Floor Finishing Hazards: Protecting Workers and Homeowners

Massachusetts Legislative Fact Sheet

Promoting Safety Through Certification in the Floor Finishing Industry (S185)

Prohibiting the Use and Sale of Highly Flammable Floor Finishing Products (HB2407)

Lead sponsors: Rep. Martin Walsh and Senator Patricia Jehlen

Background: In 2004, two Vietnamese floor sanders working in Somerville died when the flooring chemicals they used ignited. Two other workers suffered severe burns and injuries. Less than a year later, another Vietnamese worker was killed in a similar fire in Hull.

Since 1995, more than 25 fires attributed to hardwood floors have erupted across the state, with at least four occurring in the last year. These fires have resulted in a property loss value of over 1.5 million dollars and present enormous risks to workers and building occupants.

In virtually every instance, the use of highly flammable floor products (those with flashpoints below 100 degrees Fahrenheit) were the primary contributor to the fires and deaths. Because these products can ignite at such low temperatures and can have a wide range of triggers – dust, high temperatures, and electrical sparks, to name a few - simply instituting safety precautions won't eliminate the significant risk.

In 2006, a multi-stakeholder task force, comprising labor, industry, community and safety representatives, unanimously called for legislation that would prohibit the use and sale of floor finishing products with a flashpoint below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This bill is universally supported by companies that distribute floor products. These companies agree that these products should be removed from the market but need for it to be done legislatively in order to level the playing field for all distributors.

What the bills do:

  1. Prohibit the Use and Sale of Highly Flammable Floor Finishing Products prohibits the sale and use of any floor finishing product with a flashpoint less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Floor Finishing Certification requires that:
  • All owners and employees attend safety training and become certified;
  • Floor finishing contractors designate a certified worker to complete a safety checklist at each job site, ensuring that basic safety measures are in place;
  • Floor finishing contractors provide consumers with safety fact sheet that includes information regarding the hazards of floor finishing and sanding, required and recommended safety practices and equipment, and less flammable and less toxic product options.

How you can support the legislation:

For more information, contact Marcy Goldstein-Gelb at 617-825-7233 x15 or Hiep Chu at 617-822-3717.