Layout Image

Archive for Motor Vehicle Repair

One of the least understood issues when managing the risk of hearing loss is the combined exposure to noise and ototoxic chemicals.

There is widespread potential for hearing loss in Vehicle Repair Workshops. Prolonged and excessive exposure to noise results in long term harm to your hearing. This is irreversible, once you lose your hearing that’s it – it’s gone!

Exposure to some chemicals can result in hearing loss. These chemicals are known as ototoxic substances. Hearing loss is more likely to occur if a worker is exposed to both noise and ototoxic substances.

Many high noise activities are regularly undertaken at Vehicle Repair workshops. Removing and repairing body panels using pneumatic tools can be noisy work: air saws and chisels can typically produce levels as high as 107 dB(A) and grinders and orbital sanders 97 dB(A). Noise levels from panel beating and other repair operations using hand tools are variable but generally high.  Welding and flame-cutting can also be noisy, and paint booths have been measured at 90 dB(A).

Hearing Loss

Work Related Chemicals

Many commonly used chemicals in Vehicle Repair workshops are ototoxic substances. For organic solvents such as toluene, styrene or xylene, the combined exposure with noise increases the risk of hearing loss in a synergistic manner.

Exposure standards for chemicals and noise have not yet been altered to take account of increased risk to hearing. The Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work Code of Practice 2011, recommends that the daily noise exposure of workers exposed to ototoxic substances be controlled to 80 dB(A) or below and that workers exposed to ototoxic substances undergo audiometric testing.

Control measures such as substitution, isolation and local ventilation should be implemented to eliminate or reduce exposures. Personal protective equipment should be used to prevent skin and respiratory absorption when other controls are insufficient.

In many situations exposure to ototoxic substances can be eliminated or reduced through substitution with safer alternatives. There are readily available safer alternatives to the solvents used for parts degreasing, brake cleaning, cleaning paint equipment and surface preparation. Some examples of safer alternatives can be found at the Environmental Fluids Systems website.

For information on workplace noise assessments click here.

For information on hazardous chemical risk assessments click here.

Spray Booth Air Flow Testing and Clearance Time Testing

A properly designed and operating spray booth is required to contain and remove spray painting hazardous chemicals and vapours. Spray booths are used for a variety of applications. Contaminants commonly encountered in spray booths include; organic solvents, isocyanates and polymers. Inhalation of paint vapours and overspray may result in respiratory irritation, respiratory sensitization, asthma, reduced lung function and nervous disorders.

Good maintenance and regular testing is essential to ensure that spray booths and spray rooms continue to remove contaminates in the air before people breathe them. It is a legal requirement that any PCBU who uses spray booths must ensure it is operating effectively and is checked regularly.

Spray Booth Testing

Air Flow Meter

The Queensland Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 Chapter 7 requires that spray booths have ventilation systems capable of producing a minimum air movement or air flow of:

  • 0.3 metres/second (m/s) for full down draught booth;
  • 0.4 m/s for electrostatic spray painting booths;
  • 0.5 m/s for any other booth.

The air flow must be measured when the booth is empty, during the spray cycle in the area that the spray painting is done.

The Spray Painting and Powder Coating Code of Practice October 2012 states that the plant and equipment used in spray painting or powder coating activities should be inspected at regular intervals and maintained according to manufacturer’s specifications.

The Spray Painting and Powder Coating Code of Practice October 2012 also recommends that spray booths should have a sign indicating the time workers should allow for chemicals to clear before entering the spray booth. This is commonly referred to as the clearance times. The clearance time is determined by conducting a smoke clearance test. The spray booth is filled with non-hazardous smoke and the time that the booth takes to remove contaminates is recorded as the clearance time.

Records for air flow testing and clearance times should be kept onsite.

For information on our spray booth air flow testing and clearance time services click here.

For further information on how we can assist you with noise assessment services call our office or use our contacts page to forward a request for further information.

Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Regional Queensland

Motor Vehicle Repair – Harmful Dusts Inhalation and Dermatitis risks

Exposure to dust from sanding vehicle body fillers can cause damage to the respiratory system and irritation to the skin that may lead to dermatitis or other skin conditions. Dust can irritate and damage the eye. Appropriate control measures are required to manage the inhalation and dermatitis risk.


Most vehicle body fillers consist of thermosetting unsaturated polyester in a solvent which is mixed with a reactive hardener. Hardeners are usually skin irritants and some are strong skin sensitisers. Both the filler and hardnerer can cause dermatitis. Styrene and methacrylates are often found in these mixtures and have powerful odours. Both styrene and methacrylates can affect the nervous system.

Check the safety data sheet for these chemicals and if you find them, try to find alternative less harmful filler products. Glass fibre fillers can irritate the skin.

To minimise the number of people exposed to dust and vapours, separate the body filling and preparation area away from other work.

When using powered sanding tools and sander with built in extraction should be used. Portable local exhaust ventilation may be appropriate, positioning the local extraction close to the work is necessary.

Where it is necessary to remove large excesses of filler the use of large coarse hand files should be considered

Even if the dust does not contain specific harmful substances (such as styrene or methacrylates) you should keep dust to a minimum as the quantity generated can be damaging to health.

Where necessary, personal protective equipment such as disposable overalls should be sued to help prevent dust build up on clothing. Suitable gloves (eg nitrile gloves) should also be considered as fine dust will clog up the pores in the skin and they would also protect the hands when wet sanding.

In some situations respiratory protective equipment may be required, a P2 dust mask is usually adequate.

For information on air monitoring and exposure assessment click here.

For further information on how we can assist you with noise assessment services call our office or use our contacts page to forward a request for further information.

Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Regional Queensland

Vehicle paint sprayers are 80 times more likely to get asthma than the average worker. 1 in 10 of workers in bodyshops who get asthma from isocyanates are not sprayers.

Myth 1: “We use water-based /UV-cured paints, which are isocyanate-free. Anyway, isocyanates are going to be banned”

Truth 1: Almost all bodyshops use isocyanate-containing paints. Rumours that isocyanate-containing paints will be banned are incorrect. Isocyanates will continue to be used in some primers and base coats as well as UV-cured coatings and some water-based paints.

Remember, ‘Water-based’ does not mean ‘isocyanate-free’. And almost all top coats contain isocyanates.

Myth 2: “Modern guns don’t mist like the old ones so are much safer”

Truth 2: All modern guns are designed to produce less mist. But that assumes that they are set up as the manufacturer intended – and that still doesn’t make them safe. Modern guns still produces average levels of isocyanate over 1000 ug/m3 (over 50 times the workplace exposure value, which itself is not a safe value).

Myth 3: “It won’t affect me, I wear a mask”

Truth 3: Wearing a respirator is essential when using isocyanate-containing paints but you need to ensure:

It is the right type – only air-fed breathing apparatus is suitable for isocyanate spraying (filtering face masks are not acceptable); and

It is used at all times when exposure is possible – many sprayers believe it is safe to remove their mask as soon as they have finished spraying but the air still contains large quantities of paint mist that is invisible to the naked eye.

Myth 4: “I work in a booth so the air is kept clear”

Truth 4: If you work in a modern purpose built spray booth with large quantities of filtered air flowing past it is easy to believe that all the overspray is instantly carried away leaving the air safe to breath as soon as spraying is finished. This is a dangerous misconception. In fact, spray booths typically take between one to five minutes to clear. During this time, it is essential that you keep wearing your air-fed mask and no unprotected person enters the booth.

Spray rooms are much cruder devices than booths and are much slower to clear (it can take half an hour or more). The levels of isocyanate in spray spaces have been measured at levels up to 300 times the workplace exposure limit. If you want to carry on using a spray room you need to make sure it works as safely and efficiently as possible.

Anyone using a spray booth or room needs to know what the clearance time is. Booths and spray rooms only work effectively if they are kept maintained.

Myth 5: “I can go in the booth/spray room as soon as the mist has cleared”

Truth 5: One in 10 of people who get asthma from isocyanates in bodyshops are not sprayers. This means they are getting exposed some other way. One of those ways is entering a spraybooth/spray room before the entire fine, invisible mist has cleared. Even the most efficient booths take over a minute to clear after spraying has finished. Some take significantly longer. A spray room can take up to half an hour to clear.

Anyone entering a spray booth or spray room needs to know what the clearance time.

Myth 6: “It’s only a touch-up job, I can do that in the workshop”

Truth 6: One in 10 of people who get asthma from isocyanates in bodyshops are not sprayers. This means they are getting exposed some other way. One of those ways is by people spraying outside the spray booth. Perhaps it is because the job is short or the booth is already in use. But the fact is that large quantities of paint mist are spread throughout the workshop endangering the health of anyone in the vicinity

Myth 7: “Isocyanates cause cancer but so does everything else these days.”

Truth 7: There is no known case of isocyanate used in paints causing cancer! But they are the biggest cause of occupational asthma in Australia. To confuse the two may cause someone to overlook the classic early symptoms of asthma – wheezing, breathlessness and tightness of the chest. This means they don’t seek medical attention and the problems at work that are leading to exposure aren’t put right because they are unlikely to link their symptoms to work.

Myth 8: “Asthma isn’t serious – most kids have got it these days”

Truth 8: Asthma is a life threatening and life-changing condition. If you get asthma from isocyanates, you can never work with or near isocyanate products again, which probably means losing your job. Your lungs are damaged permanently

Myth 9:”The biggest problem is absorption through the skin but I wear gloves and an overall”

Truth 9: Many sprayers believe that a significant or even the main route of entry for isocyanate paint spray is through the skin with the “thin skin around the eyes” being a particular concern. These views are confusing and wrong. The overwhelming route of entry for isocyanate paint mist in MVR bodyshops is through inhalation of fine airborne paint mist and this is what puts sprayers at risk of getting occupational asthma. Getting mixed 2-pack isocyanate paint or liquid hardener drips/splashes on the hands/skin can cause dermatitis but that is a different issue.

Myth 10: “I’ve got nothing to worry about, I’ve had my yearly check-up and it’s all clear”

Truth 10: Asthma is a very variable condition. One day you may feel fine and the next you cannot breathe so, just because you showed up clear on the day of your breathing test doesn’t mean you should ignore other symptoms. If you experience problems such as wheezing, breathlessness or tightness of the chest (which may occur some hours after exposure), make sure you report them to your GP, explaining that you work with isocyanates. A urine test (in addition to the annual ones you should be giving) should show up any exposure to isocyanate.

For information on air monitoring click here.

For information on health risk assessments click here.

For further information on how we can assist you with air monitoring services call our office or use our contacts page to forward a request for further information.

Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Regional Queensland

Testing of Air Quality for Supplied Air Respirators / Compressor Air Quality Testing

Contamination in compressor supplied air can be a serious health risk. Testing of Air quality for supplied air respirators provide confidence to the workers required to use supplied air respirators.

Testing Requirements for Air Quality Supplied Air Respirators

The compressor breathing air quality requirement for supplied air respirators is often one of the least understood elements of a respiratory protection program.

Workplace Health and Safety Law requires that breathing air meet specified requirements and be tested to an agreed schedule as detailed in Australian Standard 1715:2009, Selection, Use and Maintenance of Respiratory Equipment. Checks are required to identify that there are no contaminates in the supplied air and that sufficient air is provided to the user

As part of the respirator protection program for a compressor air supply system, it is necessary to check the quality of the air regularly. Air quality checks should be conducted to an appropriate schedule. In many situations annual checks are sufficient to show if there is any deterioration in the system. The frequency of testing should be reviewed dependant on the usage and results of the testing.

Method for Testing Air Quality Supplied Air Respirators

Onsite testing is conducted by our technicians using use the Dräger Breathing Air Test Kit Method, Aerotest Simultan to determine the concentration of oil, water vapour, carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2) contained in the breathing air that is delivered to workers. Real-time monitoring equipment is used to determine the oxygen content. The capability of the compressor is assessed and a determination made on its ability to supply sufficient air to each person using a respirator connected to the system.

Air Quality for Supplied Air Respirators Parameters

The parameters for the air quality for supplied air respirators are detailed below.

Component Analysed


Capacity >  170 L/min for each person
Oxygen 19.5% to 22%
Carbon Monoxide < 11mg/m3 (10ppm)
Carbon Dioxide < 1400 mg/m3 (800 ppm)
Oil < 1mg/m3
*Water < 100 mg/m3
Air Temperature 15°C to 25°C
Odour Not Objectionable

* Cylinder initially filled to pressure of at least 12 MPa.

The specification for water content does not specifically apply to low pressure breathing air supply systems, however high water content can lead to contamination of the supply lines and associated contamination of the breathing air.

Trained Technicians Air Quality Supplied Air Respirators

All testing is conducted by trained technicians using accredited state-of-the-art sampling and analysis methodologies. Testing can be conducted for industrial breathing air systems such as air hoods used for spray painting, and airline systems used in confined spaces, welding and chemical applications.

Our technicians can assist resolve any issues that are identified and will issue certification for the system once testing shows that the legislative requirements for breathing air quality have been met.

Download a generic Air Quality Supplied Air Respirator Certificate.

For detailed advice on assessment and specific control measures for your workplace contact our consultants.

For further information on testing air quality for supplied air respirators click here.

Haztek: Servicing Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Regional Queensland