Painting on board ships – Epoxy

The awareness of the use of epoxy products in the wind energy industry in Denmark has made the use of epoxy based paint in the shipping industry even more topical. Several seafarers are concerned and they follow the discussion about people who have become ill from working in the wind energy industry very closely. It is found that the use of epoxy-containing paint on board Danish flagged ships has increased over the past 10-15 years and before that the use of outdoor paint were not 2 component paints.


In its report to the Minister regarding the issues in the wind energy industry, the Danish Working Environment Authority stated that they believe that the special Danish legislation for epoxy and isocyanate are sufficient to protect employees – but it is important to follow the rules.


Paints containing epoxy has a code number of -5 after the hyphen. In the code number table, you can see what the code numbers before and after the hyphen means. 



In paints, there are many ingredients in addition to epoxy. The front code number may vary as it depends on the content of organic solvents. The paints used for painting outdoors on board ships often have a code number before the hyphen 4-. If the paint contain the solvent Xylen, which most outdoor paints does, it will also contain Ethylbenzene. Ethylbenzen is considered to be carcinogenic. SEAHEALTH often get questions about the registration of persons who have worked with these substances for a period of 40 years. This rule is linked to the carcinogens.


SEAHEALTH also get questions about which respirators to be used. A code number 4- indicates that you must use respirators with air supply and not a filter mask or a mask with a motor (turbo equipment) – unless you are just painting small spots. 


Click here to view the code number table.



It is difficult to briefly describe how the ships should be designed in order for epoxy to be used and what the requirements are for personal protective equipment. All the provisions of Chapter II A, B and C in Notice A from the Danish Maritime Authority apply to this type of work – and the main provisions are:


Before the work:

1. There must be considered a substitution. Is it possible to use a less dangerous product that is technically suitable for the work?


2. There are requirements for “training” when working with hazardous chemicals. For painting, this is described in the film and the accompanying booklet called “Chemicals. Take care of yourself and others – from knowledge to practice”. The booklet is targeted the supervisor – and paint are described in chapter 10.


3. Individuals with eczema, allergies or asthma is not allowed to work with epoxy.


4. Application by spraying is prohibited.


5. All paints must be provided with a risk assessment and work place instructions. In addition to this, there must be a safety data sheet from the supplier of the paint. The IT program “Health and Safety at Sea” helps you keep track of the chemicals on board.


During the work:

6. Other persons are not allowed to be near. The area must be closed with signs showing that work with epoxy is going on. It is important that the barrier is maintained throughout the whole curing time. This vary and depends on the temperature - read the work place instruction or the technical data sheet from the supplier.


7. There must be separate changing rooms with access to shower for persons working the epoxy. These can be arranged temporarily while the work takes place. Washing hands must be done with a water tap not manually operated. The personal hygiene is very important and you must wash hands before using the toilet and eating.


8. Use technical measures to prevent, e.g. a roller on a long stick to remove a person from the evaporation.


9. If the surface being painted is 35 degrees warm (or higher), the first code number must then be increased by 1.


10. Since it is very important that all skin contact is avoided, it is necessary to use the correct personal protective equipment. This means that you must use gloves (e.g. 4H or Nitril gloves) and change them after use (maximum 4 hours). You must wear special protective clothing and face protection as well.


11. Other health hazard – protection against inhalation: You must also be aware of other health hazards from other substances in the product than epoxy, e.g. solvents. Here, it is important to protect you breathing with the right type of mask (filtering or air-supplied) – use the code number table.


SEAHEALTH often get questions about if it is not enough that the wind blows off the solvents when working on the deck. The term “as the wind blows” should provide enough answer to this. The wind cannot be compared to a controlled indoor ventilation and there is also a tendency to paint in shelter as the paint must be able to endure. If it is possible to organize the actual work, ventilation (also the natural ventilation) should be included in the specific risk assessment.


SEAHEALTH recommends to organize painting with these 2-component products at the shipyard.

Senior Occupational Health Consultant

Anne L. Ries


+45 3311 1833

+45 2961 8860

I can help you with:

  • Safety Organization
  • Consultancy
  • Physical working environment
  • The program Health and Safety at Sea
  • Legislation at sea