Working in a body shop means you’re constantly surrounded by hazards. Power tools and heavy-duty equipment all abound in the shop environment, but perhaps one of the most dangerous areas of the body shop is the paint booth.
While spraying paint may seem like an innocuous task on the surface, it entails constantly surrounding yourself with chemicals that can be hazardous to your health and safety if not handled under the right circumstances. The best ways to protect yourself and your employees from danger are to light the paint booth properly and construct a reliable paint booth ventilation system to ensure optimal air flow.
Paint booth air flow requirements
OSHA: OSHA states that paint booths must be designed to filter out flammable contaminants and move air currents toward an exhaust for proper ventilation. There must be some sort of independent exhaust system in place to discharge outside of the building. The ventilation system must be running at all times during and after spraying. Exhausted air should not be recycled back into the spray booth as this can cause contamination.
EPA: The EPA has very specific guidelines regarding spray booth ventilation. Filters with at least 98% capture efficiency must be installed on all paint booths, and spray booths used for motor vehicle refinishing “must be fully enclosed and ventilated at negative pressure or up to 0.05 inches water gauge positive pressure for booths that have seals on all doors and other openings and an automatic balancing system.”
Fortunately, having these guidelines makes it relatively easy to set up a compliant and properly ventilated paint booth.
How to optimize paint booth air flow
When building your paint booth ventilation system, some key pieces of equipment to invest in include:
Paint booth fans should be installed to facilitate air circulation and exhaustion of contaminants outside of the building. You should regularly inspect your paint booth ventilation fans for blockage or malfunction to ensure top performance.
There are two types of paint booth filters used in spray booths: exhaust filters and intake filters.
Exhaust filters (also known as paint overspray arrestors) work by capturing oversprayed coatings before they’re exhausted into the environment to reduce shop emissions. If you have a downdraft paint booth, you’ll want exhaust filters to be installed near the floor. If you have a crossdraft booth, they will be located on the opposite side from intake filters.
Intake filters are used to clean dirt and contaminants from the air entering the paint booth’s chamber. They’re located in the ceiling of a downdraft paint booth and in or near the doors of a crossdraft booth.
Monitor your paint booth filters with a manometer and replace them often to ensure your paint booth stays well-ventilated. A clogged filter is ineffective at removing dangerous contaminants and will do you more harm than good.
Flat-top paint booths are popular choices for many manufacturers because they’re cheap. However, this type of design results in poor air flow and circulation. Your best bet is to go with a gabled roof paint booth, which offers better air flow and yields higher-quality finishes.
Risks of poor paint booth ventilation
There are many hazards associated with a paint booth that is not properly ventilated. Among them include:
- Toxic fumes – Perhaps the most obvious consequence of a poorly ventilated spray booth is the risk of inhaling toxic fumes. Solvents and other chemicals used in the paint booth contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which, over time, can be harmful to your health and the health of your employees. Keeping your paint booth properly ventilated helps keep health and safety in check.
- Fire – Due to the amount of hazardous materials and equipment used in a paint booth, fire is a very real risk. If paint fumes come in contact with electrical discharge or reactive chemicals, a fire can start in seconds. We do have fire suppression systems available for purchase, and they’re definitely worth the investment. However, it’s also important to take the necessary precautions to prevent fires from occurring in the first place — and that starts with proper ventilation.
- Poor finish quality – A poor ventilation system will be less likely to capture dust, dirt and other contaminants, resulting in low-quality paint jobs. On top of that, having a poorly ventilated spray booth affects your employees’ ability to do great work. A well-ventilated spray booth will help you achieve higher quality finishes to reduce costs and cycle time and improve customer satisfaction.
Keeping your paint booth ventilated
Regular spray booth maintenance helps to prolong the life of your spray booth, improve your quality of work and protect your employees. Here are some maintenance tasks you should complete on a regular basis to keep your booth in good working order.
- Regularly check and replace your air filters. Stick to a schedule to ensure it gets done.
- Keep your booth clean. Cleaning your paint booth is one of the best ways to maintain quality air flow in the paint booth. Use a mop and a solvent-based cleaner to remove any overspray, then pressure wash the cabin to give it a deep clean.
- Schedule regular inspections with your paint booth manufacturer. Most paint booth manufacturers offer body shops equipment inspections and professional cleanings to ensure your paint booth is always operating at peak performance. Take advantage of this to keep your paint booth properly ventilated.
- Keep your paint booth well heated. Heating your paint booth is more for performance than safety, but it’s important to keep this in mind at all times.