Epoxy compounds are highly allergenic and will be classified as hazardous substances or materials.
Allergies may occur after even a short period. Contact eczema (immediate hypersensitivity) is seen particularly on the hands and manifests itself as redness, itching, small bumps and fluid-filled blisters. In the case of severe eczema, the skin swells up and suppurates.
Epoxy is used in products such as paints, moisture barriers, floor coverings, sealants for concrete, fillers and adhesives. People who suffer from eczema, epoxy allergy or severe sweating of the hands (hyperhidrosis manuum) must not work with these products.
Isocyanates (polyurethane or PU) may cause eczema and allergic asthma. Asthma is a hypersensitivity in the lungs which manifests itself in the form of attacks of shortness of breath when people are exposed to these substances. Several isocyanates are suspected of being able to cause cancer and are on the Working Environment Authority’s cancer list.
Isocyanates are used in products such as paints, adhesives, roof priming, fillers, floor coverings and soft and hard foam, e.g. preinsulated district heating pipes. They are often the hardeners in two-component systems. Hardener and resin are sometimes supplied ready-mixed.
People who suffer from asthma, eczema, isocyanate allergy, chronic lung problems or severe sweating of the hands must not work with these products.
It is initially forbidden to spray using products outside spray booths and spray cabins, where there must be effective ventilation. However, spraying is permitted in some situations, e.g. spraying of wooden flooring in some sports halls and on outdoor sports tracks. In some situations, there may be time restrictions on this type of work; it all depends on the work situation. Spraying work must be reported to the Working Environment Authority.
Training and instruction
Everyone who is to work with epoxy or isocyanate products must undergo special training. There is general training and a short training course for work with sealants in closed containers. In addition, the employer must ensure that sufficient instruction is given on how specific work is to be carried out.
Rules for the use of epoxy and isocyanates
It is necessary to wear suitable disposable gloves and workwear or a protective overall as it is important to avoid contact with the skin.
You must not eat, drink or smoke on the work site.
Only the people working with the products are permitted to remain within the work area, which must be provided with warning signs. Spillages, residues, empty packaging, discarded workwear and used disposable towels must be placed in special waste containers which clearly describe the contents.
There must be a special changing room in which everyday clothes and workwear are stored separately. These must not be used by anyone other than people who work with epoxy and isocyanates. There must also be access to toilets and baths with hot and cold water and canteens which are kept free of epoxy and isocyanates: in other words, you must not have dirty protective equipment with you.
At the work site there must be unhindered access to handwashing facilities, with running lukewarm water, soap and suitable skin cream. Taps must not be hand-operated; instead they must be operated by a pedal, sensor or elbow.
Cleaning: The work site, changing rooms, bathrooms and canteens must be cleaned regularly.
Personal hygiene: It is important to maintain good personal hygiene. Wash your face, lower arms and hands before taking lunch breaks and going to the toilet, and always at the end of the working day. If necessary, you must have a bath at the end of the working day. IMPORTANT: Whenever substances come into contact with the skin, you must wash thoroughly in order to prevent an allergic reaction.
First-aid equipment with – among other things – an eye back must be situated close to the work site.