Updating Safety Standards for Liquid Paint Booths

Geoff Raifsnider from Global Finishing Solutions tells us about the latest revisions to the National Fire Protection Association codes related to paint booths and finishing systems.


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Q: What updates have been made to the safety code for liquid booths?

A: The latest revisions to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes related to paint booths and finishing systems focus on the reorganization of content so that it is easier to comprehend.

The required features and performance for paint booths, powder coating booths and paint mix rooms are presented differently in the 2019 updates of the 2018 edition of NFPA 33, which provides requirements to mitigate fire and explosion hazards of spray-application processes that use flammable or combustible materials. Among the notable revisions to NFPA 33:

Spray Booths and Powder Coating Booths: Content was reorganized to help make the requirements clearer. The features and performance of a paint booth are more clearly presented, and the code now states when a paint room is required.

Paint Mix Rooms: Changes were implemented regarding the definition of what areas of the mix room need to have an automatic fire protection system. The code previously stated that ventilation needed to stay on all the time, while the new requirements are not as restrictive and outline conditions where the ventilation could be turned off.

Heaters: Changes were implemented for heating recirculated air in a paint booth. Previously, the heater had to be located outside the recirculated air path. Now it can be located in the recirculated air path, as long as the surface temperature of the heater does not exceed 200°F.

Electrical Classifications: Figures on electrical classification were updated for clarity, with scales of images modified to be more accurate. The areas and distances did not change.

Maintenance Requirements: On the maintenance side, requirements were added to help keep equipment running properly. The changes focus less on the manufacturer and more on what the owner and operators can do to protect their investment.

Make sure your supplier is providing equipment that meets the current edition of any available code or standard. This will go a long way to ensure safe operation.

Q: What does my paint booth need in order to achieve code compliance before installation?

A: In a perfect world, achieving code compliance for your paint booth would be a one-size-fits-all process. In reality, different cities have different ordinances and permit requirements, resulting in a lot of variation.

Before the first vehicle, part or piece of equipment can be moved into a paint booth, code compliance must be achieved. The booth must be built and assembled in accordance with applicable codes and standards for the safety of workers and protection of the equipment.

To maximize functionality, ensure proper airflow and create a safe finishing environment, make sure your paint booth complies with the International Fire Code (IFC) and NFPA codes.

The first step in the paint booth installation process is to obtain all necessary permits. It is the responsibility of the shop or business to secure applicable construction permits. Local contractors handle fire suppression, working with building inspectors to meet locally enforced codes and standards.

Next, as installation plans are developed, you should address a range of questions, most notably:

Power Source: Do you have adequate power? Do you have three-phase or single-phase power?

Fuel Source: If your paint booth is heated, is your gas supply adequate? How far away is the source?

Building Engineering: Will the installation of the paint booth compromise any part of your building? Are you moving walls or cutting holes in structural supports?

Roof Reinforcement: When cutting holes for roof openings, you might weaken the integrity of the roof. Is support required?

Pit Excavation: If you have a downdraft booth, do pit plans need to be included with your permit applications?

Code Compliance: Is the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) aware of your project? Do you know which codes and standards the AHJ is enforcing?

Installation time can range from a day to weeks or even longer, depending on the complexity and size of the project. That includes building the cabin of the paint booth, running ductwork to roof openings and installing lighting. Precision is required for the finer points of the installation, such as power and fuel hookup, and electrical and pneumatic controls.

Unlevel ground is one of the biggest obstacles when installing a paint booth, as a level floor is required for the booth to be considered code compliant. When the ground is uneven or we have a 1/4-inch intolerance, some booths are equipped to make adjustments without structurally affecting the booth. If it is anything more than that, your contractor should work with structural engineers to verify how to sufficiently support the booth and meet design requirements


Geoff Raifsnider is a mechanical engineer at Global Finishing Solutions. Visit globalfinishing.com