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In my early years as a Marine Painter, Training, Occupational Health and Safety was not on any employer’s priority. We were sent on air fed into holds in vessels airless spray-painting. If the power went out, your chances of getting out alive were slim as you had about 10 seconds of air reserve in the lines. There was no ventilation so after a minute or two, your groin and underarms would be burning even under your overalls.
Epoxy paints, Chlorinated Rubber, Polyester and antifouling were the main systems used. To clean up after the day, solvents were used on our bodies to remove paint from our skin. We now know the dangers of such practice and are aware of the potential health risks.
A very close friend who I worked with in the Marine Painting, at 54 years age is now diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. There have been studies into the links of this disease and solvent exposure. Independent diagnosis has confirmed that the exposure to solvents is the most likely cause influencing this disease. His health has rapidly declined so much now that he is tube fed and life expectancy is short.
The wide range of marine glues, paint and adhesives is very vast and improved since, but still remains very dangerous. I cannot personally go near epoxies. After years of building/ repairing GRP vessels with epoxy and faring yachts with micro balloons / epoxy mixtures, I can not have any exposue to epoxies due to the build up of toxins.
For those of us who own a vessel or manage fleets of commercial vessels, it is our part responsibility to ensure the contractors appointed to maintain/ build the vessels are ethical. Training and product knowledge should be provided to all employees. Prior to engaging contractors, please ask the questions of the contractor regarding what PPE is supplied to the workers and what training they have had in the products and health risks associated with the applications.
If you see something, say something.
Contractors / employees working in an unsafe environment on your vessel/s are your responsibility. You have the power to influence the company they work for by raising your concerns and request what action they will do to minimalize the risk/ exposure on their workforce.
Government courses are available such as https://training.gov.au/Training/Details/AURV229749A.
The product specification sheet should be read very closely for all products. Solvents should never be used to clean any part of the body.
For my friend, Frank Lund
firstname.lastname@example.org+61 (0) 417 942247 (+8hrs GMT)
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