Health & Safety
An absolute top priority for SPFA and the industry as a whole is a focus upon both chemical, and general worksite, health and safety. Sprayfoam is a high performing product capable of producing substantial energy savings through high R-Values combined with air-sealing in one product. There is a long list of secondary benefits readily available on this website and many others, but it is essential that the product be installed safely and properly to realize the best possible performance and ultimate customer satisfaction. Safety, along with attention to quality and detail, are what amount to a good SPF project.
In addition to the resources noted below, SPFA also supports our member based Safety Committee efforts to orient SPF professionals on issues related to their health and safety. The Safety Committee offers safety webinars, along with OSHA-compliant safety signage, tool box talk and model written safety programs addressing a variety SPF and general jobsite safety topics. All of these resources can be found in the Member Only Section of the website, and additional topics are covered regularly at the Sprayfoam Show Annual Conference and in the pages of Sprayfoam Professional Magazine.
This page offers some basic health and safety considerations, along with both SPFA and external resources.
SPF Health & Safety Resources
A commitment to health and safety extends beyond just chemical health and safety, to include many aspects of general construction jobsite safety. Fall protection, general workplace safety measures, presence of eye-wash stations, and first-aid supplies are among the basics any field professional needs to employ.
- EPA SPF Contractor Checklist
- For access to general OSHA construction compliance tips
- SPF Health and Safety Partner site
SPFA works closely with groups like the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI), the Sprayfoam Coalition (SFC) and many other groups working in concert with the industry to deliver the best, most comprehensive, accessible and useful information on SPF health and safety. Click on any of the following links that best describe you to be taken to jointly-created health and safety materials on SPF:
SPFA Professional Certification Program (PCP)
The foundational building blocks of certification emphasizes chemical and job site health and safety. SPFA introductory (Assistant Level) certification focuses predominantly on chemical and worksite H&S topics for the contractor, and build upon those as the individual progresses through higher levels of certification. SPFA felt it was imperative to cover the health and safety topics at the entry-level, the level representing the most workers in the field. Safety is everyone’s job, from the hose-puller to the Project Manager. Spanish tests available from Assistant through Master Installer levels. Click HERE to learn more about PCP certification.
Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) Online SPF H+S Training
One of the prerequisites for SPFA PCP certification at the entry level is completion of the FREE online CPI Chemical Health and Safety Training module. This is an approximately two-hour online webinar taken at your own pace. There is an online test at the end, and upon successful completion you will be issued a certificate and wallet card with an ID number.
CPI, coordinating with SPFA and our members, produced this free on-line training module that all construction trades, homeowners, and spray foam professionals should complete.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
One of the most important hazard communications (HAZCOM) mechanisms on any worksite is the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). According to OSHA The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)), revised in 2012, requires that the chemical manufacturer, distributor, or importer provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each hazardous chemical to downstream users to communicate information on these hazards.
The "A" side of a spray polyurethane system is commonly comprised of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and polymeric methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (pMDI). The "B" side is typically a blend of polyols, catalysts, blowing agent, flame retardant, and surfactant. SDSs for both A and B side chemicals in a spray polyurethane system should be consulted before use to determine the components present on the worksite, understand the exposure potentials as well as implementing policies and procedures to reduce exposure, including engineering controls and personal protective equipment.
Like many building products, SPF is an organic, combustible material, and requires proper treatment to reduce the risk of fire. During installation a professional SPF contractor will typically place a “No Hot-Work” sign after installation before fire protective coverings or coatings are installed. No Hot-Work means that before installation of the protective coatings or coverings, no welding or open flame sources should be near the SPF. Welders, plumbers with soldering torches, and other intense flame-producing activities should proceed cautiously and be certain the SPF is protected from the flames.
Once the SPF is installed, building and fire codes (IBC Section 2603 and IRC Section R316) require that building assemblies using foam plastics, including SPF, must have the same fire performance as assemblies using other building products. Building codes prescriptively require that all foam plastics be separated from the interior space with a 15-minute thermal barrier. This requirement is typically met using ½” gypsum wallboard on walls and ceilings and ¾” plywood on floors. In lieu of these prescriptive coverings, intumescent paints can be used as an alternative thermal barrier, provided that these coatings, when applied over a specific foam product, pass a series of full-scale room corner fire tests.
In certain attic and crawlspaces not regularly accessed or used for storage, the foam must be covered with an ignition barrier. The codes prescribe several ignition barrier materials, and alternatively allow intumescent coatings or even bare foam if the assembly passes a special room corner burn test defined in Appendix X of International Code Council Evaluation Services (ICC-ES) Acceptance Criteria AC-377 or other full scale testing that is accepted by ICC-ES or other 3rd party product evaluation service companies. To be sure the thermal or ignition barriers meet the building code requirements, check with the ICC-ES Evaluation Service Report or other 3rd-party product evaluation reports for details. It should be noted that these limited access attic and crawlspaces still need to be separated from the interior with a 15-minute thermal barrier.
Regardless of the thermal or ignition barrier requirements for the foam used, it should be addressed in the project scope and planning. It is essential that the consumer be aware of which product is being used in their building and ask the contractor if a code compliance report is available. In the absence of an ICC-ES, CCRR or other 3rd party validation report, the contractor should be able to advise the consumer if an ignition or thermal barrier is required for the installation. For more information on fire safety, as well as ignition and thermal barriers for SPF, please review SPFA’s AY-126 guidance document on this topic.