A Guide to Safe Practice in Art & Design

6.3   Printing and Printmaking

6.3.1    Mechanical and Power-Driven Machines
6.3.2    Screen Printing
6.3.3    Etching
 

6.3.1    Mechanical and Power-Driven Machines

All such machinery and equipment used in printmaking and printing should meet the statutory standards and regulations governing their use. Regular maintenance is essential. Presses should be adequately guarded and guards regularly checked for efficiency. There must be sufficient surrounding space for their safe operation. Hand-operated machines, such as etching presses, should have a means of preventing their use out of idle curiosity or deliberate tampering.

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6.3.2    Screen Printing

Screen printing is reasonably risk-free, except for the use of oil-based inks and solvents. It is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the stringent standards set by the COSHH regulations on the use of solvent-based inks and processes, and the simple solution is to use toxic-free water-based inks instead. Some new products specifically designed to meet education needs and consisting of a mixture of acrylic paint and a screen-printing paste are excellent and generally risk-free.

There are important precautions to observe when using ultra-violet light boxes for exposing treated screens. Manufacturer's instructions and other regulations must be strictly observed.

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6.3.3    Etching

Etching and other acid-based activities are subject to stringent regulations in the use of materials and conduct of operational processes. Acid etching and polishing with hydrofluoric acid is a particularly hazardous operation and should not be carried out in schools.

Acid solutions for etching must always be made up by the teacher or technician. The use of concentrated acid or a mixture of sulphuric and nitric acid as mordants for etching increases the potential dangers. Acid must always be added to water when mixing solutions. Adding the water to the acid is extremely dangerous. Protective clothing should be worn.

The acid bath should be located in a ventilated cupboard or have a lid, either of which should be locked when not in use.

Any spillage of acids should be carefully and quickly dealt with by neutralising with sodium carbonate powder before wiping up with a cloth or paper, which should be disposed of in such a way as not to cause further damage.

Provision of facilities for immediate eye irrigation or washing affected parts of the body with water is essential to minimise the danger of acid burns. Clean water from a plastic bottle, delivered as an upward jet, gives effective eye irrigation but acid burns to the eyes should be referred to the local eye clinic for further treatment immediately.

Storage of acids should be in accordance with the appropriate regulations (see section 5.2.7 for further details).

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