By Grace Ombry – GBI Retiree
Epoxy safety begins with working cleanly. When handling WEST SYSTEM® Epoxy resin and hardener, take steps to keep epoxy out of your eyes and off your skin and clothing. Ventilate your workspace to protect your respiratory system. Minimize the amount of epoxy that gets on your work surface and tools. Regardless of the type of boat repair you have planned, follow these safety practices.
Protect Your Eyes and Skin
Whenever working with epoxy, wear safety glasses or goggles to prevent epoxy from splashing into your eyes.
Neoprene gloves are a great choice for keeping epoxy off your hands. These gloves offer chemical and puncture resistance, good finger sensitivity, and flexibility for manual dexterity.
While it might seem like you’re getting away with not wearing gloves if you haven’t developed a rash, skipping gloves may eventually result in a histamine reaction. Repeated exposure to epoxy resin, hardener and uncured mixed epoxy can sensitize your skin over time, resulting in a rash similar to poison ivy. Once this happens, the rash can return after each fresh epoxy exposure.
Protecting your clothes will prevent uncured epoxy from soaking through them and reaching your skin. For especially messy jobs, consider using a lightweight coverall made from a chemical-resistant fabric like Tyvek®. There are other options too, from disposable aprons to single-use sleeves. Choose the best combination for your working style and the task at hand.
It’s also a good idea to keep epoxy off your tools and work surfaces. Heavy (4 to 6 mil) plastic sheeting is great for protecting your work area from epoxy drips and spills. Mask your tools with cellophane packing tape; epoxy won’t stick to the tape, making cleanup a snap.
WEST SYSTEM Epoxies have very low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, when epoxy is heated or used in a poorly ventilated workspace, the chance of overexposure to vapors increases. Even with low VOCs, it’s possible for epoxy vapors to build up in confined spaces.
This is why you should provide ample ventilation when working with epoxy in small or tight spaces such as inside a boat hull. Ventilating can be as simple as adding a box fan or as complex as installing a high-tech air-filtration and exhaust system. If you can’t adequately ventilate your workspace, wear an air-purifying respirator with an organic vapor or multi-contaminate cartridge.
Pots of curing epoxy can grow hot enough to ignite surrounding combustible materials and give off hazardous fumes. When you notice overheating epoxy, move the pot to a ventilated area far away from people and combustible materials. Dispose of the solid epoxy mass only after it has completely cured and cooled.
Partially cured WEST SYSTEM Epoxy may be firm enough to withstand sanding but you should put it off until the epoxy has cured overnight and longer if curing in a cooler environment. The dust of partially cured epoxy contains unreacted hazardous components. If you breathe sanding dust from partially cured epoxy, the remaining reactive chemicals can become trapped in the mucous lining of your respiratory system. Once there, they can cause severe respiratory irritation and/or respiratory allergies. When sanding epoxy, always provide good ventilation and wear a dust/mist mask or respirator with an N95 rating or better.
For product-specific health and safety information on WEST SYSTEM Epoxy, visit westsystem.com.