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General Art Lab Safety

Art Classrooms and Shops contain materials and equipment capable of causing serious harm and negative health effects including death. Careful knowlegable use of equipment, materials and processes is needed to stay safe. The goal of this dcoument is to organize basic information about hazards that could be present in all labs so that the same training does not have to be repeated for all labs.

Types of Hazards

  • Physical

Physical hazards are hazards that directly injure or cause injury your body. These can be fast moving tools, heavy objects dropped on feet, and tools that cut.

  • Heavy Weights: Objects need to be lifted safely. Even small objects lifted with extended arms can hurt you over time. Items in general be lifted "close to your core" or close to your back, with your back vertical. Leg muscles should be used for lifting heavy objects.
    • How to lift compact heavy weight
    • How to carry long objects such as lumber
    • Objects weighing over 50 pounds should be lifted in pairs or with lifting equipment.
    • Water Weights 8.35 pounds per gallon. 6 Gallons of water is 50 # . However, other liquids have different densities. 6 Gallons of ceramic casting slip can weigh 90 pounds.
  • Hand Tools that cut. These tools, knives and others, must be used correctly. In general the priciples of this are keeping the path of the blade clear and accounting for what will happen if the tool slips.
  • Hand Tools that crush such as hammers. Like knives, to be used correctly the path of the tool must be clear and the where tool will go if it slips must be considered. In addition where the tool will go if it is let go or the handle breaks or head comes off should be considered as well. This last consideration is especially true with long handled tools such as axes and sledge hammers.
  • Power tools. Each power tool has its own hazards and rules. However, in general powertools that move quickly require safety glasses. Tools with large diameter disks require full face shields. Loud tools require ear protection. A few tools and particular circumstances may require respiratory protection from dust or mist.
  • Falling, Heights . Tall ladders, lifts, or working on roofs or in trees may require fall protection. In the construction industry OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires specific kinds of protection from falls of over 6 feet. However falls from under 6 feet can be very hazardous. Dropping tools from on top of ladders and equipment can cause harm to others. The Ann Arbor Stage Hands Union had a rule that if you dropped anything from on top of the ladder on a set of job you would loose your union second chances.
  • Respiratory Definitions
    • Dusts. Dusts are finely divided solids.
    • Respirable Dust. Dust particles that will penetrate into the gas exchange region of the lungs. A hazardous particulate size less than 5 microns.Respirable particles are too small to effectively be carried out of the lungs by cilia.
    • Mists. Solutions and suspensions that are sprayed into the air but at least part of them remain liquids. Paint can be made into a mist, so can salt water.
    • Vapors. Vapors are gases evaporated from liquids. Paint thinner or alcohol create vapors. Steam is water vapor.
    • Fumes. Fumes are chemicals that have evaporated but either condensed in the air or oxidized to produce solids in the air. Zinc creates a fume if heated hot enough. Smoke contains fumes. Fumes are often respirable.
    • Gases are normally gaseous at room temperature, but vapors are gases as well.

Hazards. The only safe thing to breath is clean air. When possible processes that create dusts, mists, vapors, fumes, or gases, should be done in ways that carry the hazards away from people using ventalation and minimize chance of inhalation. Examples of this is cutting steel in the sculpture yard, or mixing clay in the ceramics yard rather than indoors, or using the exhaust hood in the print studio. Materials and processes should be chosen to use the least hazardous materials. An example of this is using soap and water rather than solvents for cleaning hands or tools. Most solvents create vapors that are hazardous to breath. When using solvents it is important to follow you labs guidelines, use as little as possible and in a safe manner. Most solvents may not be used inside the Center for the Arts. Spray paints and fixatives of all kinds must be take outside.

Respiratory Protection. Where exposure cannot be prevented respiratory protection might be appropriate. "An estimated 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million workplaces throughout the United States. Respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors, and sprays. These hazards may cause cancer, lung impairment, diseases, or death. Compliance with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard could avert hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses annually.

Respirators protect the user in two basic ways. The first is by the removal of contaminants from the air. Respirators of this type include particulate respirators, which filter out airborne particles, and air-purifying respirators with cartridges/canisters which filter out chemicals and gases. Other respirators protect by supplying clean respirable air from another source. Respirators that fall into this category include airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which include their own air supply."

Some important issues with respiratory protection:

  • Respirators that do not fit or leak may not provide enough protection.
  • Respirators that are not selected for the correct hazard my provide no protection. For wexample dust respirators provide no protection from organic vapors.
  • All respirator cartridges have life spans and will stop working effectively when this life span is exceded.
  • Respirators are designed to work within certain limits of exposure. The capacity of a respirator to remove hazardous chemicals can be exceeded.
  • No respirator is 100% effective. It is always prudent to keep the amount of airborne hazard to a minimum and seek help when the exposure is expected to be unusually high.
  • Training Videos on respirators can be seen at:

Ingestion. Food is the only thing you should eat. There are many ways to carry poisons into your mouths and they need mention to stay safe. Poisons should never be kept in containers that normally contain food. These include food cups dishes and drink bottles. Poisons should be kept away from food.