Safety In The Fine Arts

Working in the fine arts can pose significant health and safety risks from a variety of hazards. Hazards are present in studios and in shops, as well as in performance areas. These hazards may include chemical, physical, electrical, radiation, and biological hazards.


Checkout Our Presentation On Art Safety Here


Who is responsible for safety in studios and shops?

Faculty, staff, students, and EH&S all play a role in keeping work areas safe! These roles are summarized below.

Faculty and staff

  • Institute rules for the use of the facility.
  • Provide procedures and materials for work to be done safely.
  • Take the required safety training classes. Safety training classes provided by EH&S are listed below.
  • Provide in-person training for students on studio-specific procedures.
  • Ensure that all incidents involving injury or exposure to hazardous materials are reported to EH&S.


  • Take the required safety training classes available in SciShield. Training requirements may include:
    • EH&S online art safety training for any work in art studios with hazardous materials
    • EH&S fire safety training for any work in art studios;
    • EH&S laser safety training for work with laser cutters;
    • Mechanical and electrical research safety for carpentry or other shop work;
    • Studio- or shop-specific training (training by an instructor on safe operations in the studio or shop); and
    • Hearing conservation training (for employees who may be exposed to high noise levels during the workday).
    • Respiratory Protection-Initial medical clearance and annual fit testing and training may be required
  • Follow appropriate procedures and practices in the studio and keep work areas clean.
  • Dispose of hazardous waste properly.
  • Report all incidents, accidents, and exposures to the appropriate person.


  • Serve as a resource.
  • Provide training to faculty, staff and students on the safe use of hazardous materials and equipment.
  • Pick up hazardous waste for proper disposal.
  • Conduct inspections of studios for safety and regulatory compliance.

What questions should you ask before working with materials or equipment that you have not used before?

What are the health hazards associated with the materials used in your work area?

Check the chemical label and the safety data sheet (SDS) to learn the health hazards and for guidance on how to use the product safely. Health hazards are identified in Section 2 of the SDS. The SDS can be found on the UMass chemical inventory website ( by clicking on “Search SDS.” Alternatively, you can find it through an internet search by searching for “chemical name SDS.”

What are signs and symptoms of exposure, and what are the routes of exposure?

Signs, symptoms, and routes of exposure are indicated in the SDS. Signs and symptoms are listed in Section 4, and routes of exposure are listed in Section 2.

What measures (e.g., work practices, emergency procedures, PPE) can be taken to protect yourself from the hazards associated with the materials/equipment you use?

Review the SDS before starting work with a material that you have not used before. In particular, pay close attention to:

  • Section 4 for first aid measures,
  • Section 5 for firefighting measures,
  • Section 6 for accidental release measures and how to clean up spills, and
  • Section 8 for exposure controls and personal protective equipment requirements.

What are the routes of exposure?

  • Inhalation: Breathing airborne contaminants such as gases, vapors, particulate matter and mists into lungs. This allows the contaminants to enter the bloodstream and the contaminants can react with the brain and other sensitive organs very quickly.
    • Mitigation: Appropriate ventilation such as local exhaust ventilation, performing activities outside, and/or respiratory protection. 
  • Absorption: Contaminants can enter the body and the bloodstream through the skin if there is skin contact with the contaminants. Many compounds can be absorbed through intact skin, and contaminants can be absorbed quickly through a cut or abrasion.
    • Mitigation: Protective clothing such as appropriate gloves, full pants, closed-toe shoes, and lab coats or smocks. 
  • Ingestion: Contaminants can be absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream by directly or indirectly eating the material. An example of direct ingestion would be using your mouth to point a paintbrush tip, and indirect ingestion would be having the material on one’s hands and then eating, drinking, or smoking without washing hands first.
    • Mitigation: No food or drinks are allowed in studios or labs. Never put tools or art materials in your mouth. Always wash your hands before leaving the studios or labs. 
  • Injection: Cuts or punctures that put contaminants directly in the bloodstream. Injections can occur using needles, razors, knives, or other sharp objects.
    •  Mitigation: Use cut or puncture resistant gloves when using sharp tools.  When possible, use a tool that has a handle or holder, so you can maneuver the sharp tool from a distance.  Do not hold objects in one hand while cutting with the other.  Use an object other than your hand to hold items while cutting to reduce the likelihood of injury.  For additional information on preventing cuts and punctures, please see the EH&S fact sheet and video.

What are the types of exposures?

  • Acute: A single exposure from which the effects appear almost immediately after exposure, such as burns from contact with a corrosive chemical.
  • Chronic: Effects appear after repeated exposures over months or years. Examples include some cancers and some allergic reactions.

What should I do if I am injured in a studio or shop?

Get the medical care you need! Go to UHS to have your injury evaluated. In the case of a severe injury, call 911 for an ambulance.

  • Notify EH&S and your supervisor/faculty/instructor of all incidents.
  • Report any event that results in a spill or release of a hazardous material
  • Report any event that results in any injury or exposure
  • Inform your supervisor/faculty/instructor of all events
  • Call EH&S to report incidents/accidents immediately (413-545-2682)
  • Complete and submit the Incident Report form to EH&S within 48 hours:
  • If you were injured in the incident and you are an employee, complete and submit the Notice of Injury form to Human Resources within 48 hours of the incident:

What should I know about working with chemicals?

There are several main points to keep in mind when working with chemicals in a studio or shop. These chemicals may include paint thinners, paints, machine oils, glazes, etc.

  • Read the label of the chemical, and be sure you understand what you are working with and the hazards associated with it. If you have questions about how to safely use it, ask your supervisor/faculty/instructor or contact EH&S (
  • If you need to transfer chemicals from the original container to a smaller “working” container, please remember the following:
    • Do not use drink containers to store chemicals.
    • Cover or close any container that is not in use to prevent evaporation and the potential release of vapors
    • Label working containers with the contents and hazards. For more information on labeling, please see the EH&S video.
  • Make sure you have reviewed the SDS prior to working with any chemical that you have not worked with before. SDSs can be accessed through CEMS.

What should I know about waste disposal?

In a laboratory, studio, or shop, even household chemicals are classified as industrial chemicals. Chemicals used in a studio or shop should not go down the drain. Each studio or shop should have a hazardous waste accumulation area. Please contact EH&S at (413) 545-2682 if there are questions regarding the proper disposal of chemicals.  Please also see the EH&S video on proper management of hazardous waste areas.

How can I get specific safety information for the type of work I am doing?

Click the links below for safety information related to specific types of work within the fine arts.


Baylor University. (2021, October 1). Art Safety Training Guide. Environmental Health & Safety | Baylor University.

Davis, S. (2021). Art Safety | Office of Environmental Health and Safety. Princeton University Environmental Health & Safety.

Environmental Health & Safety. (2018, February). #18 Leathercraft Safety. University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources.

Lozanski, L. (2016). Ergonomics for Fine Arts. Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Mayall, E. (2020, October 8). Ergonomics in Dance. Actsafe Safety Association.

Mitchell, T. (2019, November 21). A Painful Melody: Musicians and Repetitive Strain Injury. Working Well.

National Association of Schools of Music and the Performing Arts Medicine Association. (2016, March 1). NASM-PAMA Advisories on Hearing Health. National Association of Schools of Music.

National Association of Schools of Music Performing Arts Medicine Association. (n.d.). Protecting Your Vocal Health - Student Information Sheet. NASM Arts.

Ouimet, T. (2000). Safety Guide for Art Studios. Mt. Holyoke.

Radding, S. B., Jones, J. L., Mabey, W. R., Liu, D. H., & Bohonos, N. (1978, October). Assessment of Potential Toxic Releases from Leather Industry Dyeing Operations.

The University of California. (2015). Performing Arts Safety Manual. University of California - Office of the President.