Some overlooked risks in painting and decorating

by Alex on November 11, 2014

Post image for Some overlooked risks in painting and decorating

When thinking about jobs that are dangerous, the ones that come to mind are usually things like construction, electrical works, and manufacturing. But there are many other jobs that require careful thinking about health and safety. Two that often escape notice when assessing risks and planning for safety are painting and decorating. Do you know what can make these two activities dangerous?


This is a very common risk for both painters and decorators of all types. Painting both the inside and outside of tall buildings—even multilevel homes—and a multitude of decorating activities all require working on ladders or scaffolding, both of which can be dangerous if not used correctly. Be sure that anyone working at height is familiar with the safety requirements of doing so, and that all necessary precautions—like securing a ladder and using a fall-arrest system on a scaffold—are being taken.


Many paints need to be mixed with solvents, most of which can be hazardous if they’re inhaled or come into contact with the eyes or skin—prolonged exposure can result in dizziness, headaches, respiratory problems, and even nervous system issues. Wearing protective gear is recommended while mixing paints, as well as when spray painting or painting in any small area that lacks adequate ventilation. Using water-based paints can also reduce the risk of inhaling hazardous substances.

Working in older homes can increase the likelihood of exposure to lead paint, which has been linked with serious health issues. Before removing paint, it’s important to find out if it contains lead. And when removing any kind of paint, gloves and respirators should be worn to reduce exposure to any harmful chemicals introduced into the air by scraping or the application of paint removers.

Sharp tools

Many sharp tools are used in painting and decorating, from scrapers to pen knifes to table saws. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of risk inherent in using some of these tools, but even a relatively dull scraper can cause a serious injury if it’s used incorrectly or in dangerous conditions. Any painter or decorator using sharp tools should be properly trained on their use, and make sure to double-check the surroundings for anything that might make the activity more dangerous, like working in a high-traffic area, cutting items at awkward angles, or using dull tools.

Fire hazards

Both painters and decorators often work with materials that are highly flammable, and this contributes to the risk at the work site. Paint solvents, adhesive fumes, and electrical wires combine to make a high-risk situation that can be set off by a stray spark or two. Extra caution is imperative, especially in poorly ventilated spaces where fumes can’t escape.

Be safe out there!

Painting and decorating aren’t generally thought of as dangerous work, but there are plenty of opportunities for accidents and injuries. Be sure to perform proper risk assessments and put safety plans in place to keep workers and members of the public safe during painting and decorating works!

Image credit: Erich Ferdinand via flickr.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen July 25, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Great, informative article. Lots of issues that are definitely not commonly considered by lots of people when decorating.


Jennifer December 28, 2016 at 11:38 am

Thanks for sharing this useful post with us. Most of us never think about these risk while painting and decorating.


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