Occupational Safety and Health

Safety for Artists and Arts Employees

Whether your work is in the Visual Arts or the Performance Arts, your artistic endeavors may expose you to a number of physical and health hazards and may negatively impact the environment. Many of these hazards are often overlooked and may be minimized or avoided simply by becoming aware of them and exercising caution or following proper procedures. Other hazards may require building modifications or the use of protective equipment to reduce the hazards or your exposure to them. This website and the EHS staff offer valuable resources to raise your awareness of hazards and to determine the proper protection from them without impeding your artistic process. Below you will find descriptions of a variety of hazards that you may face and links to information and resources to help you identify hazardous situations and protect yourself.

Hazardous Materials

Many visual art techniques involve the use of chemicals. Theater construction activities may also involve some hazardous materials use. Because chemicals can be particularly hazardous to human health and the environment if mishandled, they should be used with caution. When possible lower hazard materials or techniques should be substituted. The following links provide information to help you identify the specific hazards of your medium and reduce or eliminate your risk of exposure. A link to non-toxic product alternatives is also provided.

Safety Guide for Art Studios – Published by United Educators and written by a Certified Industrial Hygienist at Yale, this guide is straight-forward and covers most of the studio art processes in use at IUB.

Dyes used in Costume Production – The CDC has posted information about these ingredients including tables of products that contain them. The tables are at the bottom of the linked page. If you use these products, it is important to be aware of the hazards so that you may properly protect yourself. EHS recommends using these products sparingly in well-ventilated areas or substituting less hazardous products when available.

ACMI Certified Materials – List of over 60,000 products labeled by the Art & Creative Materials Institute as non-toxic – a good place to look for product substitutions to lower exposure risk.

Nitrocellulose Film Management – Nitrocellulose film (or celluloid film) is extremely flammable and can be unstable if it is not managed properly.

National Library of Medicine – a good compilation of links and chemical hazard information pertinent to a variety of art mediums.

Hazard Communication – Hazard Communication is the program that defines how we warn people of the hazards associated with the chemicals they use. All chemicals must be in containers bearing information about the identity of the material and its hazards. Original manufacturer containers carry this information. But if you dispense material into a secondary container you must transfer the identity and hazards of the material to the new container. In addition to the labeling requirement, manufacturers are required to prepare material safety data sheets (MSDS) to detail physical and chemical properties and health effects of their products.

Waste Disposal – Very few of the chemical materials that you use will be able to be poured down the drain or placed in the regular trash. The following links will take you to information on preparing waste for disposal and requesting EHS to pick up your waste.

  • IUB Waste Disposal Guidelines – a guide to properly packaging and preparing waste for disposal. This guide includes a list of materials that are allowed to be disposed of in the sewer or regular trash.
  • IUB Waste Pickup Request – an online form to request EHS to pick up your waste.

Chemical Exposure – In the event of a chemical exposure, flush skin or eyes for 15 minutes, inform a department manager, and seek medical attention if necessary. If medical attention is necessary, the chemical SDS should be provided to the medical center staff. EHS staff are available to assist or answer questions as needed.

Spills – If the spilled material is of a quantity and type that you are comfortable handling, you can clean it up yourself and submit a waste request to dispose of the cleanup debris. If the spilled material is of a type or quantity that you are not comfortable handling or do not have the necessary supplies to handle, contact EHS at 5-6311 to request assistance from the IUB emergency response team. If there are injuries or exposures or if there is an imminent danger from the spilled material, dial 911 to activate emergency response personnel and procedures.

Physical Hazards

Many aspects of visual and performance arts present physical hazards as well as chemical hazards. The links below provide information on a variety of non-chemical hazards that you may encounter.

Welding – The hazards of welding include eye damage, inhalation of metal fumes, high reactivity of compressed gases, and fire potential. This link takes you to IU's welding, cutting, and brazing safety program. The American Welding Society has a page of fact sheets on welding safety. (Scroll down to see the list of fact sheets.)

Theater Safety – A broad overview of potential safety concerns for people working in theater. Topics covered include stage safety, elevated platforms, scaffolds, ladders, rigging, electrical systems, and lighting.

Noise Exposure – a link to IUB's personal protective equipment page which includes resources about hearing conservation and noise control at IUB. The CDC has posted a good information page on noise and hearing loss prevention. This page includes an interactive noise meter to compare a number of common noises. If you are interested in testing your hearing, a link is provided to a page with an interactive hearing test. If you are concerned about noise, you can request a noise survey in your area and have EHS provide recommendations for hearing protection.

Fall Protection – a link to the fall protection program at IU. Fall protection training is required for any IUB employees or students working on elevated surfaces.

Hand and Power Tools - a link to the hand and power tool safety program at IU. OSHA also has a good resource for tool safety. Thefirst half of this document provides a good, brief review of the hazards associated with a variety of hand and power tool types.

Woodworking Hazards – a comprehensive overview of woodworking hazards including physical hazards associated with tool use as well as health hazards of wood dust and chemicals used in finishing processes. Remember to for an assessment of specific hazards in your operations and recommendations to minimize risks.