OSHA Methylene Chloride Exposure Fact Sheet
BRIEF INCIDENT DESCRIPTION
A temporary worker died while removing the coating from a bathtub in a residential building. The worker was alone in a small bathroom where he poured paint remover containing 85-90% methylene chloride into the bathtub and began scraping. The only ventilation was a partially open window. Two hours later, the apartment resident found the worker unconscious and slumped over the bathtub. The resident pulled the worker away from the bathtub and called an ambulance. The worker was taken to the hospital, where attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. The coroner determined that asphyxiation, combined with acute methylene chloride toxicity, caused the worker’s death.
Exposure to methylene chloride during bathtub refinishing is extremely hazardous. In small spaces and poorly ventilated settings, methylene chloride vapors rapidly reach toxic levels and reduce oxygen levels through displacement. Nationwide, 17 workers died between 2000 and 2015 while using methylene chloride paint stripping products to refinish bathtubs.
Records show that the employer had previously taken the worker to the hospital after a similar incident. The employer, though knowledgeable about the chemical’s hazards, did not institute and enforce safe work practices, or adhere to OSHA’s methylene chloride standard requirements. The following employer actions contributed to this worker’s death. The employer did not:
- Consider safer alternatives as a substitute for methylene chloride.
- Evaluate methylene chloride exposures prior to beginning the work.
- Evaluate and implement feasible engineering controls.
- Provide a supplied air respirator where engineering controls were infeasible or ineffective.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent exposure through skin absorption.
- Train workers to recognize the hazards and the protective measures needed when working with methylene chloride.
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