Working as a professional painter may not involve as many risks as doing construction work. However, those who make their living this way should never underestimate the risk of injury or health issues they face – nor should they ignore work-related injuries and other conditions when they occur.
Certainly, exterior painting can involve operating on extremely high ladders or equipment that allows workers to rise many levels above the ground. That, of course, comes with the danger of catastrophic falls. Exterior painting also means being exposed to the elements like sun and heat.
“Painter’s shoulder” and other common physical injuries
Interior painting, which can involve working in enclosed-in spaces and working at awkward angles, can be hazardous as well. Painters often have to stand on uneven and unsteady surfaces to paint ceilings, corners and other intricate areas where they may not be able to set up a ladder. This can cause muscle strains and even tears.
One common injury is something called “impingement syndrome” or “painter’s shoulder.” This is where the rotator cuff of the shoulder becomes pinched from reaching upwards for extended periods. Other types of rotator cuff injuries can also result. This is one reason why it’s important to use a roller with a handle that’s sufficiently long for the area that’s being painted.
Respiratory and eye conditions
Interior painting is more likely to cause health problems related to the inhalation of toxic fumes and chemicals than exterior painting. If you’re a painter who is working indoors – particularly in a small, poorly ventilated space – without proper personal protective equipment (PPE) like a professional grade mask and goggles, you can end up with a respiratory illness or eye condition.
It’s not just paint fumes that are dangerous. Paint thinner, lacquer, glue and other products can be even more harmful to breathe. Obviously, having them splash in your eyes or getting them on your skin can cause serious injuries.
Whether you’re a full-time professional painter or you’re picking up some extra money working part-time for a local painting business, it’s crucial to know your rights – including the right to workers’ compensation if you’re not working as an independent contractor – if you become injured or ill. If you’re being told by an employer that you don’t qualify for workers’ comp or your application is being denied, seeking legal guidance can help you to protect your rights and to potentially get you any medical care you may need.