Advanced composite materials including prepreg, resin systems, cleaning solvents, and adhesives could be hazardous, and it is important that you use personal protection equipment. It is important to read and understand the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and handle all chemicals, resins, and fibers correctly. The MSDS lists the hazardous chemicals in the material system, and it outlines the hazards. The material could be a respiratory irritant or carcinogenic, or another kind of dangerous substance.
Always protect eyes from chemicals and flying objects. Wear safety glasses at all times and, when mixing or pouring acids, wear a face shield. Never wear corrective contact lenses in a shop, even with safety glasses. Some of the chemical solvents can melt the lenses and damage eyes. Dust can also get under the lenses, causing damage.
Do not breathe carbon fiber dust and always ensure that there is a good flow of air where the work is performed. Always use equipment to assist in breathing when working in a confined space. Use a vacuum near the source of the dust to remove the dust from the air. When sanding or applying paint, you need a dust mask or a respirator. A properly fitted dust mask provides the protection needed. For application of paints, a sealed respirator with the correct filters or a fresh air supply respirator is required.
A downdraft table is an efficient and economical device for protecting workers from harmful dust caused by sanding and grinding operations. The tables are also useful housekeeping tools because the majority of particulate material generated by machining operations is immediately collected for disposal. Downdraft tables should be sized and maintained to have an average face velocity between 100 and 150 cubic feet per minute. The downdraft table draws contaminants like dust and fibers away from the operator’s material. Downdraft tables should be monitored and filters changed on a regular basis to provide maximum protection and particulate collection.
During composite repair work, protect your skin from hazardous materials. Chemicals could remain on hands that burn sensitive skin. Always wear gloves and clothing that offer protection against toxic materials. Use only approved gloves that protect skin and do not contaminate the composite material. Always wash hands prior to using the toilet or eating. Damaged composite components should be handled with care. Single fibers can easily penetrate the skin, splinter off, and become lodged in the skin.
Most solvents are flammable. Close all solvent containers and store in a fireproof cabinet when not in use. Make sure that solvents are kept away from areas where static electricity can occur. Static electricity can occur during sanding operations or when bagging material is unrolled. It is preferable to use air-driven tools. If electric tools are used, ensure that they are the enclosed type. Do not mix too much resin. The resin could overheat and start smoking caused by the exothermic process. Ensure that a fire extinguisher is always nearby.