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An assessment of metal maintenance workers' solvent exposures.

Clark-N; Monioudis-H; Goldberg-M; Jones-W
Silver Spring, MD: The Center to Protect Workers' Rights, 1997 Oct; :1-17
The Industry: Metal maintenance workers maintain decorative finishes in commercial and residential buildings in cities throughout the country. Architectural finishes on the interior and exterior of buildings, including elevator interiors, require regular cleaning and refinishing to maintain design appearances. Bronze and other metal finishes are protected with a clear lacquer coating to protect the surface from tarnish and scratches. The materials used to protect surfaces and to remove the protective coatings prior to refinishing contain volatile organic solvents with recognized fire and health hazards. Nationally, about 1,200 metal polishers are employed at 100 companies. Many metal refinishers work for companies who also provide other cleaning and maintenance services. Most metal maintenance companies employ fewer than 50 workers and do not have the fulltime services of safety and health professionals. Work is performed during day and evening shifts and scheduled so that work activities do not interfere with a building's usual functions. Many of the metal maintenance companies as well as the union of metal refinishers are members of a national trade organization. The trade group meets regularly to address common issues facing the industry as a whole including the environmental and occupational health impact of industry operations. Basis for This Study: Industry concerns regarding the use of volatile materials in metal polishing have grown over the past five years for two reasons. For one, in 1992 two refinishers were killed and another was seriously injured in a St. Louis elevator car. The materials they were using produced a flammable atmosphere that was most likely ignited by heat from an electric light bulb or contact with a live electrical component. The elevator doors were closed for refinishing and the controls had been locked out to prevent the car from being summoned to other floors. The work crew was trapped inside. By the time the doors were pried open from the outside, one man was dead from carbon monoxide poisoning and another suffered second- and third degree burns and died 39 days later. A third worker survived first and second-degree burns.
Construction; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Construction-materials; Safety-education; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Work-environment; Work-practices; Worker-health; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Health-hazards; Cleaning-compounds; Metal-finishing; Metal-compounds; Maintenance-workers; Coatings; Volatiles; Organic-chemicals; Organic-compounds; Organic-solvents; Solvents; Fire-hazards; Metal-workers; Metals; Chemical-burns; Burns; Flammable-liquids
Building and Construction Trades Dept., AFL-CIO: CPWR, Suite 1000, 8484 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910
Publication Date
Document Type
Funding Amount
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement; Construction
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Priority Area
Source Name
An Assessment of Metal Maintenance Workers' Solvent Exposures
Performing Organization
Center to Protect Workers' Rights
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division