The history of safety with an airless sprayer
Even though Airless Sprayer Machines have been around for several years, the concept of spraying has been around for a seriously long time. Longer than rollers in fact. The very first sprayers were used before the turn of the twentieth century. There are a number of different types of sprayers. The largest market for sprayers is the compressor and spray gun. These use compressed air to atomise the paint.
The main hazard when spraying with a compressor and spray gun is the substance being sprayed. If it is poisonous then breathing it in can cause health problems. This is why solvent and two pack paints are sprayed in a spray booth and the sprayer wears a suit with an air fed mask.
Compressed air ca also be dangerous even at low pressures and must be treated with respect. Compressed air directed into your mouth or eyes can cause serious damage. If compressed air enters the blood stream it can cause symptoms similar to a heart attack.
In 1958 a company called Gray Co, later to become Graco invented the airless sprayer. This worked in an entirely different way to a conventional sprayer. Paint was pumped under very high pressure through a tiny hole. This smashed the paint into a spray. The advantages of this system was that it was very fast and was good for painting large areas.
One of the problems with the airless sprayer was that paint under very high pressure (2000 psi) forced through a tiny hole can pierce the skin and inject you with paint. In the early days of airless sprayers, the people using them were used to conventional spray systems. There was a method of cleaning a standard spray gun out that involved putting the head of the gun into a rag in your hand and spraying. This circulated the solvent round the gun and was a quick way of cleaning.
However, if you do this with an airless sprayer the paint will shoot through the rag, through the skin and into your blood steam. Sprayers had to be educated about injection injury so that they did not do this. This was done in a number of ways.
First the gun had a “tip guard” which was a part of the gun that kept the hand away from the tip. The tip guard was brightly coloured and had “Injection hazard” written on it. This was to remind sprayers of the potential danger from placing your hand near the tip.
The high pressure hose also contains a tag that warns of the danger of fluid injection. Finally, a card was included with every sprayer that needed to be carried by the sprayer in event of an injection injury.
5 health and safety tips for spraying.
- Understand your equipment – Before you use an airless sprayer make sure that you understand how it works and how to correctly depressurise the machine to make it safe. There are a number of ways that you can do this.
Get a demonstration from the supplier from someone who understands how the sprayer works, ask questions about the operation of the sprayer and how to work safely with it.
A better idea, before you even buy a sprayer would be to do a course. This will not only show you how the sprayer safely works but also how to get the best from the airless sprayer and which sprayer is the best one to get for your business.
We offer a free online course for safe handling of an airless sprayer.
- Take your hand off the trigger – Safety when using an airless sprayer is in many ways about forming really good habits so that the sprayer is in a safe state most of the time. One of the best habits to get into is to take your hand off the trigger when you are spraying. This way you cannot accidentally pull the trigger. This should be done in conjunction with the next safety tip.
- Use the trigger lock. An airless gun has a trigger lock on it, much like a real gun has a “safety catch”, this trigger lock should be used every time you are not actually spraying. Take your hand off the trigger and then put the trigger lock on. These two habits alone will mean that the gun is in a safe state even if the system is under pressure.
- Depressurise when not in use – If you are going to do anything with the gun, for example change the tip, change the filter, add an extension bar or a Cleanshot then you need to release the pressure in the system. This is easy to do, turn the pressure dial down to zero and then turn the “spray/prime” switch to “prime”, this will release the pressure and make it safe.
You can tell if the pressure is released by looking at the pressure gauge, which should now real zero and also the hose will go floppy and be easy to coil up.
Never leave the sprayer unattended and under pressure. If in doubt then release the pressure form the system. If a hose ruptures or connection leaks then release the pressure. Only then can you look to fix the problem. Never put your hand over a leak if the system is under pressure.
- Use safe paints – A final and often overlooked aspect of sprayer safety is the product that you are using. You are atomising the paint into a mist and this makes it easy to breath in and also makes it more likely to explode if it is a flammable material.
Regardless of the material being sprayed, the sprayer should wear a mask, ideally a vapour and particle mask. If you are spraying a ceiling, you should wear goggles or safety glasses to keep paint out of your eyes.
Finally, it is worth looking for a water based paint that is safe to use and that will give you good results. These days there are many options on the market, this is a topic for another blog in the future.
What is a safety card?
When you get an airless sprayer or even just an airless gun the manufacturer includes a safety card. This card is credit card sized and is designed to be kept in your wallet. It explains injection injury and what should be done in even of the injury happening. It is directed at the triage nurse or surgeon at the hospital who may not have come across the problem and explains that they need to carry out immediate surgery.
This will carry much more weight than you frantically trying to explain what has happened. We always recommend that not only do you keep the card in your wallet but also that you take a picture of the card and keep this on your phone. That way you have always got it on you.
At PaintTech Training Academy, safety is one of our top priorities for anyone operating airless machines. We recommend for everyone spend a few hours completing our free course to ensure you are using your airless machine safely at all times.