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Painter (Non-Art)

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Synonyms: Brusher; lacquerer; paint sprayer; paint worker

Job profile

Definition and/or description


Applies paint to surfaces. Prepares walls, metal, wood or other surfaces for painting. Spreads dropcloths over floors, machines and furnishings. Erects scaffolding or sets up ladders for work above ground level. Removes fixtures (such as pictures, nails, and electric switch covers). Removes old paint using paint remover, scraper, wire brush or blow-torch. Fills holes, cracks and joints with caulk, putty, plaster or other filler. Smooths surface using sandpaper, steel, wool and/or brushes. Washes and treats surfaces with water or other cleaning media. Selects premixed paint or mixes paint components. Applies coats of paint, varnish, stain, enamel or lacquer to surfaces using brushes, spray guns, rollers or electrostatic equipment. May dry or bake paint in special ovens. May cut stencils and brush or spray decorations and lettering on surfaces.



Air-drying; applying (paint); blowing (dry air); bolting; bonding; brushing; burning; calculating; carrying; caulking; cementing; cleaning; climbing; coating; cutting; decorating; dissolving; drying; depositing (electrostatically); enam- elling; erecting (scaffolds); filling; filtering; finishing; gluing; grinding; hauling; lacquering; lettering; loading and unloading; marking; masking; matching; measuring; mixing; moving; operating (spray gun etc.); painting; pasting; patterning; plastering; pouring; preparing (surfaces); purchasing; puttying; regulating (flow); removing (paint, rust, fixtures, etc.); repairing; rolling; rubbing; sanding; scraping; screwing and unscrewing; sealing; selecting; setting-up (ladders, etc.); shot blasting; smoothening; spraying; spreading; staining; stamping (patterns and designs); stripping; taping; touching up; tracing; transferring; transporting; varnishing; washing; waxing; whitewashing; wiping; wrenching.

Primary equipment used


Hand brushes; rollers; spraying equipment (air pressure or airless; hand-held or automated); electrostatic painting equipment; paint-drying ovens, lamps or hot-air blowers; paint mixing equipment; paint-stripping tools (manual or electric).


Accident hazards


– Falls from height (falls from ladders, from fixed and mobile elevated platforms, from scaffolds, from roofs, from tank tops, through opening in roofs, etc.);

– Slips and falls on level surfaces, in particular on slippery floors;

– Electrocution or electric shock (from faulty electrical equipment, through contact of metallic ladders with electric lines, during work with high-voltage electrostatic painting equipment, etc.);

– Hypodermal injection of paint into fingers, hands and (less frequently) other parts of the body when working with high-pressure airless spraying equipment. Such injection may cause deep penetration and amputation of affected fingers;

– Severe mechanical damage to eyes by high-pressure paint jets;

– Fire and explosions of flammable paint solvents and other constituents, especially when working (painting or mixing paints) in confined spaces with poor ventilation. Furniture lacquers may contain nitrocellulose, which is an explosive substance and may explode on impact or heating, if residues of the lacquer are allowed to dry;

– Fire and explosions as a result of electrostatic discharges during electrostatic painting with powdered paints, or as a result of sparks generated when metal particles (e.g., in paints containing metal powders) impact on the painted metal surface, or as a result of ignition of paints with binders which oxidize on contact with air;

– Clothes catching fire, within or outside the painting zone, when impregnated with paints or oil;

– Paint-splashing accidents from burst piping or when trying to unclog clogged spray nozzles;

– Penetration of foreign particles into the eyes during surface preparation for painting (e.g., by shot-blasting or sanding);

– Cuts, stabs, abrasions, etc. in fingers and hands during surface preparation by mechanical means;

– Penetration of skin by wood splinters when preparing wood surfaces for painting;

– Crushing of limbs or blows to other body parts when working in a suspended position;

– Skin abrasions from ladder rungs;

– Eye irritation or damage to the cornea from solvent droplets splashed into the eyes;

– Asphyxiation in confined spaces as a result of oxygen deficiency aggravated by the presence of solvent vapours.

Physical hazards


– Noise from spray guns or shot-blasting equipment;

– Exposure to UV or IR radiation, or heat, from paint-drying equipment;

– Exposure to cold, rain, snow and winds in winter, or to heat and sunrays in summer, particularly in outside work;

– Exposure to draughts in unfinished buildings.

Chemical hazards


– Occupational contact dermatitis as a result of exposure to various paint components or solvents, in particular to aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons and organohalogen compounds;

– Irritation of the eyes (with possible permanent damage to vision) and the respiratory tract by various paint components, in particular toluene and methylene diisocyanates;

– Acute intoxication, mainly as a result of inhalation of solvents, especially in confined spaces with inadequate ventilation. Mild intoxication has a narcotic effect which reduces vigilance and markedly increases the risk of falls or other accidents, sometimes with severe consequences. Severe intoxication may be fatal;

– Poisoning by phosgene formed from various chlorinated solvents in contact with a heat source under partial combustion conditions;

– Poisoning by lead in primers and by other metal constituents of paints (e.g., mercury and arsenic compounds used as fungicides in latex paints, organotin compounds in marine antifouling paints, zinc chromate in various lead-free primers, etc.);

– Poisoning by paint strippers such as methylene chloride or mixed solvents;

– Poisoning by hazardous paint constituents, depending on the type of paint used (e.g. formaldehyde in melamine/formaldehyde paints, epoxy resins in epoxy paints, toluene diisocyanate and methylene diisocyanate in polyurethane paints, etc.);

– Neurotoxic effect as a result of work with paints containing n-hexane solvents or lead pigments.

Ergonomic and social factors


– Neck or shoulder pains, sprain and strain of upper limbs, and musculoskeletal disorders, as a result of awkward postures, in particular during the painting of ceilings;

– Eye strain in painters of small articles;

– Knee pains and injuries to cartilage of the knee joints;

– Cardiorespiratory strains when using respiratory-protection equipment.




  1. Reports have been published according to which painters may be at increased risk of cancer of the lungs, the bladder, the stomach, the kidneys, the oesophagus and the large intestines; of leukaemia, if using paint containing benzene; of presenile dementia as a result of exposure to solvents; of endocrinal disorders; of chronic bronchitis and respiratory obstructions diseases; of mixed-dust pneumoconiosis; of renal failure; and of chronic eye-lens damage as a result of long-term solvent exposure.
  2. A special risk exists in the mechanical or chemical stripping or burning of old paints. The use of pigments containing lead, arsenic or mercury in modern paints is now severely restricted and in many countries it is prohibited by law (except for some specialized applications); old paints, however, may contain substantial amounts of such pigments, and during their stripping or burning the pigments are released into the air as dust or fumes, exposure to which may cause lead, mercury or arsenic poisoning.
  3. It has been reported that exposure to ethylene glycol ethers and acetates present in paints may have an adverse effect on the reproductive system.



Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 1991. Health and Safety in Motor-vehicle Repair: Painting. HSE Publication HS(G) 67. London: HSE.

O’Neill, L. 1995. Health and safety in paints and painting. In Croner’s Handbook of Occupational Hygiene. Vol. 2, part 8.19. Kingston-upon-Thames: Croner’s Publications Ltd.


Chemicals and chemical products to which a painter may be exposed: Paint stripping formulations containing, in particular, methylene chloride, cresol, phenol, potassium hydroxide, and/or alicylic hydrocarbons (e.g., methylcyclohexane). Paint components including, in particular, cadmium, lead, organotin, mercury and arsenic compounds, chromates, epoxy, polyurethane, acrylate, vinyl and other resins and their constituents. Solvents and diluents including, in particular, turpentine, petroleum fractions (naphtha, white spirit, Stoddard’s solvent), n-hexane, toluene, xylene, benzene, acetone, methyl ethyl and other ketones, alcohols (methyl, ethyl, isopropyl, amyl, etc.), formaldehyde, phenol, etc. Cleaning formulations including acids (which may contain various organic inhibitors), alkalis, organic solvents, etc.



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