Key Safety Tools for Painting Professionals: A Comprehensive Guide

Commercial painters in Dublin, CA, are always in demand by residential and commercial clients. Painters are trained to work in different environments and with different paints and equipment on a wide variety of surfaces. They also need to protect themselves, maintain their own safety, and protect and maintain the area and the people around them. 

As a painting contractor, you and your crew must know what safety issues to be aware of, how to observe safety at work, and what forms of protection you should use.

The risks in paint jobs

Many people view paint jobs as straightforward. But like many trades, professional paint jobs have their share of hazards. A stroke of the paintbrush, slide of the paint roller, or drizzle of the paint sprayer carries its own safety considerations.

Here are some of the risks associated with paint jobs:

  • Chemical exposure from paints, primers, thinners, cleaning products, etc., through inhalation or skin contact. It could lead to a range of short-term and long-term ailments that include skin rashes from chemical burns, eye irritation, respiratory problems, kidney ailments, and certain cancers. The fumes from the chemicals in paint and other supplies can also trigger asthma.
  • Exposure to sanding dust can lead to occupational asthma, respiratory problems, and cancer.
  • Exposure to mold and mildew
  • Trips and slips
  • Falls from heights
  • Falling objects
  • Exposure to mold and mildew
  • Lead exposure (especially when working with older buildings)
  • Lack of proper ventilation
  • Confined spaces
  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Extreme weather conditions, especially in exterior painting
  • High-frequency noise (which is common in commercial painting jobs)

The 1970 Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Act ensures and enforces safe workplace conditions and standards. This OSHA act establishes workplace standards to protect workers from hazards that compromise their health. 

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

With only a few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) to comply with OSHA standards. These PPE usually include hard hats, gloves, goggles, and safety shoes. They may also have safety glasses, welding helmets and goggles, face shields, chemical protective equipment, and fall protection equipment.

If the employer doesn’t provide employees with the necessary PPE, the employees may file a complaint with OSHA. If the employer violates OSHA regulations for PPE, they will face sanctions. The officials may impose a fine and require changes in practices.

If an employer chooses not to provide the proper safety equipment and protection, it can also lead to professional implications. According to OSHA, about 40% of all US employees get injured at work every year. If companies fail to comply with health and safety regulations, they can face a more significant increase in workplace injury and, in turn, frequent absences and turnover from their staff.

Besides professional implications, non-compliance with occupational health and safety regulations can have adverse legal consequences. 

Non-compliance with industry health and safety guidelines is a criminal offense. Employers can face serious legal consequences if they neglect their workers’ safety by not protecting them. 

OSHA may issue citations or fines if the employees get seriously sick or injured because their employers didn’t protect them. Employers are required to provide their workers with all the PPEs they need, primarily if they work on dangerous projects or in hazardous environments.

Essential safety gear for painting contractors

Respiratory protection

Respiratory protection equipment should conform with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and OSHA standards, including the N95 filtering facepiece respirator.

  • Respirator – A painting respirator is worn over the mouth and nose to prevent paint fumes, mist, sanding dust, and other contaminants from entering the wearer’s breathing zone. The respirator should fit tightly around the wearer’s face so that there’s no chance for pollutants and dust to get through the gaps in the mask. The N95 respirator is commonly used among professional painters. This is the best choice, especially when spraying paint.
  • 3M face mask – This inexpensive and disposable half-mask will protect the wearer from VOC fumes. This is ideal for DIY home painters since they don’t spray paint often.
  • Powered respirator – This respirator has another function – purifying and filtering the air. It uses a pump to push the air into the hood the user wears. 

Eye and face protection

Eye protection should conform with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines, including goggles, safety glasses, and face shields.

  • Goggles – A pair of goggles protect the wearer’s eye from splatters, vapors from chemicals, paint mist from overspray, and sanding dust while painting. Some goggles have tinted lenses to help block the sun’s ultraviolet rays when working outdoors or glare when working under bright lights.
  • Safety glasses – Safety glasses should have side shields to protect your eye area from fumes, contaminants, and flying object hazards such as floating sawdust. Many safety glasses are also tinted for protection against glare and the sun’s UV rays.
  • Face shield – A face shield guards your face from splashes, heat, glare, and flying particles. However, it doesn’t guarantee eye, nose, or mouth protection, so the face shield must be worn over other protective eyewear or face masks.

Protective clothing

  • Overalls – Overalls have long sleeves and legs to protect the arms and legs from paint drips and sanding dust and a hood to protect the head from paint drips and splatters. They are usually worn over other clothes as protection. “Coveralls” is also another term for a similar type of clothing. Today, overalls and coveralls are also available in disposable options. Not only are overalls and coveralls especially useful in protecting your body and clothes from paint drips and splatters, but they also offer convenience and comfort. Make sure that the overall you’re about to wear doesn’t feel too loose or too tight. It’s important that you choose an overall that fits just right for your body size.
  • Apron – An apron protects the wearer’s clothes underneath it from drips, splatters, splashes, spills, and smudges while painting.

Hand and foot protection

  • Gloves – A pair of high-quality gloves should snugly fit around the fingers, palms, wrists, and knuckles so that there’s no chance of paint, sanding dust, sharp objects, etc., anything getting into them. They will sufficiently protect both hands from skin injury caused by chemicals from paint and similar products and abrasions and cuts from sharp tools and rough surfaces. Some gloves are disposable, while others are reusable and can be washed properly.
  • Shoe covers – Disposable shoe covers protect the wearer’s footwear and any exposed skin that could become irritated by contact with paint, sanding dust, cleaning chemicals, thinners, etc.
  • Safety footwear – The choice of footwear should depend on the present or potential hazards. It’s a good idea to assess the workplace and work activities that the employees work in. However, all safety shoes for the workplace should be slip-resistant and sufficiently protect the soles and toes because slips and falls can happen at any time, especially in wet, slippery, and greasy environments. For workers who are regularly exposed to high temperatures, they require a pair of shoes that can withstand extreme heat. High-cut safety boots are ideal for most workers, especially those exposed to rough or damp environments. They also help keep the feet comfortable, clean, and dry.

Fall protection equipment

Residential and commercial painters often work at heights. This means they require raised surfaces such as step ladders, scaffolding, mechanical lifts, and fall restraint systems. Depending on the project’s working conditions and environment, it can involve various types of safety equipment. 

Some fall protection equipment is designed to prevent workers from falling, while others are designed to protect the workers should a fall occur. 

  • Hard hat – A hard hat protects the wearer’s head in the event of a possible impact caused by a falling object or collision during a fall.
  • Harnesses, safety belts, and carabiners – Harnesses, safety belts, and carabiners comprise a fall restraint system that prevents the wearer from harmful or fatal falls. The harness and belt are usually attached to a stable and stationary object (such as a railing) through carabiners, which are coupling links with a safety closure. These safety gear items ensure the wearer will not hit the ground if he slips and falls. 
  • High-visibility safety vest or jacket – Painters working at heights should wear a reflective safety vest or jacket for visibility and protection from potential hazards. These vests allow the worker to be seen and alert that someone is present, especially in low-visibility situations.
  • Lifelines and anchors – Painters working at heights should be tethered to anchors or lifelines to ensure they can move freely but won’t fall if they slip or trip. Lifelines and anchors include all fall arrest and restraint systems that protect people working above ground instead of collective fall protection systems.
  • Roof guardrails and safety rails – Barriers like roof guardrails and safety rails shall be installed to protect the workers from falling off the edge, balcony, etc. If there is a point of access to an elevated area, self-closing safety gates should also be installed together with the rails.
  • Covers and domes – When painting or construction is done on a roof, covers and domes should be installed over or around skylights or roof lights to prevent the painters or workers from falling through them.
  • Safety nets – According to OSHA, safety nets shall be provided in workplaces that are at least 25 feet above ground or a water surface. They should also be provided for other surfaces where ladders, scaffolds, temporary floors, catch platforms, safety lines, or safety belts are impractical.

Hearing protection

OSHA also requires all employers to implement a hearing conservation program when exposure to noise is at 85 decibels or greater averaged over eight work hours or an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA)

OSHA also mandates employers to provide hearing protectors to all employees exposed to such high-frequency noise over eight working hours or an eight-hour TWA. Hearing protection equipment shall be replaced as necessary.

Commercial painters and other workers exposed to such conditions should be provided by their employers with adequate necessary hearing protection, such as high-attenuation earplugs and earmuffs. If the noise levels are too high or if a person has very sensitive hearing, earplugs and earmuffs can be worn together.

Industrial painter putting on protective gear

Safety gear maintenance and care

To ensure the long useful life of your PPE, they should be cleaned and maintained accordingly. It’s easy and doesn’t cost a lot. But in the case of disposable PPE, they should be discarded right away once used.

Here are the following instructions that companies should follow in using and maintaining their PPE:

  • Always take care of your PPE.
  • Make sure to check your PPE before and after each use.
  • Always clean and sanitize your PPE after use.
  • After using your PPE, store it in a clean and dry place that is free from sunlight, moisture, and contaminants.
  • Repair or replace damaged PPE.
  • Do not share used PPE, as this practice can put the user at risk for accidental contamination.
  • If the PPE is disposable (such as gloves and shoe covers), discard them once used. Do not reuse disposable PPE, as this can also pose high levels of risk for accidental contamination.

Training and Awareness

If PPE is to be used in a company, organization, etc., the employer should implement a PPE program. 

The PPE program should address the following key topics, such as:

  • The present and potential hazards of a workplace
  • The selection, maintenance, and use of PPE
  • The training of employees
  • Monitoring the program to ensure its ongoing effectiveness

Employers are required to train their employees to use PPE. Employees must undergo training to be aware of at least the following:

  • What PPE is necessary
  • When PPE is necessary
  • The proper way to put on, take off, adjust, and wear PPE properly
  • The limitations of PPE
  • Good care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of PPE

An employer must ensure that each employee completely understands the PPE training (i.e., in the language they know) and the ability to wear and use PPE properly before they are allowed to work that requires using PPE.

If the employer believes that an employee does not demonstrate an understanding of the PPE training, then that employee should be retrained. Other situations or conditions requiring additional or retraining employees include changes in the work environment or in the type of needed PPE that renders the prior training obsolete.


Be it painting in an office space or exterior painting in San Ramon, CA, safety should be a top priority for the paint crew. Their employers should have the moral and legal responsibility to provide each employee with the proper PPE as well as adequate training and awareness of their use before the employees are permitted to work in environments that require the use of PPE.

The PPE that every worker will use should be correctly constructed and designed to protect the workers’ bodies from potential harm.

When the PPE is used correctly and in conjunction with established safety procedures, the PPE can be quite effective at protecting the paint crew from injuries, illnesses, or fatalities. Laws promulgated by OSHA authorize the enforcement of work safety standards and provide for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational health and safety to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for all employees in the US. 

Custom Painting, Inc. has been in business for over 40 years, painting homes and commercial buildings throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. You can contact us by calling 925-294-8062 or filling out the Contact form, and we’ll get back to you.