A Guide to Safe Practice in Art & Design

6.1   Ceramics Machinery, Equipment and Working Methods

A number of free leaflets on health and safety topics in ceramics are available from the Health and Safety Executive:


6.1.1    Pugmills
6.1.2    Blungers
6.1.3    Potmills
6.1.4    Pottery Wheels
6.1.5    Jiggers/Batting Machines
6.1.6    Lathes
6.1.7    Compressors
6.1.8    Spray Booths
6.1.9    Bench-Mounted Off-Hand Grinders
6.1.10    Kilns
6.1.11    Safe Working Methods
 

6.1.1    Pugmills

Some form of emergency switch disconnecter is essential. Such machines, including blungers, should only be used by authorised staff or strictly supervised by responsible persons. Pugmills should be fitted with a throat guard and clay should not be fed into the machine with this guard removed. A hand lever-feeding device should be fitted for use in schools. On no account must the machine be run with the barrel open, outlet removed or drive guards removed.

It is recommended that a working area of at least one metre around the machine should be kept clear for operational purposes.

top

6.1.2    Blungers

These require similar precautions to pugmills. Hands should never be placed in the blunger tub or tank when the unit is working.

top

6.1.3    Potmills

An open roller drive rotates the pot, and although it does not rotate at high speed there is a risk that the motion could trap hands

top

6.1.4    Pottery Wheels

Electric and kick wheels should be guarded where moving parts create hazards. Manufacturers' guards should be securely in place whilst the machine is in use. There should be adequate space surrounding the wheel to operate in safety. Electric wheels must be properly earthed and sealed-unit waterproof switches should be fitted.

top

6.1.5    Jiggers/Batting Machines

Similar precautions should be taken as for pottery wheels.

top

6.1.6    Lathes

Belt-driven lathes should be well guarded. On no account should the ratios be changed without the lathe being isolated from the power source. Goggles should be worn, hair tied back if necessary and appropriate protective clothing worn. Loose material should not be brushed away from the lathe until it is turned off.

top

6.1.7    Compressors

Oil levels should be checked regularly, together with air filters and blow-off valves. Compressed air can penetrate the skin and cause serious damage if put in any of the body's orifices. Regular inspection of air receivers by a competent person is required for the purposes of insurance (Pressure Systems and Transportable Gas Containers Regulations, 1989).

top

6.1.8    Spray Booths

Booths should preferably be of the water-backed variety, but in exhaust booths the exhaust tubes should be checked for leakage and filters regularly cleaned. On no account should booths that are not vented to the exterior be installed.

top

6.1.9    Bench-Mounted Off-Hand Grinders

Grinders used for forming and sharpening tools and other equipment must be fitted with guards and appropriate goggles worn. Work rests should be adjusted to meet wheel wear. Nobody should use bench-mounted off-hand grinders unless they hold a certificate to prove that they are properly trained. Detailed information is contained in the Abrasive Wheels Regulations (1970).

top

6.1.10    Kilns

Teachers or technicians should normally load kilns, but it may be part of a pupil's course to learn kiln operations. Such work must always be carefully supervised and correct procedures for loading and unloading strictly observed. Care should be taken to avoid back strain through lifting heavy articles. Students should be instructed in the complete firing sequence and alerted to the hazards associated with improper removal of ventilation or inspection bungs during firing: blue or smoked glass should always be used to protect the eyes when inspecting temperature colour or flame action. The siting of kilns needs careful attention and adequate space should be allowed around and above them. Kilns situated in working areas should be caged and there must be adequate ventilation in the room. Detailed advice is available from the Institute of Materials.

Outdoor kilns should be adequately guarded and fuel stored away from heat sources. Care should be taken that smoke and fumes are not blown into surrounding buildings.

Ground flint should not be used for dusting kiln furniture or making batwash. If flint is required for other purposes it should be kept in either paste or slop form.

It is very important for the safe and efficient kiln operation that regular maintenance is carried out by qualified personnel. However, sensible 'firstline' maintenance, such as regular cleaning, is also essential.

More information on electric and gas kilns is given in section 5.2.5 and section 5.2.6 respectively.

top

6.1.11    Safe Working Methods

Safe working methods in ceramics are generally covered by the management and organisation advice in section 4. However, some working methods are specific to ceramics and need to be given particular attention.

Personal hygiene is important to reduce the risks from ceramics materials. Hands should be washed and nails scrubbed after using ceramics materials and chemicals. Some form of wet-work barrier cream may offer a degree of protection against possible allergic skin reactions. Protective overalls and aprons should be laundered regularly. Food should not be consumed or brought into working areas. Smoking should not be allowed. Cuts, burns and abrasions should be immediately and properly treated.

Fettling and the shaping of raw clay vessels by any other means should only be carried out when the clay is 'leather-hard'. On no account should it be done when the clay is dry.

Areas for working in clay and plaster should be kept separate. Plaster in clay can cause damaging explosions during the firing process.

On no account must lime plaster be used and the correct procedures for mixing and using plaster should be strictly observed.

Glass containers should not generally be used in art rooms to avoid the risk of broken glass.

Steps should be taken to ensure that clay storage bins are not be mistaken for waste bins. Areas for clay reconstitution should be kept free from other materials.

Asbestos products should not be used to store or handle ceramic ware. Any existing equipment that is likely to contain visible or accessible asbestos, such as kilns, should be regularly monitored to ensure that the asbestos is not damaged (further advice can be obtained from your local Health and Safety Executive office).

Although less hazardous than asbestos, ceramic fibres (used as an alternative insulator for kilns) must also be treated with care - precautions must be taken to prevent physical contact and inhalation. Similar monitoring checks to those recommended for asbestos should be carried out.

top