Paints and Solvents Training Guide

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Labor Occupational Health Program

Summary Statement

Training on potential harmful effects of paints and solvents such as inhalation hazards and fires or explosions - includes discussion questions and a sign-off form. Part of a collection. Click on the 'collection' button to access the other items.

These tailgate/toolbox talks were developed for use under California OSHA regulations. The complete set is available from the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley. For ordering information, visit the website ( The American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has adapted these talks to apply to federal OSHA regulations. To contact ACGIH, visit its web site (

    Before you begin the meeting...

  • Does this topic relate to the work the crew is doing? If not, choose another topic.
  • Has the crew completed basic Hazard Communication training? It will help them understand this topic.
  • Did you read this Training Guide and fill in the blanks where thePencil Icon appears? (To find the information you need, look over the Safety Walkaround Checklist for this topic.)
  • Did you bring labeled containers and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for a few of the paints and solvents used on the site?

Begin: Did you know that construction workers have been pulled over for drunk driving when they really haven’t been drinking at all? It can happen when they are intoxicated from paints or solvents on the job.

Everyone knows that some paints and solvents are dangerous because they are highly flammable, but you may not realize how dangerous it can be to breathe their vapors. Just like alcohol, paint or solvent vapors can make you lose your coordination and cause accidents. Over a period of time, they can also destroy your liver and other body organs.

You or a crew member may want to add a personal story about paints or solvents.

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Next, discuss with the crew what jobs and equipment may cause excessive noise at this particular job site:




After each question, give the crew time to suggest possible answers. Use the information
following each question to add points that no one mentions.

1. What symptoms might warn you that you’ve had too much exposure to paint or solvent vapors?

  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • A lightheaded feeling
  • Trouble concentrating
  • 2. If you don’t have these warning signs, does it mean that there’s no problem?

    • No. With some paints and solvents, even a small exposure over a long period of time can permanently damage your liver, kidneys, and nervous system (including the brain).
    • If your exposure is high enough (such as in a confined space), some paint and solvent vapors may cause immediate coma or death.
    • Paints, even some used today, may contain lead. Lead is highly toxic and can cause anemia, kidney damage, brain damage, and reproductive problems. (Lead is covered in more detail in a separate Training Guide.)

    3. Are vapors the only health hazard of paints and solvents?

    • No. Some chemicals can also damage the skin. Your skin may become dry and cracked, or you may get a rash or burn. Other chemicals can go right through the skin and get into your bloodstream. Certain chemicals do both.

    4. Some products are more hazardous than others. How can you find out what specific chemicals are in a product, and what their effects might be?

    • Don’t open the container until you’ve found out what’s in the product and what the hazards may be.
    • Check the label. You may find a list of ingredients, a safety warning, or both. All containers must be labeled, or a labeled container must be in the immediate area.
    • Read the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product. MSDSs are required by law, and everyone working on the site has a right to see them.

    (MSDSs are covered in more detail during basic Hazard Communication training, which everyone on the crew should already have completed.)

    5. What can the MSDS tell you about a product?

    • The hazardous ingredients in the product, and the safe exposure level for each one. Cal/OSHA has set permissible exposure limits (PELs) for many hazardous chemicals. The company has to keep your exposure below these limits.
    • The flammability of the product, and fire prevention measures you need to take.
    • What kinds of personal protective equipment you need (like a respirator or gloves).
    • The volatility of the product (the likelihood that vapors will get in the air).
    • How to store the product safely. For example, some products should be stored away from heat, light, or water. Some should never be stored near other products with which they could have a chemical reaction. (These are called incompatible chemicals.)
    • How to dispose of the product safely. For example, some products should never be dumped into the drain or sewer.
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    On this job, you can get MSDSs from-

    Give the name and location of the person to see:__________

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    Let's look at the labels and MSDSs for some products we use on the job.

    Show the crew the sample product containers and MSDSs you brought to the meeting. Explain them briefly.


    6. What are some ways to protect yourself from toxic paints and solvents?

    • Use a safer product if possible. Some products are much less hazardous than others.
    • Work in a well-ventilated area if you can. A fan or open door may not be enough. If you’re working outdoors, try to stay upwind from paint and solvent vapors.
    • Stop what you’re doing if you notice symptoms. You may need to change the way you’re doing the work, or wear protective equipment (like a respirator or gloves).
    • Use a respirator. If you need one, we must provide the right type of respirator, make sure it fits, teach you how to use it, and give you a physical to make sure you’re able to wear it safely. (Respirators are covered in more detail in a separate Training Guide.)
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    We ___will or ___will not require respirators on this job.

    If required, respirators are available at:___________________

    • Keep paints and solvents off your skin and out of your eyes. If necessary, wear gloves and goggles. If you do get paints or solvents in your eyes, flush with water for 15 minutes. Never wash your hands or clothing with hazardous solvents.
    • Don’t eat, drink, or smoke on the job. Anything you put in your mouth could have been contaminated by chemicals. Wash up first.

    7. How do you prevent fires and explosions when working with flammable liquids?

    • Read the label and MSDS to find out what special precautions to take.
    • Don’t smoke.
    • Avoid heat and sparks—for example, from sparking power tools.
    • Keep flammable liquids away from rags and other materials that might ignite.
    • Bond and ground the containers when you transfer flammable liquids.
    • Store flammables in tightly closed, approved containers or metal storage cabinets.
    • Keep fire extinguishers readily available, and make sure they are the right type. Different fire extinguishers are needed for different kinds of fires.


    Explain: Most of the safety measures we’ve talked about are required by Cal/OSHA. We have to take these precautions—it’s the law. I have a Checklist of the Cal/OSHA regulations on paints and solvents. If you’d like to know more, see me after the meeting.


    (Only if applicable.) Besides the Cal/OSHA regulations, we have some additional company rules about noise.

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    Discuss company rules:_____________________________



    Ask: Do you have any other concerns about paints & solvents? Do you see any problems on our job? (Let the steward answer first, if there is one.)

    What about other jobs you’ve worked on? Have you had any experience with paints & solvents that might help us work safer on this job?


    This is a time to discuss all safety concerns, not just today's topic. Keep your notes on this page before, during and after the safety meeting.

    Are you aware of any hazards from other crews? Point out any hazards other crews are creating that this crew should know about. Tell the crew what you intend to do about those hazards.





    Do we have any old business? Discuss past issues/problems. Report progress of investigations and action taken.




    Any new business? Any accidents/near misses/complaints? Discuss accidents, near misses, and complaints that have happened since the last safety meting. Also recognize the safety contributions made by members of the crew.





    Please remember, we want to hear from you about any health and safety issues that come up. If we don't know about problems, we can't take action to fix them.

    To complete the training session:

    • Circulate Sign-Off Form.
    • Assign one or more crew member(s) to help with next safety meeting.
    • Refer action items for follow-up. (Use the sample Hazard Report Form in the Reference Section of this binder, or your company’s own form.)

    Sign Off Form

    Date Prepared:_________________________ By:____________________
    Project Name/No.______________________ Location:_______________
    Printed Name