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Evaluation of Exposure to Organic Solvents

(February 2011) posted on Tue Feb 22, 2011

NIOSH makes a site visit to determine whether harmful conditions are present and to make proposals for employee safety at a small screen-printing company.


By Lilia Chen, Maureen Niemeier, Scott E. Brueck

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We recommended that the company consider using non-solvent or low-solvent alternatives for screen printing. The screen-printing area did not have exhaust ventilation, and there was little air movement in the work area. During warm weather, a window near the screen-printing table is opened and a fan used to blow air out. However, opening the window and using a fan might not improve ventilation enough. Therefore, we recommended installing an exhaust ventilation system for screen printing.

We observed work activities that might cause splashing of screen-printing chemicals into the workers’ eyes or hands. Although workers wore latex gloves when cleaning screens, they did not wear gloves during other screen-printing activities. Additionally, the latex gloves that were available were not appropriate to protect against the chemicals in lacquer thinner and screen-printing inks. Based on the primary ingredients in these types of products, we recommended gloves made of Viton/butyl combination or laminate plastic film such as Ansell Barrier (polyethylene, polyamide, polyethylene combination) or North Silvershield/4H (polyethylene, ethylene vinyl alcohol, polyethylene combination). Workers also did not wear any eye protection. Therefore, we recommended that they use safety glasses or goggles when handling hazardous chemicals (Figure 1).

We identified several fire safety hazards at the facility. Employees stored lacquer thinner in plastic containers that were not approved for flammable liquids. We recommended that the company provide proper flammable safety containers (Figure 2). Too much lacquer thinner was stored in the spray-paint booth, so we advised the company not to permit more than a one-day supply of lacquer thinner or screen inks to be stored there. We also found that containers were not properly bonded when flammable liquids were poured from one container to another. To prevent possible accumulation of a static charge and spark, we recommended the company require the use of bonding cables to electrically connect containers of flammable liquids when pouring from one container to another. Lastly, we recommended that flammable liquids be stored in the flammable-material-storage cabinets.


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