On most roofing jobs, potential risks are easy to spot. However,
spray polyurethane foam (SPF) application hazards often are
invisible. Roofing workers who install SPF roof systems must
contend with vapors, airborne particles, electric sparks and
potential falls—all of which can be prevented by using proper
safety equipment and taking certain precautions.
SPF contains two basic chemical ingredients: diisocyanates and
polyol resins. Inhaling high concentrations of these chemicals can
cause light-headedness, difficulty breathing, headaches, vomiting
and unconsciousness and may lead to death by asphyxiation. In
addition, polyol resins may be slightly irritating to the skin, and
some types of catalysts present in polyol resins can be highly
irritating if they contact eyes.
Because of potentially dangerous vapors, a roofing worker must
wear an air-purifying or air-supplied respirator while installing
an SPF roof system. Air-purifying respirators consist of cartridges
or canisters connected to respirators. Air-supplied respirators use
external air supplies, such as oxygen tanks. Respirators with
full-face pieces provide better protection than those with
half-face pieces because they have larger face-to-respirator
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