Workers in auto collision shops are exposed to a variety of chemical and physical hazards. Previous studies have focused on measuring levels of isocyanates, but little is known about exposures to dust, noise, and solvents. In preparation for an intervention effectiveness study in small collision repair businesses, sampling was conducted on 3 consecutive days in four representative businesses with three to seven employees. Full-shift and task-specific exposures were measured for dust and solvents (for operations other than painting and spray gun cleaning). Full-shift personal exposures and tool-specific noise levels were also evaluated. Samples of banded earplugs were distributed to employees and feedback was collected after 1 week of wear time. Dust and solvent exposures did not exceed the OSHA PELs. Noise exposure doses were below the OSHA PEL; however, 4 of the 18 measurements were in excess of the ACGIH threshold limit value. The majority of tools generated noise levels above 85 dBA. Air guns, wrenches, cutoff wheels, and air drills generated noise levels with the 5th percentile above 90 dBA. Mean noise levels generated by hammers, grinders, and ratchets were also above 95 dBA. Three pairs of banded earplugs had the best reviews in terms of comfort of use. This study was conducted during a time when all shops reported relatively low production levels. Noise exposure results suggest that it is likely that technicians' 8-hr time-weighted average exposures may be in excess of 85 dBA during periods of higher production, but exposures to dust and solvents are unlikely to approach OSHA exposure limits. These pilot test results will be useful when developing recommendations and technical assistance materials for health and safety interventions in auto collision repair businesses.
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