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The safe practices of spray foam insulation

It is essential that contractors follow best practices for the safe application of spray foam insulation.

It is essential that contractors follow best practices for the safe application of spray foam insulation.

The proper application of spray foam insulation goes beyond measurement, yield and technique. Any contractor preparing for an new job must make sure to take the proper safety precautions before, during and after the project.

The chemicals and blowing agents involved in the application of polyurethane foam can give off noxious fumes, be a skin irritant and cause illness or discomfort if the you do not use the necessary PPE. Also, make sure to keep children well away from the product at all times – before, during and after use.

To better prepare yourself for the correct safety procedures and equipment involved in spray foam insulation, reference this guide:

Understand the product
Different forms of foam insulation call for different PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). One-component and 2-component foams require separate safeguards – as do spray foam insulation kits compared with refillable systems, and high pressure versus low pressure systems. Before you begin, take the time to find the exact guidelines surrounding the specific type of foam you are preparing to use.

As with all safety concerns, be sure to err on the side of more protection rather than relying on the bare minimum to get by. If you have any doubt about the protocol, stop what you’re doing and reference online spray foam insulation resources for the correct answer to a specific question.

Avoid fume inhalation
Spray foam of all varieties gives off vapors that can be uncomfortable, dangerous and damaging to the lungs if inhaled directly. The concentration and strength of the fumes varies between the different types of foam, but in all cases proper ventilation is necessary.

One-component sealants and adhesives need adequate ventilation. An open window with a fan can offer the necessary air source, but a respirator and/or fumigator are often mandatory when using 1- or 2-component foam.

Contractors are responsible for creating and implementing a certified respiratory program, as per NIOSH guidelines. Negative pressure half mask respirators or powered air purifying respirators are good starting points, as long as fit testing and training are provided before use.

Protect the eyes and skin
Foam insulation can stick to the skin, becoming an irritant that is difficult to clean off. Additionally, chemicals can be painful and harmful when they come in direct contact with the eyes. Therefore, it is essential that you use adequate covering for your hands, arms and face when dealing with spray foam.

Nitrile gloves and long sleeves along with safety glasses or goggles are necessary equipment. For 1-component foam, safety glasses are enough, but 2-component calls for goggles that form a tight fit around the eyes.

Storage and disposal
Due to the chemical and pressurized nature of spray foam kits, cans and tanks, you have to take care in where and how you store the foam before and after use, including proper disposal.

Prior to application, spray foam should be stored in a dry area at room temperature for at least one day before use. During colder months, it may take several days for the kits or cans to reach optimal temperature, but you should never attempt to heat the foam by exposing to hot temperatures – just allow it to warm up gradually.

When you have finished a job using the kits or cans, you have 30 days to deplete the supply. Close the valves and do not remove or drain hoses. The system must remain pressurized to allow another application.

If you have depleted a tank of 2-component insulation, the hose must be removed and the tank must be ventilated. Make sure to turn valves to the off position before removing the hoses as the container will still be pressurized. Point the valve away from the faces and slowly open it to allow the tank to depressurize. Dispose of the tanks in a well-ventilated area, preferably an outdoor dumpster.

Training and qualifications
Spray foam insulation requires thorough and careful training before use. The American Chemistry Council’s Center for Polyurethanes Industry offers free low-pressure and high-pressure spray polyurethane foam health and safety training courses online. The successful completion of the course will give you recognized certification for spray foam application.

Every spray foam system should also come with a specific set of instructions for proper use that you must read completely before you do anything else.

While spray foam is an excellent option if you’re looking to upgrade your insulation, there are hazards involved in its storage and application. It is a pressurize chemical system that requires careful use. But as long as you follow the industry safety measures and adequately prepare yourself, you will find spray foam insulation to be just the solution for a wide variety of needs.