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Posted 27 Mar 2023

Risk of fire in a spray booth and prevention

Spray booths are essential in many industries: from automotive to furniture production; from industrial products to large vehicles such as airplanes, trains and ships. They provide a controlled environment for painting and finishing objects, but can pose a fire hazard due to the use of flammable materials and the potential presence of ignition sources. In this article, we will discuss the fire hazards that can occur in a spray booth and provide a list of tips and precautionary measures that ensure a safe working environment.

The use of highly flammable materials, such as paints, solvents and cleaning agents, inside a spray booth constitutes a serious fire hazard. If these materials come into contact with an ignition source, such as a spark or a high temperature, they can easily catch fire, causing considerable damage. In addition, the accumulation of "over spray" inside the cabin can generate a highly dangerous combustible mixture, which exponentially increases the risk of fire.

Fire prevention tips

Adequate ventilation and filtration

Proper ventilation and filtration are essential to reduce the risk of fire in a spray booth. Ventilation systems should be designed to suck air from outside and filter it to remove impurities and provide clean air for the painting process. Filtration systems should also be regularly maintained to make sure they are functioning properly.

Spray booths must be designed to prevent the escape of air containing vapors, sprays, or coating dust in order to avoid the formation of an atmosphere with dangerous concentrations of material in the workshop. The fire load inside the spray booth must be minimized by design and construction, maintenance, and operating procedures.

Spray booths shall be equipped with forced ventilation to limit the concentration of flammable substances below the specified percentage of LEL. LEL stands for "Lower Explosive Limit". This term refers to the minimum concentration of a flammable gas in the air, below which the gas/air mixture is too "poor" to be flammable. Beyond this minimum concentration, called LEL, the mixture becomes increasingly rich in flammable gas. The concentration of flammable substances must be limited to:

  • - 50 % of the LEL for automatic spray booths;
  • - 25 % of the LEL for manual spray booths.
    All spray booths without a fire detection system on board the machine should also be equipped with manual fire extinguishers located near the emergency exits.

Use of non-sparking equipment

All equipment and tools used inside the spray booth must be suitable for use in flammable environments in zone 2, according to the ATEX classification.
Insulation of electrical equipment must be resistant to solvents and other fluids
and must comply with EN 60204-1:2006. All conductive parts must be grounded with equivalent potential to prevent static electricity build-up.

Proper storage of flammable materials

Flammable materials, such as paints, solvents and cleaning agents, should be stored in approved containers and cabinets designed for flammable liquids. These containers should be properly labeled and stored away from sources of ignition. Containers and cabinets should be kept closed and locked when not in use and checked regularly for damage or leakage. Flammable materials should not be stored in large quantities in undesignated areas. In addition, it is important that employees are aware of the risks associated with storing flammable materials and that they are trained on reporting any anomalies or incidents.

Regular cleaning

Regular cleaning of the spray booth is a fundamental activity for fire prevention and staff safety. A dirty or neglected cabin can accumulate excess paint, debris and other flammable substances that can become a source of combustion when exposed to a spark or high temperature. This includes cleaning filters, ventilation systems and cabin walls.

Training

Training on safety and fire prevention protocols is of utmost importance to ensure the safety of all employees working in the spray booth or nearby. Training of operators and employees in general should therefore include safety procedures, precautions to avoid ignition sources, the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE),the correct handling of flammable materials, such as paints, solvents and cleaning agents, and response to emergency situations. This includes safe evacuation of the area and the use of fire-extinguishing systems, such as portable fire extinguishers. Operators should be able to recognize signs of a potential fire, such as a smell of gas or smoke, and know how to act promptly to prevent the spread of fire.

No Smoking Policy

The no-smoking policy is an essential measure to prevent fires in and around the spray booth. It is important to implement a strict no-smoking policy by prohibiting the use of lighters, matches and any other activity that could create sparks or flames. This practice should be communicated to all employees and visitors, and no-smoking signs should be placed in visible places throughout the area.
In addition, it is essential to educate employees about the consequences of ignoring the no-smoking policy and make them aware of the severity of fire risk in the spray booth. In case of violation of the no-smoking policy, appropriate disciplinary sanctions should be provided.

Conclusions

Fire prevention in a spray booth is essential to ensure a safe working environment. By following the recommendations described in this article, including proper ventilation and filtration, the use of spark-free equipment, proper storage of flammable materials, regular cleaning, employee training, and smoke-free policies, you can reduce the risk of fire in the spray booth and ensure the safety of employees and the surrounding environment.

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