August 10, 2023

NIOSH to Survey Thermal Spray Coating Facilities

A new project proposed by NIOSH would focus on work practices and controls related to metals, particles, and gases generated during thermal spray coating, which the agency describes as “a surface treatment process that enables different types of feedstock material to be deposited on to various substrates.” Thermal spray coating processes include flame-, cold-, electric arc-, and plasma-spraying and are used in most industrial sectors, including automotive, aerospace, machine shops, electronics, medical, shipyards, and printing. These processes are fast-growing technologies with newly developed specialized applications intended to impart new properties and functionalities to the coatings. NIOSH notes that thermal spray coating “generates exposures that are known to be hazardous in other settings” but that few epidemiologic and exposure studies have examined the effects of these processes on workers.

“Limited data on exposures of workers engaged in [thermal spray coating] and associated operations and personal communications with industrial hygienists in this industry suggests exposures can greatly exceed the current occupational exposure limits,” NIOSH explains. “[B]ut the prevalence of respiratory abnormalities including occupational asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in this population remains unknown.”

The agency plans to conduct a survey of thermal spray coating facilities in order to better understand the effects of these processes and identify areas for potential intervention. NIOSH also hopes to identify facilities that would be willing to participate in future exposure and health research.

Comments on NIOSH’s proposed project on thermal spray coating are due by Oct. 6. Additional information and instructions for submitting comments can be found in the Federal Register.