Safety in the Paint Shop

in Aircraft Painting and Finishing

All paint booths and shops must have adequate ventilation systems installed that not only remove the toxic air but, when properly operating, reduce and/or eliminate overspray and dust from collecting on the finish. All electric motors used in the fans and exhaust system should be grounded and enclosed to eliminate sparks. The lighting systems and all bulbs should be covered and protected against breakage.

Proper respirators and fresh-air breathing systems must be available to all personnel involved in the stripping and painting process. When mixing any paint or two-part coatings, eye protection and respirators should be worn.


An appropriate number and size of the proper class fire extinguishers should be available in the shop or hangar during all spraying operations. They should be weighed and certified, as required, to ensure they work in the event they are needed. Fireproof containers should be available for the disposal of all paint and solvent soaked rags.

Storage of Finishing Materials

All chemical components that are used to paint an aircraft burn in their liquid state. They should be stored away from all sources of heat or flames. The ideal place would be in fireproof metal cabinets located in a well ventilated area.

Some of the finishing components have a shelf life listed in the material or technical data sheet supplied by the coating manufacturer. Those materials should be marked on the container, with a date of purchase, in the event that they are not used immediately.

Protective Equipment for Personnel

The process of painting, stripping, or refinishing an aircraft requires the use of various coatings, chemicals, and procedures that may be hazardous if proper precautions are not utilized to protect personnel involved in their use.

The most significant hazards are airborne chemicals inhaled either from the vapors of opened paint containers or atomized mist resulting from spraying applications. There are two types of devices available to protect against airborne hazards: respirators and forced-air breathing systems.

A respirator is a device worn over the nose and mouth to filter particles and organic vapors from the air being inhaled. The most common type incorporate double charcoal-filtered cartridges with replaceable dust filters that fits to the face over the nose and mouth with a tight seal. When properly used, this type of respirator provides protection against the inhalation of organic vapors, dust, mists of paints, lacquers, and enamels. A respirator does not provide protection against paints and coatings containing isocyanates (polyurethane paint).

A respirator must be used in an area of adequate ventilation. If breathing becomes difficult, there is a smell or taste the contaminant(s), or an individual becomes dizzy or feel nauseous, they should leave the area and seek fresh air and assistance as necessary. Carefully read the warnings furnished with each respirator describing the limits and materials for which they provide protection.

A forced-air breathing system must be used when spraying any type of polyurethane or any coating that contains isocyanates. It is also recommended for all spraying and stripping of any type, whether chemical or media blasting. The system provides a constant source of fresh air for breathing, which is pumped into the mask through a hose from an electric turbine pump.

Protective clothing, such as Tyvek® coveralls, should be worn that not only protects personnel from the paint but also help keep dust off the painted surfaces. Rubber gloves must be worn when any stripper, etching solution, conversion coatings, and solvent is used.

When solvents are used for cleaning paint equipment and spray guns, the area must be free of any open flame or other heat source. Solvent should not be randomly sprayed into the atmosphere when cleaning the guns. Solvents should not be used to wash or clean paint and other coatings from bare hands and arms. Use protective gloves and clothing during all spraying operations.

In most states, there are Occupational Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA) regulations in effect that may require personnel to be protected from vapors and other hazards while on the job. In any hangar or shop, personnel must be vigilant and provide and use protection for safety.