or a stove. Do not use any flammable liquid around electric outlets. Do not clean with solvents and steel wool where electric “shorts” may result when contact of metal wool creates ignition sparks.

    2. Avoid working with solvents in large open containers. The solvent should be kept in a bottle or can with a relatively small opening. The container should be kept closed when not in use.

    3. Keep windows and doors open as much as possible to provide ventilation and dissipate vapors. Where natural ventilation is inadequate, artificial ventilation should be provided. Do not use benzoyl (coal tar derivative) in a closed place under any circumstances. It poisons quietly and painlessly, like carbon monoxide, by destroying blood cells.

    4. Be a “good” worker; avoid spillage. If solvent is accidentally spilled on your clothes, change to clean, dry clothes immediately. If a large solvent spill occurs, have someone help you clean up the solvent. Be careful when disposing of solvent-saturated rags. Do not keep rags in your pockets if there is solvent on them. The skin can suffer serious burns resulting in injuries that are painful.

    5. If you become nauseated, feel drowsy or dizzy, stop work immediately and get some fresh air. If this feeling persists beyond an hour or two, see a doctor.

    6. Wash hands and face frequently with mild soap; follow with application of protective or lubricating cream. Change work clothing frequently. Wear substantial work clothing, including a cap.

    7. Do not leave containers of solvent where persons unacquainted with the hazards involved are likely to get to them. Use special care around children. Be sure solvent containers are properly labeled.

    8. Eat lunch in a clean, sanitary place, away from the place being painted, out of reach of dust and fumes.




    Lead may enter the body and produce toxic symptoms by swallowing, inhaling vapors, dusts, fumes or mists, or by entering through the skin.

    When working on areas covered with paint containing lead, be sure to keep your hands away from your mouth; keep fingernails short and clean. Wash hands carefully before handling food or tobacco. Wear respirator of approved type when burning off paint containing lead, also when spraying or sanding paint containing lead. Be sure ventilation is provided always.

    Treat all exterior paint as lead bearing unless it is clearly stated on the label that it does not contain lead.




    Zinc is not poisonous. However, most zinc paste paints have some lead oxides in them.

    Thus, caution should extend to all paints unless labeled distinctly as being safe and nontoxic.




    Acids used for cleaning, preparation of surfaces, degreasing metal and other less common uses can only be used when the body is completely protected with goggles, rubber gloves and adequate clothing.

    Acids like muriatic, hydrochloric and sulfuric reach their greatest strength when diluted with water. When water and strong acids are mixed together, heat is released. Water added to acid may heat so quickly that it turns to steam explosively and reaction could cause dangerous bums. Small quantities of acid should be poured slowly into the water to avoid this danger. DO NOT pour water into the acid! Strong chemicals should only be used upon the advice of someone who has authoritative knowledge of their use.

    The alkalis are equally dangerous. Some, like trisodium phosphate and sal soda, are fairly easy to handle. Strong solutions of these will irritate the skin upon prolonged contact and cause painful skin irritations. Others like lye, caustic soda and potashes are extremely dangerous and they too must be used with all precautions which include goggles, rubber gloves and aprons. Caustics however, are progressively weakened as more water is added to them, so that the weaker the solution the less danger from contact. When burns from either acid or alkali are sustained, one must immediately wash the area freely with large quantities of clean water and consult a physician at once. A rinse in a solution of ordinary baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is helpful in case of contact by acid or alkali.

    Oxalic acid is especially harmful to the nasal passages and is a toxic poison. It is purchased in the dry form, dissolved, used as a bleach and then usually dries out. This dried material on the surface must never be sanded and allowed to exist in the air as a dust. It should be removed with a cloth moistened with water or alcohol, or preferable mineral spirits or turpentine.




    Electricity creates danger for the painter. 

    It may not only ignite solvents, but it may produce severe shock. Be careful when using water or a water-soluble paint around an electric outlet. It is possible to receive a shock from brushes used to apply water-mixed paint if bristles meet a hot wire.

    Aluminum ladders must be handled with extreme care around old and worn wires. A painter with an aluminum ladder must be more careful when working near electric outlets because the painter, the ladder and the moist ground beneath may form a perfect ground. Terminal boxes are forbidden but often encountered. The best possible way to the safe from injury from electricity is to make sure that the electricity is cut off from its source.




    A real danger of personal injury exists from the fire of blow torches, acetylene torches and other kinds of paint remover relying upon heat or open flame.

    Learn the safety rules for each of these tools. It is regarded as certain that any failure in using these rules correctly will almost certainly cause personal disability or destruction of property. Wall paint materials are flammable, some more than others. Treat them all as though they would bum at any moment. Be extremely careful not to smoke around them or throw matches at them. Keep them in closed containers or containers with small openings. Above all, observe the rules of cleanliness. Keep the floor clean; pick up all drop cloths and wiping cloths. Dispose of them in an approved manner – in a safety container or in a pot of water or bum them in a safe place immediately.




    Some of the minor injuries usually thought of as petty annoyances can be serious if not taken care of promptly.

    Small scratches, splinters, blisters, burns, and even bruises should be treated and carefully watched for evidence of infection. Splinters must be removed immediately. Always carry an adequate first aid kit as part of your everyday equipment.

    Always wash carefully before each meal, after work and before the use of tobacco. Bathe often; soak in a hot tub whenever possible; use a protective cream on the skin before starting work; and wash in hot water and soap. Use as little solvent to clean skin as possible. Drink a great deal of milk and water. Make sure the water is fresh and not exposed to paint fumes. Keep down dust as much as possible by using clean drop cloths and wiping cloths. Underclothes should be changed as least once a day and overalls at least once a week. Overall pant legs should have no cuffs to catch on protruding objects or to catch shoe heels to cause tripping. Careful use should be made of the pockets and loops on overalls to prevent dropping of tools from heights and endangering those below. Shears, knives, screwdrivers and all sharp instruments should be kept point or edge down in pockets or sheath. Even sharpened pencils should not be exposed.

    Do not perspire heavily and then expose the wet body to cold drafts. Unsightly blackheads in the skin are a sign that washing is not vigorous or often enough. Keep fingernails clean.

    It is necessary that a painter exposed to the hazards and hard work of this trade lead a generally clean, healthy life with good sleep habits. Management and labor join in advising against the use of alcohol. Workers may be able to stand some solvents at work and some alcohol at home, but seldom both. After a period of time the additional load may undermine health.