In a shop environment, it's important to work safely and cleanly when handling and sanding epoxy.
- Read the Safety Data Sheets (SDS): Before you start, take a look at the SDS for the resin and hardener, and understand the safety precautions before you begin.
- Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Whenever you handle epoxies, always wear protective gloves, an appropriate respirator, eye protection, and protective clothing to avoid contact with resin, hardener, mixed epoxy, and sanding dust from cured or partially cured epoxy.
- Have adequate ventilation: It's very important that you have adequate ventilation in your shop when working with or sanding epoxy, and that you don't breathe epoxy vapors and sanding dust. Wear an appropriate respirator, and set up fans to help disperse toxic vapors.
- Avoid uncontrolled exotherm: Epoxy cures through an exothermic (heat generating) reaction. If left to cure in a contained mass, (e.g., a mixing pot) it can generate enough heat to melt the plastic and burn your skin. It can also ignite any combustible materials nearby. The thicker (or larger) the epoxy mass, the more heat it produces, generating toxic vapors that include ammonia and carbon monoxide. To prevent heat buildup, transfer the mixed epoxy from the mixing pot to a wide, shallow container (such as a mixing pan). When you need to fill large cavities with epoxy, do so in multiple layers instead of one thick layer. In general, it's best to mix only as much as you can use during the working time recommended by the manufacturer.
- Avoid incidental contact: When you have epoxy residue on your gloves, avoid touching light switches, door handles/knobs, etc., because you or someone else might unknowingly touch them later, without gloves on.
- Wash thoroughly after handling epoxy: After working with epoxy (applying it, removing amine blush, or sanding), always wash thoroughly with soap and warm water, especially before smoking or eating, to avoid accidental ingestion. In addition, change your clothes immediately if you spill any resin or hardener on your clothing.
- Clean up spills safely: If you spill hardener, don't try to absorb it with sawdust or other cellulose material. Gather it with a scraper and absorbent towels, then clean the residue with soapy, warm water. NEVER dispose of hardener in a trash receptacle that contains sawdust or cellulose material, or it can start a fire. If you spill resin or mixed epoxy, gather it with a scraper and absorbent towels, then clean the residue with acetone, alcohol, or lacquer thinner.
- Dispose of resin and hardener containers and unused product properly: Always follow local, state, and federal laws when disposing of resin, hardener, and empty containers. If you have small quantities of leftover resin and hardener, do not dispose of them in liquid form; mix and cure small amounts of leftover resin and hardener to create a solid, non-hazardous, inert material. But be very careful because a curing mass of epoxy can get hot enough to melt a plastic pot, ignite any surrounding combustible material, and emit hazardous fumes. Be sure to put curing epoxy pots in a well-ventilated area, away from combustible materials, and away from others who are working in the shop. When the solid mass has completely cured and cooled, only then can you dispose of it safely.