Isocyanates in Motor Vehicle Repair- Reducing Exposure through Training
Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
HSE identified that asthma was a major cause of ill-health in
the motor vehicle repair (MVR) industry. Two-pack paints are used
extensively in primers and lacquers and although the paints are
ideal for vehicles, the isocyanates in them present risks to
operators, especially during application when spray mist and
vapours containing isocyanates may cause asthma or worsen an
What We Did
To address the lack of
awareness of the potential risks among employers and sprayers, HSE
inspectors worked with us and trade associations to develop simple
and clear guidance. This was delivered through a series of
multi-media presentations at Safety and Health Awareness Days
(SHADs), 28 of which were held across the country in a sustained
campaign between 2004 and 2007.
A range of experts provided information at these events about
the hazards and risks associated with spraying isocyanates and how
to control exposure to prevent ill-health. A video of an interview
with an asthma sufferer brought home the life-changing consequences
of the condition. Scale models developed by our ventilation
specialists used a smoke generator to show how ventilation systems
in spray enclosures work and how long it takes for paint mist to
clear after spraying. Industry speakers gave presentations on
paints and equipment, and an HSE Inspector gave a clear message
about legal requirements.
Scientists from our biological monitoring team distributed
sampling kits, enabling sprayers to collect a urine sample after
spraying for analysis of isocyanate metabolites using an analytical
method developed by HSL. This provided a simple check on whether
the exposure controls were working properly.
Overall the SHAD campaign was highly successful - post-event
questionnaires by our work psychologists show improved awareness,
with well over 90% of attendees pledging to make improvements.
Quantitative data from urine samples show that exposure levels were
lower in workers who had attended the SHAD events than those who
had not. Where levels of isocyanate metabolites in urine were above
the Biological Monitoring Guidance Value, the sprayer was advised
to look again at control measures, make improvements and repeat the
test. These follow-up samples revealed lower levels of metabolites
and a reduction in exposure.
A further significant demonstration of the effectiveness of the
campaign has come from recent HSE statistics, showing that
incidence of occupational asthma in vehicle spray painters, along
with associated costs in 2004 - 2006 was approximately half the
rate of 2001 - 2003.
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