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Health Hazards in the Arts

As a visual artist, I know it is hard to consider health and safety concerns a top priority in creating art when you can barely finance your work or find the time to complete it. And unfortunately, dealing with safety in the studio takes both time and money. However, taking the time to consider and assess the risks associated with any art-making activity and spending money on basic safety measures is, well, a good thing.

Safety in the Arts
Instead of relating numerous horror stories to convey the importance of safety in the arts, below I cover some basic safety topics to encourage you to either get started or heighten your awareness of safety as a valuable investment in your artistic future. While these issues are particularly germane to visual artists, artists in all disciplines can benefit from this information. 

It doesnít matter whether you have a work space in a large, multi-floor building or if you work in your basement or garage. Have a fire plan! Locate all exits and consider your escape plan. All studios should be equipped with at least one ABC all-purpose fire extinguisher and at least one smoke detector. Ideally, fire extinguishers should be located near exits and major fire hazards. Read all the instructions that come with your particular extinguisher. Be sure you are clear on its operation. Itís a good idea for you to inspect your extinguisher annually - many need to be discharged and then professionally recharged or checked after a specific time period. If you have any questions, consult with your local Fire Department. 

To prevent electrical fires, make sure all electrical wiring is in good shape and that all electrical systems and wiring are rated for the amount of power you are pulling from the system. Also inspect all tool and machine power cords for damage, as well as any extensions cords you may be using. 

Be aware of all flammable and combustible materials and liquids in your work space, especially solvents and other chemicals. Store these items appropriately and away from potential sources of ignition. You may consider purchasing a flammable storage cabinet. These units need to be properly grounded and ventilated. Always check the label of any material for safe handling and storage instructions.

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Books on
Health Hazards in the Arts

Rossol, Monona.The Artist's Complete Health and Saftey Guide. Watson-Guptill Pubns, 2001.

Smith, David, Dewey, Richard, Disalvo, John, Speights, William D., Emerging Public Safety Wireless Communication Systems. 2001

Stock, Louis D., Safety Practices for the Graphic Arts
, 1984

Olgyay, Nora,
Safety Symbols Art: Camera-Ready and Disk Art for Designers, Wiley; Bk&Disk edition, June 27, 1995.  Fron the back cover:

For the first time, people who design, produce, or use hazard warning signs, labs, or tags have a definitive source for safety symbol art. Safety Symbols Art is the first and only commercial source of camera-ready and computer disk art for the SEGD safety symbol system ó a system designed to save lives and prevent injuries.  Each of the symbols in this book has been tested and meets the standards approved in 1991 by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as Z535, the most far-reaching set of U.S. safety standards developed to date. Now you can reproduce these quickly, easily, and with the assurance that you are complying with ANSI Z535ís national safety symbol standards. The ANSI Z535 standards recommend that every American safety label, tag, and sign include a safety symbol designed and tested to meet ANSIís criteria. That makes Safety Symbols Art a must-have for any American company that produces consumer products or operates a manufacturing facility. Graphic designers, corporate designers, and product designers will turn again and again to this one-of-a-kind reference. All 40 safety messages identified in ANSI Z535 are included both as line art and on disk, ready to save you time and money. All in one convenient source youíll find: hazard warning messages, general safety messages. mandatory action messages, and prohibited action messages.

In addition, the author includes a history of symbol systems and standardization. No one is better qualified than Nora Olgyay to create this hands-on resource. She is a former Chairperson of the ASC Z535.3 Subcommittee on Safety Symbols, and has dedicated her expertise to bringing you a reliable, easy-to-use resource in the hope that the widespread use of these symbols will make the world a safer place to live and work.

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Arena, Jay M., M.D., Child Safety is No Accident, Revised Edition, Berkeley Press, New York, 1987.

Arena, Jay M., M.D., Poisoning - Toxicology, Symptoms, Treatments, 5th Edition, Charles C. Thomas, Springfield,    IL, 1986

Ceramic Guidelines - appendix to ASTM C1023, American Society for Testing and Materials, 100 Barr Harbor Drive, P. O. Box C700, West Conshohocken, PA  19428-2959.

Qualley, Charles, Safety in the Artroom, Davis Publications, Worcester, MA, 1986.

Stopford, Woodhall, M.D., Safety of Lead-Containing Hobby Glazes, North Carolina Medical Journal, January 1988 (available from ACMI).

Challis, Tim. Health and Safety: Making Art and Avoiding Dangers. Sunderland: An Publications, 1990.

Challis, Tim. Printsafe: A Guide to Safe, Healthy and Green Printmaking. London: Estamp, 1990.

Disposal of Small Volumes of Photographic Processing Solutions. Rochester, N.Y.: Eastman Kodak, 1986.

Health and Safety in Ceramics: A Guide for Educational Workshops and Studios. 2nd ed. New York: Pergamon Press, 1986.

Health Hazards in the Arts and Crafts: Data Sheets. New York: Center for Safety in the Arts, 1970-Date. One-to six-page pamphlets and journal reprints on a wide variety of health and safety issues for artists, museum workers, and theater workers.

Johnson, Lois M., and Hester Stinnett. Water-based Inks: A Screenprinting Manual for Studio and Classroom. Philadelphia: Philadelphia College of the Arts, Printmaking Workshop, 1987.

McCann, Michael. Art Safety Procedures: A Health and Safety Manual for Art Schools and Art Departments. New York: Center for Safety in the Arts, 1992.

McCann, Michael. Artist Beware. 2nd ed. New York: Lyons and Burford, 1992.

McCann, Michael. Health Hazards Manual for Artists. 4th ed. New York, Lyons and Burford, 1994.

McCann, Michael. School Safety Procedures for Art and Industrial Art Programs. New York: Center for Safety in the Arts, 1994.

Making Darkrooms Saferooms: A National Report on Occupational Health and Safety. Durham, N.C.: National Press Photographers Association, 1989.

Medford, Marsha Kay. Respiratory Health Hazards of Artists in Their Studios. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, 1989.

Qualley, Charles A. Safety in the Artroom. Worcester, Mass.: Davis Publications, 1986.

Shaw, Susan. Overexposure: Health Hazards in Photography. 2nd ed. New York: Allworth Press, 1991.

Spandorfer, Merle. Making Art Safely: Alternative Methods and Materials in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Graphic Design, and Photography. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1996.

Waller, Julian A. Safe Practices in the Arts and Crafts: A Studio Guide. New York: College Art Association of America, 1985.

Industrial Hygiene, Toxicology, and Chemical Safety

Gosselin, Robert E. Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products. 5th ed. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1984.

Industrial Ventilation: A Manual of Recommended Practice. 17th ed. Cincinnati: American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists, Committee on Industrial Ventilation, 1982.

Lewis, Richard J. Sax's Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials. 9th ed. 3 vols. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1996.

Patty's Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology. Vol. 2, Toxicology. 4th ed. New York: Wiley, 1991.

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