When installing spray foam insulation, it’s important that installers have the right personal protective equipment (PPE). This will enable workers to minimize some of the risks that come along with installation.

Risk of Spray Insulation

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation has become more popular over the past few years for both commercial and residential applications to help reduce heating costs and decrease the use of fossil fuels. This type of insulation is more energy efficient than traditional fiberglass insulation, and it is usually cheaper to install and purchase.

While the demand for this insulation has increased, there is also a growing concern for the insulation. This type of insulation is often produced on the jobsite and not in a production facility. There are two chemicals that are mixed together on site during the installation. The chemical known as the Side A chemical consists of highly reactive chemicals called isocyanetes. Exposure to these chemicals can cause severe skin problems and problems with breathing. According to the EPA, these types of chemicals were reported to be a leading cause of work-related asthma, and in some cases reactions have been fatal. Symptoms during exposure or immediately after can include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, irritation of the lungs and eyes, fever, sore throat, tightness in the chest, headaches, joint pain, and stuffy nose.

If you are going to be installing spray insulation, you need to have the right PPE to protect yourself. Insulation will need to be installed correctly, so that there is no risk to the building owners and those who enter the home after the installation is complete. There are also certain factors that can impact the curing rates that workers need to know, since it may still not be safe to enter the building. Ambient conditions, such as humidity and temperature, can also play a role, as well as poor applicator technique.

PPE Required to Stay Protected

There are a number of categories of PPE.

  • Respiratory protection can include an airline and half or full face equipment
  • Eye protection can include goggles, visors, and shields.
  • Hearing protection can include plugs and ear muffs
  • Hand protection can include barrier reams and gloves.
  • Foot protection can include boots and shoes
  • Head protection can include hoods or helmets.
  • There is also skin protection, which can should include disposable protective clothing

Finding the right PPE will depend on the type of anticipated exposure. The type of PPE worn for other jobs may not protect you enough when it comes to spray insulation. You also want to choose the right durability and appropriateness of PPE for the tasks. The third thing to consider is the fit.

Managers must ensure that the needs of PPE are assessed by a person who is competent to judge what methods of risk control can offer better protection for health and safety. Professional advice should be attained to identify the suitable types of PPE for the tasks that are supposed to be carried out. Training should be provided to supervisors and employees to make sure they understand the proper selection, use, fit, and maintenance of PPE.

According to OSHA regulation 3.35, employees must use protective clothing or equipment in the manner in which he or she has been instructed to do so and not misuse or damage the clothing. As soon as possible after becoming aware of any damage or malfunction, employees must notify the person who is providing the clothing to either fix the damage or clean and sterilize the equipment.

PPE for spray foam insulation is needed for the applicators, helpers, and the adjacent workers who may be entering the work area. The appropriate clothing will depend on the potential for exposure, but applicators should wear disposable coveralls to keep mist and spray from contacting clothing and skin. There should not be any exposed skin showing. When not wearing a hood respirator, the coverall should have any attached hood or spray head cover. Gloves should be made of nitrile, neoprene, or PVC, in order to provide protection from chemicals. Gloves need to fit properly to provide the best protection. Eye protection is needed to prevent any splashes of the liquid chemicals, as well as contact with vapors and aerosols that could be present while spraying. The use of contact lenses while applying is discouraged. Full-face air purifying respirators may be appropriate for exterior applications, but may not be appropriate for combined spaces.

There are some limitations to PPE, and workers need to be aware of other potential hazards. For example, safety glasses won’t protect the eye area of the face from any chemical splashes. Aprons won’t protect against hot liquids, steam, or continuous thermal loads.

In addition to wearing protective clothing, workers should review label and product information for hazard directions and safe work practices. They should also ensure that health and safety training is complete to prevent eye, skin, and inhalation exposure during spray insulation installation.

Why Use Disposable Clothing?

Disposable protective clothing has many advantages. Some jobs are better suited for disposable clothing because they become too dirty or useless once they are used. Using disposable clothing allows you to save time cleaning and protects against any other contaminants. It can be dangerous to clean off some of the chemicals, so clothing should only be used once. With disposable clothing, you don’t have to worry about damaging any of the work clothing during the job, and it’s convenient knowing that the clothing is just for one use. Materials that are used in protective clothing can also wear down over time with laundering and repeated use. However, with disposable protective clothing, it is still made of durable materials but it’s not subject to the effects of reusing, transport, laundering, storage, and decontamination.

International EnviroGuard has a variety of disposable protective clothing options for spray foam insulation installation and other work jobs. The selection of disposable clothing has effective splash protection options, while still keeping workers more comfortable than previous suits in the past. The protective clothing has been tested using protection standards for repellency and penetration. Chemical splash protection clothing is engineered for a better fit for heavy-duty work with less tearing and ripping.