Professional Painters use repair tactics and paint products to restore the exterior and interior surfaces on commercial and residential properties. Typical job duties of a professional painter include removing old and peeling paint, priming the painting surface, selecting materials, choosing colors, applying the finish coat and cleaning up the job site. Most professional painters work for subcontractors in the construction industry that build new facilities, repair old properties, or manage residential and commercial structures.
Statistics maintained by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that there has been a significant increase (7%) in the number of painting jobs over the last decade. This need for painters has risen pointedly compared to all other manual labor careers. The best painters are detailed oriented and have exceptional aesthetic sense. To perfect the job, the painter must leave clean, crisp edges and ensure that every paint layer well adheres to the underlying substrate.
The painter will use various brushes, scrapers, rollers, standards, wire brushes, and tools for texturing to apply paint under various effects. Typically, construction painters apply paint to a variety of structures including buildings, fences, bridges, walls, and exterior stairwells. In addition to working indoors, the painter also applies their trade in outdoor work environments. The physical demands of the job require extensive kneeling, bending, stretching, climbing, and reaching. The job often requires working in uncomfortable postures at extreme heights in intense heat and cold.
If you or a family member was injured while working as a painter, you are likely entitled to workers compensation benefits. Contact the workers compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information and a free review of your legal rights and options.
Professional Painter Hazards
Commercial and residential paint workers are continually exposed to hazardous chemicals when removing oh layers of paint and applying new codes. A major part of the painting industry is prepping metal, wood, and drywall surfaces that require solvents that could cause significant irritation through skin contact and inhalation.
Painters in the construction industry have a higher rate of serious injuries and illnesses compared to all other occupations. Many workers suffer muscle strains from excessive lifting, respiratory and dermal problems from exposure to irritants including paint materials and plaster dust, and broken bones and contusions when falling from ladders. Common safety and health issues for a professional painter include:
- Working in a confined space
- Working on scaffolding, platforms, and ladders, often at a great height.
- Exposure to hazardous paint products that contain toxic substances, lead, and solvents.
- Exposure to bacteria, fungi, and mold.
- The risk of suffering severe injuries by falling objects.
- Slipping, tripping, and falling.
- The risk of serious neck and back injuries that could lead to chronic problems.
- Exposure to dust inhalation caused by sanding drywall that could lead to sinus problems, asthma, and other respiratory issues.
- Risk of serious eye injuries.
- Lifting awkward and heavy objects
- Standing in the same position for extended amounts of time.
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation and heat that could lead to skin cancers, heatstroke, and heat exhaustion.
- Electrical hazards when working in proximity to equipment and live electrical powerlines.
- Exposure to infectious rodent and bird droppings.
Nearly every paint product contains dyes, pigments, and fillers. Studies show that many fillers and pigments years ago were developed with toxic lead-based and chromate-based substances. In preparing homes, commercial properties and other structures for new layers of paint, the painter must scrape, spray, or sand away dried toxic layers of old paint. Today's pigments are made from organic and inorganic materials that create the chemical and physical characteristics of the paint coating. While some pigments, like yellow, have low toxicity, other pigment colors are hazardous.
Additionally, professional painters work with various other paint products formulated with binders, oils, and resins that can be highly irritating to the skin and lungs. Other products are formulated with solvents, additives, and surfactants to help evenly disburse the pigment colors in the paint.
Exposure to toxic chemicals is known to lead to occupational exposure for the professional painter. Studies show that there has been an increased risk of developing lung cancer, bladder cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and mesothelioma. Another occupational hazard is referred to as "painters dementia" that is the result of neurological problems caused by exposure to toxic fumes and elevated levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Work-related asthma is another critical concern that could develop into a potentially life-threatening disease. Exposure to sensitizers is a serious problem because these harmful chemicals can produce a variety of distressing problems including coughing, wheezing, prickly, watery eyes, constantly running nose, and chest tightness. Usually, asthma conditions are caused by isocyanates used to formulate certain pains, wood dust, and glues containing approximately resins, products containing formaldehyde, wood preservatives, and other products.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment data of the previous year, there were 5630 Painters at work in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that Painters in northeastern Illinois earned $29.59 per hour, or $61,540 annually, on average. These earning wages are significantly higher than the national averages. See Chart
Professional Painter Fatalities and Injuries
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), and other safety and health agencies have launched various initiatives to improve good practices while prepping and painting. Even so, there have been significant serious injuries and fatalities that could have been prevented had contractors and employees identified potential dangers and took the necessary measures to prevent accidents. To minimize the potential for preventable serious injuries and fatalities, the worker, co-worker, and contractor must receive necessary training on how to identify problems.
- Case 1: Springfield, Missouri – OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is investigating an accident that claimed the life of a 25-year-old professional painter after he fell five stories while working on an apartment painting project. The paint worker was assisting two co-workers while unloading paint on the fifth-floor balcony off a forklift before falling to his death. The OSHA Assistant Regional Administrator stated that "this incident could have been prevented. Many workers die on the job when just a few simple steps could have saved their life." Local law enforcement stated that the company was using a forklift to raise paint buckets stacked on a pallet. None of the employees were using fall prevention equipment. No railing was installed along the balcony.
- Case 2: July 2017 – At midafternoon, a professional painter "was engaged in the exterior painting of a building [and] was standing on a sloped roof with a pitch of 5:12 and applying masking tape around a window in preparation for spray painting." As the worker "stepped onto a cantilevered decorative corbel [it] separated from the building's exterior." The employee "fell approximately 10 feet to the concrete surface. Emergency services were called, and [the painter] was transported to the hospital" to undergo surgery for the treatment of fractures to his arm and pelvis.
- Case 3: July 2017 – A painter fell from a ladder and died. On June 15, 2017, in the early afternoon, a paint worker "was engaged in exterior painting at the construction site for a two-story residential building." While working on a ladder, the employee fell from "a fall height of 8 feet." The accident claimed the worker's life.
- Case 4: June 2017 – A professional painter was hospitalized after an accident that occurred on June 16, 2017, while "painting a tank top." The employee "fell through an opening [and] fractured his pelvis."
- Case 5: June 2017 – An employee died after falling from a scaffold. While painting structural steel, the paint worker "fell from scaffolding" and suffered "a concussion and died as a result" of his injuries.
- Case 6: January 2016 – An employee died after falling from a ladder. At midafternoon on January 6, 2016, a 51-year-old paint worker was performing his duties on a ladder. "The employee fell and was killed from head injuries."
- Case 7: January 2014 – A journeyman painter fractured his leg after falling from a ladder. A General Coating Corporation employee was "painting the interior of a residential structure." While standing on the third rung of a 6-foot ladder "positioned adjacent to the landing rail wall and using an extension pole to paint the ceiling," the ladder shifted. This caused the worker "to lose his balance and fall over the rail and down to the concrete walkway below, a fall height of 30 feet." Coworkers called emergency services who transported the injured painter to the local hospital where he was "admitted and treated for a right leg fracture." OSHA investigated the incident.
- Case 8: July 2015 – At 8:30 AM, a professional painter was working "on a building from a metal ladder at an approximate height of 17 feet. The supervisor heard [some] noise and went to check out the noise and found the employee lying on the cement floor. The employee was killed and was bleeding from the back of the ears and head."
- Case 9: A professional painter injured his back after falling from a ladder. In the early afternoon of April 20, 2017, professional painter "was working from a ladder to paint the outside of a housing tract that [was] under construction." The worker was standing "at a height of approximately 20 feet," before falling and striking "the concrete driveway below. The employee injured his back," which required hospitalization and extensive treatment.
Preventing serious health problems and safety risks requires the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that could include respiratory masks and fall protection gear. Maintaining adequate ventilation in confined areas and using only eco-friendly paints with low VOC levels or water-based acrylic paints can minimize many of the potential side effects, illnesses and other problems associated with the painting industry.
Many painters are exposed to hazardous substances including lead-based paint on homes and commercial buildings that were built before the 1960s. If the old paint is in good condition, it should be left alone, and just apply new paint over the existing layers. Let-based paint should never under any circumstance be disturbed, sanded or scraped without using Personal Protective Equipment designed to be an effective barrier against exposure to airborne lead.
The employer, business owner, and subcontractor are responsible for controlling the worksite. It is their legal obligation to ensure the health and welfare of every employee, visitor and others at the job site. It is important to note that most illnesses associated with the paint industry occur through inhalation of harmful chemicals and skin irritations that lead to dermatitis on the face, arms, hands, and lower extremities. Most skin conditions occur from contact with cement products, resins, epoxies, detergents, soaps, oils, wood preservatives, paints, chromium, nickel, and latex.
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