Adhesives today are far better than they used to be and can bond wood, metal, metal to metal and other tasks that used to require welding or drilling and screwing. However, they do have some risks. Safe working practices can eliminate a lot of these, avoiding harm to users and others. It’s a question of adopting an end-to-end safety culture that begins with being trained, or training yourself, on the risks, and includes assessing the risk, then mitigating it through the use of safety equipment, safe working procedures and choosing an adhesive that is effective but safe.
There’s a level of risk for people manufacturing adhesives. However, they may benefit from the fact that the risk is reasonably static, because the plant processes don’t vary much from day to day, and therefore it is likely that risk mitigation measures have already been put in place. On a building site, or other construction or engineering environment, the adhesive may be a new material, not used before, or may be being used in ways that are novel.
Working safely with solvent-based adhesives
Adhesives based on solvents can catch fire or even explode. In addition, the fumes can be toxic, and skin should not be exposed to solvents. Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) will allow the fumes to escape from the working area. This is even more important if the work is being carried out in a confined space. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a useful guide to safe working practices when working with solvents – http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg273.pdf.
Avoiding VOCs where possible
Many adhesives are actually a mix of several different ingredients, and these can include volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Most products now indicate whether they contain a high or low level of VOCs. These are toxic and they can enter a user’s breathing system if masks are not being worn. Once inhaled, they can irritate the airways or allow toxins to be absorbed. In general, since an effective metal bonding adhesive that is low in VOCs http://www.ct1ltd.com/product-applications/metal-to-metal-adhesive/ is now available, it’s best to avoid industrial adhesives which have VOCs altogether if possible.
Thermally-based adhesives such as hot melt glue bring the hazard of burns from both the glue itself and the equipment being used with it. But like all adhesives, they are safe when used with care.