Isocyanate Testing In the Workplace

Posted By Kelly Hone on 2018-02-23 11:05

What are Isocyanates?

Isocyanate compounds are found in a diverse range of products, including spray paints, lacquers, adhesives, certain coatings and insulation foam. They are common in motor vehicle repair, printing, boat maintenance and furniture manufacture!

How Does Isocyanates Effect Me?

The main routes of entry are inhalation and skin contact- PPE is so important and must be worn when carrying out tasks.  Ingestion is possible where poor personal hygiene is observed (e.g. not washing hands at break times). Isocyanate exposure can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, these are also linked to dermatitis and occupational asthma.


Some symptoms of excessive isocyanate exposure are:

+ Coming down with the flu? It could be isocyanate causing you blocked and runny nose! 

+ Constant itchy, sore and watery eyes.

+ Suffering with tightness of the chest after work hours.

+ Itchy cough or general coughing.

+ Chest wheezing

+ Breathlessness


Depending on how long your body has been exposed to the compounds effects the extent of the damage, this may result in asthma that is triggered by breathing in miniscule amounts of isocyanate- Again, why PPE is so important to avoid harm to your body.

What Can I Do To Monitor Isocyanate Levels?

Every operator who comes into contact with isocyanates should undergo annual biological monitoring for isocyanates in the urine as part of their regular health screening. At the same time it is recommended that operators also undergo lung function test- Also available at Healthscreen.
In addition to the health surveillance, it is recommended that sites where isocyanates are used undergo regular air monitoring.


How Should I Control Isocyanate Exposure?

The hierarchy of control should be used to determine the most effective, but most reasonably practicable route to Minimise Exposure- there are all sorts of different equipment to help this, such as a spray booth- shown below.

It is possible to eliminate isocyanate use entirely, or alternatively substitute current isocyanate based materials for less hazardous materials or substitute an alternative process.
Where this is not possible, then Engineering Controls need to be investigated, some sites visited have specific enclosed spray booths for the use of isocyanate sprays, these are best practice in terms of control of isocyanate spray.


Spray booths must be tested by a competent person on an annual basis, and the clearance time should be clearly displayed externally. Any design for spray booths should be done by a competent LEV engineer - there is no room for error.

In addition to engineering controls, operators should be given full information, along with full instructions and training in the safest means of carrying out the work and be instructed to wash hands prior to rest breaks, eating, drinking, smoking and at the end of the work day.


Finally we come to personal protective equipment, PPE alone is not sufficient in the use of isocyanates, but can be useful when used in conjunction with the controls discussed above. Where spray painting is carried out, operators should use air fed breathing apparatus- Available on our online shop!

Operators should be trained in use of the respirators, and they should be fit tested to ensure an adequate seal. Operators in non-spraying environments should wear standard respirators with filters. All operators handling isocyanates should be issued and wear overalls, gloves and safety glasses!


For a FREE quotation on Isocyanate tests and other service we provide, contact us below. Also feel free to browse our online shop, full of professional PPE equipment you can trust! 


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