A Guide to Safe Practice in Art & Design
The statutory requirements and associated advice on the provision of heating, lighting and ventilation is contained in Building Bulletin 76, Maintenance of Electrical Services (HMSO, 1992), Building Bulletin 70, Maintenance of Mechanical Services, (HMSO, 1990) and DFE Design Note 17, Guidelines for Environmental Design and Fuel Consumption in Educational Buildings. All these publications are available in hard copy from The Stationery Office.
5.2.4 Water Supply and Drainage
5.2.5 Electrical Equipment
5.2.6 Gas Supplies and Gas-Burning Appliances
Appropriate lighting to the required standards should be provided - a good spread of light, both natural and artificial, is of prime importance. Practical activities, particularly those requiring sharp tools, will often need supplementary lighting. Adjustable spotlights can be helpful, but avoid glare or excessive contrasts of light and shade. Whilst good natural lighting is desirable for machine operations, care should be taken to ensure that direct sunlight does not make flames and cutting surfaces invisible. Where electric lighting is used it is important to choose lamps with excellent colour rendering. Subdued lighting should be provided for forging, welding and brazing (British Standard BS4163).
The heating system should take into account the nature of the activity and ensure that there is an even, controlled temperature throughout the work space. Poor heating can be hazardous, either by creating conditions in which fingers are insufficiently flexible to control tools or by inducing drowsiness through excessive temperatures, lack of ventilation or poor air circulation.
Fan-assisted heating systems in ceramics studios, or rooms where clay is used frequently, create a potential hazard, particularly from ceramic micro-dust circulated by blown air. Where new accommodation is planned, such heating systems should not normally be installed. In existing accommodation with fan-assisted heating, thorough cleaning each time clay is used can substantially reduce risk - and ensuring filters are fitted to fan converters and are cleaned regularly.
Normal ventilation requirements should apply in general art and design rooms, but ceramics studios, photography darkrooms and areas where there is an increased risk from spraying, fixing or cleaning with solvents have specific requirements above normal levels. It is, however, difficult for teachers to assess ventilation needs and provide what is often described vaguely as 'adequate ventilation'. Expert advice should always be sought about ventilation to kiln rooms, darkrooms and areas for spraying. A sound general principle is to reduce the need for ventilation, if possible, by substituting processes that do not require it.
In kiln rooms, extract ventilation applied by means of a suitable hood and fan system should be installed to provide a sufficient number of air changes each hour for the size of the room. Expert advice should be sought on this.
In schools where kilns are installed in classrooms or studios, teachers should ensure that there is adequate fresh air circulation. Should this prove to be difficult to achieve, or the kiln is likely to be used frequently when classes are in progress, mechanical ventilation may be necessary and expert advice should be obtained. Only normal biscuit and glaze firings should be made in kilns sited in working areas.
A suitable extract ventilation system must be installed in all darkrooms. It should be lightproof and provide an adequate number of air changes per hour for the size of room. Expert advice should again be sought.
All spray booths must have an air extraction system connected to the outside. If this is not possible, spray booths should not be installed.
Solvents of various kinds, fixatives and other aerosols, glues and adhesives should be used by an open window or in mechanically ventilated conditions if the activity is regular or prolonged. It is always sensible to limit the number of users at anyone time, the length of continuous sessions, and the area of the room in which such processes are used.
5.2.4 Water supply and drainage
Taps and sinks should be sited conveniently to allow easy access and prevent crowding at a single point in an art room. They should be distanced from electrical supplies and apparatus. Draining boards should be kept clear for drainage purposes and not used for storage. Wet floors present a high safety risk, so leaks and spillage should be attended to immediately. Cleanliness is essential to safety and good health. Any blocked or dirty sinks may present a serious health risk.
Bottle traps should be fitted to sinks which are used for clay and other materials that leave sediments. They must be emptied and cleaned regularly. It is important to ensure that drainage is efficient and plaster, clay and other deposits do not block the drains. Plaster should never be poured down the sink - it should be allowed to dry and then disposed of as solid waste. On no account must flammable substances be put down drains.
5.2.5 Electrical Equipment
Detailed advice on electrical safety can be obtained from Health and Safety Executive guidance to be found at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/elecindx.htm. However, when planning new or modifying existing electrical services some important general principles must be observed.
All power outlets must be placed in accessible positions away from water supplies and drainage. They should not be placed where leads will have to cross circulation routes, and they should be sited at a reasonable height above the floor. There should be sufficient outlets to support the range of equipment normally used without resorting to unnecessary multi-socket adapters.
Isolators for all circuits should be placed in readily accessible positions with local isolators of the non-self-resetting type fitted to each fixed machine. The conversion of hand-operated machines to power operation, such as printing presses, should never be undertaken without appropriate advice being sought beforehand, and without having the modifications checked by a suitably qualified person before they are used.
Electrically fired kiln doors should be fitted with an approved system to ensure that the mains electricity supply is isolated before the door is opened. This may either be a fail-safe positively operated switch (used on some small kilns) or an interlock system, trapped key or similar device. Bright warning lights to indicate that the mains supply is on should be mounted in duplicate in a prominent part of the studio. Kiln loading by pupils must be closely supervised.
Automatic electronically controlled firing mechanisms are now readily available and relatively inexpensive, and should be fitted to kilns in preference to hand-operated systems, which are vulnerable to human error.
Electrically fired kilns sited in a working area should be protected by a cage and have an interlock system or padlock fitted to the door to prevent opening during firing.
In the case of portable electric power tools, a sensitive residual current device (often referred to as an earth leakage current-breaker unit) of the current balance type should be used as back-up protection when any appliance is used at mains voltage. Whenever possible, a low-voltage electricity supply should be installed.
All exposed, non-current-carrying metal parts of both fixed and portable equipment must be effectively earthed unless the equipment is double insulated. Two concentric squares marked on the rating plate of the equipment indicate that it is double insulated.
Ratings of fuses should be related to the type of equipment. Switches or fuses should always break the live lead, which must be coloured red or brown. New standard PYC-sheathed flexible cable should be used and the terminal wiring and polarity checked. Wiring on old or foreign equipment not conforming to European standards should be changed. All leads deteriorate with use, so regular checks must be made in accordance with the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) (see section 4.5).
Pilot lights should be installed wherever possible and checked regularly.
5.2.6 Gas Supplies and Gas-Burning Appliances
Gas supply points should be positioned so that they are easily accessible and free from obstruction. Work surfaces for gas appliances, such as gas rings for wax melting, should be properly designed for stability and ease of use. Care should be taken to position the appliances so that pupils cannot accidentally lean over them when working.
All mains gas supplies to equipment such as brazing torches should be controlled in each work area by a well-positioned emergency master valve. This should be turned off every night to prevent hazards and accidents, and to ensure that it is kept in effective working order. Main control taps or valves should be clearly labelled.
Gas kilns should not be used in schools unless the staff has had specialist training in firing procedures. All members of staff responsible for firing gas kilns should be aware of the 'lock-out' procedure and of how to prevent the risk of explosion by blowback during lighting. A canopy to direct heat and fumes away from the kiln directly to the outside atmosphere is necessary. Many local authorities have stringent regulations governing installation.
An increasing number of kilns are fuelled by bottled gas. If employers approve their use, the manufacturer's instructions for the safe siting and operation of such kilns should be strictly observed. Propane gas cylinders must be stored in the regulation conditions (see the Health and Safety Executive guide The keeping of liquid petroleum gases in cylinders and similar containers).
The British Gas publication IMll5, Guidance Note on Gas Safety in Educational Establishments, provides further useful information.
Storerooms should be sufficiently large to meet the needs of the areas they serve and take account of the range and type of activities. For example, studios undertaking a lot of three-dimensional work will require storage for bulky materials and work in progress. An area of 0.4m² to 0.5m² for each pupil place may be used as a guide. Failure to provide sufficient storage space can result in an accumulation of materials in working areas.
Racks and storage units should be positioned for ease of access and should not reduce or obstruct circulation space. High-level storage units should not be used for heavy equipment or materials, and safe means of access should be provided.
Storage spaces should be equipped with appropriate systems for keeping stock and work in progress in a tidy, accessible manner. Untidy, cluttered or overfull storerooms constitute fire hazards and other dangers. Adequate lighting and ventilation should be installed. Appropriate storage for personal protective equipment and pupils' outdoor clothing should be provided.
In ceramics areas, separate storage is required for work awaiting firing (the kiln room may be suitable for this), damp storage for clay and work in progress, and for bulk materials, slips and glazes. Combustible materials should not be stored in the kiln room.
Compressed gases such as propane, acetylene and LPG (liquefied petroleum gases) are subject to stringent storage regulations that must be observed. It is unlikely that an art department will have a need for separate bulk storage facilities and it is recommended that all such gases be kept in a properly designed school store.
Flammable liquids and highly flammable liquids (subject to the Highly Flammable Liquids and Liquefied Petroleum Gases Regulations, 1972) require special, suitably marked, lockable metal storage bins or cupboards that are designed and approved for the purpose. Up to 50 litres may be kept in a workroom if properly stored, but it is advisable to reduce the stored quantity to the lowest possible operational levels.
Petroleum spirit and mixtures are subject to the Petroleum (Consolidation) Act (1928). Less than three gallons of petroleum spirit may be kept with other flammable liquids in a flammable liquids cabinet. Quantities above this level require a petroleum storage licence obtainable from the local fire authority, which carries stringent conditions.
Very small quantities of flammable liquids (closed containers holding not more than 500cc) do not require special storage arrangements, but naturally still require careful thought as to where they are put.
Main stocks of acids and other corrosive substances should be kept in a main school store provided with a low-sited, ventilated and lockable cupboard, lined with acid-resistant material such as ceramic tiles, lead, stainless steel or stone. Only limited supplies of concentrated acid should be kept in the studio, in a cupboard that is strong, stable and properly locked. Acid should be kept in standard acid bottles.