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General health and safety issues

Abrasive blasting and the application of protective coatings can kill or cause permanent injury and illness. Lung damage, hearing loss, tinnitus, eye damage and severe lacerations are just some of the injuries people working in this industry can receive. Fatalities can occur from inhaling carbon monoxide in the breathing air produced by combustion of compressor oil or motor exhaust fumes entrained in the compressor air intake.

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Plant, equipment and machinery

The plant, equipment and machinery used in abrasive blasting should be checked daily for wear and damage by the operator. Owners of machinery and equipment should keep log books and inspection check sheets containing a full history of service and repairs.

Information on how to use the following plant, equipment and machinery safely can be found in abrasive blasting, plant and equipment section of the Abrasive Blasting Code of Practice 2013 (PDF, 1008.32 KB).

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) protects workers against the hazards which can assault workers through different routes of exposure. PPE can include:

  • an air line positive pressure hood or helmet
  • protective suits or clothing to keep out dust and abrasive grit
  • respirators
  • chemically resistant gloves, safety boots and aprons
  • barrier cream (for short term protection).

Supplied air quality

Air supplied to an abrasive blaster's helmet from a compressor must meet certain standards for breathability. Compressors used for blasting air may not produce breathing air quality.

Requirements include:

  • at least 170 L per minute of cool air
  • oxygen content between 19.5 and 22 per cent
  • carbon monoxide less than 11 parts per million
  • oil less than 1 mg per cubic metre
  • carbon dioxide less than 900 parts per million
  • removal of excess water vapour.

Compressors used for abrasive blasting should not be used to supply breathing air. Breathing air compressors should be regularly checked for:

  • correct performance of over-temperature cut out
  • siting of air intake in fresh air
  • quality of breathing air.

There is no filtering agent regularly available to remove carbon monoxide from compressed air.


Drift from abrasive blasting can be harmful not only to workers but also to members of the public. Good housekeeping can minimise the risk of exposure.

While other control measures should prevent dust escaping from the area where blasting is being done, any dust or residue that does make its way into the workplace should be cleaned as soon as practical after blasting has finished.

Where practical, accumulated dust should be removed using wet cleaning methods, or High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter vacuum methods.

Because workers undertaking cleaning work may be exposed to dust levels in excess of the exposure standard, they should wear personal protective equipment.

Confined spaces

The person in control of a business or undertaking must identify any hazards associated with working in a confined space. Typically they may arise when blasting or painting walls inside tanks, vessels or silos.

The primary hazards commonly found in confined spaces are:

  • lack of oxygen
  • toxic gases, vapours or fumes
  • flammable gases, vapours or fumes
  • engulfment
  • mechanical equipment.
Last updated
04 April 2017

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