Safety in the Studio
previous issues relating to toxicology
of ceramic materials, this page concentrates on general
safety rules for the ceramic studio. Many of the rules below are
common sense and you may be well familiar with them. However, many
people are either not aware of some of these general guidelines,
or choose to ignore them... Most of these rules apply to the small
or large studio or college department alike.
Studio Safety Rules
Never sweep the studio ...rather vacuum with a small particle
filter in place or wet everything and mop or vacuum with a wet
pick up filter. Use an air filter if possible.
- Open footwear, e.g.. sandals, etc., are inadequate. Full protection
is needed for your feet.
- Loose clothing which
may accidentally find its way into operating machinery should
also be avoided.
- Similarly with long
hair -- as above.
- Floors should be
kept clean. Clean up spilt clay, slip and water and other materials
- Don't put your hand
into operating clay mixers etc., or you may find yourself neatly
blended into the mix.
- Arrangement of benches,
bins, storage areas, etc., should allow maximum freedom of movement.
- Fire extinguishers
should be placed in an accessible position near the studio. If
a fire develops in the studio and you are keeping a fire extinguisher
there, the heat may prevent you from reaching it.
- Accessibility of
power and light switches: keep switches and electrical cables
away from water or if this cannot be avoided sufficient protection
against contact should be made.
- Never turn off electrical
appliances with wet hands especially in combination with water
on the floor.
- Avoid use of extension
cords where they may intersect areas where traffic is most likely.
- Materials should
be stored in a dry place. Plaster should be set aside from these
- Areas set aside
for plaster work should be cleaned thoroughly after use. Buckets
and other materials used for this work should be for plaster work
only, minimizing the possibility of foreign matter fouling up
- Food and drink is
best consumed outside the studio or in an area where contamination
by chemicals, dust in the air, etc., is minimal.
- Hands should be
washed immediately and thoroughly after handling glaze materials
and any other toxic minerals.
- A well ventilated
area in the immediate vicinity of the kiln is mandatory; in fact
it is best to have kilns of all types outside the main studio
area thus eliminating the risk of poisoning yourself with carbon
monoxide, unburned gas, sulfurous gases, etc., emitted especially
- Safety clothing,
eye protection, gloves, etc. should be easily accessible.
- Wear welding goggles
when looking into a glowing kiln, otherwise eye cataracts will
develop over the years.
- Never brush a kiln
shelf with bare hands. Jagged pieces of glaze or grit stick to
the shelf and can easily tear the skin.
- Kilns should be
checked, so that they meet regulations stipulated by your regional
- Never ignite a gas
kiln without opening the door a short way first. Accumulated gas
can ignite and explode. Opening the door allows igniting gas to
- To check for gas
leaks use a gas detector or soapy water and a brush, but never
use a naked flame.
- Auto cut off and
failsafes are preferable and should be checked periodically.
- Extreme care should
be exercised when lifting heavy articles. It is essential for
the studio potter to be aware of correct lifting techniques otherwise
physical damage is inevitable. A trolley should be used if necessary.
- Incorrect methods
of wedging large pieces of clay may cause injuries, especially
to the back. Damage may occur after a period of several years.
When wedging you should be well aware of your capabilities of
lifting a piece of clay, remembering that this weight has to be
maneuvered at least 21 times before it is wedged. Back and stomach
muscles are strained if the weight is too heavy. Secondly, the
hands should be released from the piece of clay on the downward
movement, just before it makes contact with its other half, otherwise
the sudden curtailing of momentum at table level creates jarring
tremor which is transferred through the body via the hands, the
latter of which acts as a lever and jerks the spine upward - not
good at all.