Solvent Safety

There can be a lot of hidden hazards on construction job sites.  It’s important to provide regular safety training on these hidden hazards.  For a construction worker, it is usually pretty easy to stay tuned-into the obvious safety hazards, sharp tools, heights, etc.  But, without the proper training a hidden hazard, like the dangers of solvents can easily be overlooked.  And, missing a danger like solvents is not something you want your crew to overlook.  Learn more about providing solvent safety training in a construction job site.

Solvents are everywhere!  It’s a chemical liquid that has a wide variety of uses on construction sites.  They can be found in a number of products, to suspend or deliver chemicals.  So, solvents are in paint, ink, epoxy resins, and pesticides.  A solvent may be used to clean up or dissolve a tricky material, or clean residue off of machinery.  Many times a solvent comes with an unpleasant odor, but not always.  It’s easy to become complacent with solvents; because it’s likely your workers use them all the time.  Solvents can cause serious burns and inhaling certain solvents can also be very dangerous.  So, it’s worth the effort to provide safety training on handling solvents.  One way to learn about solvents is to break them up into different categories.

Skin and solvents
There are two types of exposures when thinking about solvents and skin.  The most obvious is a solvent acting as an irritant.  The irritation may cause a burn, dermatitis and even an allergic reaction.  Skin usually becomes more and more sensitive to a solvent as the exposure increases. The skin can also act as a passage-way, which allows solvents to travel to other systems and organs which can cause damage. By wearing the correct protective clothing, a protective barrier is created.  Not any type of glove or apron will do.  It needs be chemically resistant.  Always make sure the protective clothing is in good working order before putting it on.

Eyes and solvents
Getting anything into an eye is painful, and solvents are no exception.  In fact, the irritation that can be caused by solvents can lead to permanent damage like blindness.  Safety glasses should be worn when working with solvents, not just to prevent an accidental splash.  Some solvent vapors can be extremely irritating, and like the skin, solvents can be absorbed through the eyes.

Airway and solvents
Solvent exposure often happens through inhalation.  Because solvents evaporate quickly into the air, anyone breathing the air with solvents present will inhale some amount of the solvent. Inhaling solvents can lead to headaches, dizziness, but even losing consciousness and death. The type of solvent, its toxicity and amount all figure into the equation.  It’s important to follow permissible exposure limits, have proper room ventilation and to wear the appropriate respirator.

Fires, explosions and solvents
Many types of solvents are flammable, and some are explosive.  It’s important to know the solvent’s volatility, which increases its flammability.  The other factor that is important to know is the flash point of the solvent.  If the flash point is reached it means a spark or flame could ignite the vapors. Solvents need to be stored properly.  A fire resistant area that is well-ventilated and that has the appropriate fire extinguishers within reach is critical.

By providing safety training on different solvents your construction workers feel confident working with solvents.   It’s important they know what to review before working with solvents, so they make safe choices.  Solvents in construction are necessary and common, so make sure to safely train your crew.