Department of Art


Coil pot glazing
A student glazes her coil pot in the Ceramics Studio (Tom Zasadzinski)

These safety guidelines are meant for use by students and staff who create, or recreate, in a limited number, largely by hand, works that may or may not have a practical use, but in which aesthetic considerations are paramount.These guidelines are for use in the Ceramic Studio in the Department of Art, and as a supplement to other safety information, such as safety data sheets (SDS) or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), EPA and DEC guidelines and regulations and hazard communication programs. While these guidelines are comprehensive, these guidelines may not cover every safety concern found in the Ceramic Studios and may be amended as needed.

Safety Data Sheets are located in a binder in the Clay Storage Room. Know the characteristics of each material (pigment, glaze etc.) you plan to work with. Each container lists the primary element used to produce a particular pigment. Some pigments are more hazardous than others.In ceramics, as in all areas of human activity, proper usage of products ensures safety. Misuse of products may expose the ceramist to potentially harmful materials. Care should be taken to read all label instructions before using a product. The SDS book will identify any hazardous ingredients and their hazards, provide first aid instructions and give recommendations on how to use safely and prevent excessive exposure. Other resources for finding the SDS for materials used in the Ceramics Studio is:

All waste materials must be properly collected as a hazardous waste in an approved waste container with a proper hazardous waste label. Hazardous waste can only be accumulated within a 90-day window and must be shipped off-campus within that time limit. EH&S handles all campus hazardous waste and should be contacted for hazardous waste training as well as questions regarding the proper accumulation, labeling and disposal of hazardous waste. Rinse from container washing and other materials such as glazes, additives and clay rinse water shall not be dumped in surrounding foliage, planters, gutters or on the asphalt. The University is responsible for complying with strict waste disposal requirements as well as programs designed to prevent contamination and dumping into storm drains. Many areas on campus will drain to a storm drain and it is important to prevent contaminants from entering our storm water systems.

In case of Emergency: Contact University Police - Dial 9-1-1 from campus landline; (909) 869-3070 from cell phone on campus University Police Department: (909) 869-3070 EH&S can be reached at (909) 869-4697.

Common sense cleanup and maintenance of the work area is necessary for people working with ceramics. It is strongly recommended that the following rules be observed.

  1. Clean container rims before closing to eliminate buildup of dried product.
  2. Ensure containers are properly closed and secured to prevent spills or leaks.
  3. Dust Control - Dust control measures are necessary for any operation, which may generate dust. This includes the creation of dust from dipping glazes which have dried on work surfaces, mixing of dry ceramic materials, grinding, drilling or sanding greenware, bisqueware or working with clay to make pottery.
    • Keep working surfaces and shelves clean by wiping down with a wet sponge, rinsing the sponge frequently.
    • Clean up spills when they occur. Do not allow to dry. Wet-mop floors to control dust; do not sweep dry clay.
    • All vacuuming equipment should be equipped with HEPA-type exhausting filter that traps particles 0.3 micron in diameter or larger.
    • In order to decrease dust production, clean greenware when damp.
    • Work on newspaper or a paper towel for easy cleanup and disposal.

Ceramic products and materials can be handled very safely if we keep in mind that materials should not be ingested or dust inhaled. Do not smoke. Having food or drink in areas where potentially hazardous ceramic materials are present is prohibited. Such practices can transfer hazardous substance to the mouth or leave substances such as salt and oil on the work surfaces and thus ruin your glazes.

  1. Always wash hands thoroughly when you are through working with hazardous materials, even after removing gloves. Do not use any utensils that will later be used in the kitchen. If there is an accidental ingestion, call the University Police.
  2. Do not handle materials used to produce ceramics when you have open cuts or wounds.
  3. Materials such as glazes can contain hazardous materials and should not be used in food containers such as red solo cups, water bottles, pickle jars and the like. The presence of these containers can create a risk of accidental ingestion of hazardous materials.

Never work in the Studio without knowing how to properly protect yourself from hazards. When working in the studio after hours, work with someone else present if possible. If the Professor is not present, make sure someone knows you are working in the Studio. Do not let unauthorized persons into the Studio. All doors should be shut and locked at all times while working in the Studio after hours. Doors should never be propped open.

  1. Protection against Kiln Hazards.
    • Kilns should only be operated by the professor (turning on and off) to ensure a safe working environment.
    • Students should be cautious when near Kilns. Professors and Students must wear Insulating gloves when handling a kiln after the venting period, as the handle will be hot. Never touch the outside of a kiln (other than the control panel) when it is turned on, as the kiln, surface temperature may be very hot.
    • Dark-shaded glasses from a safety supply house (shade number 1.7-3.0) are recommended when looking into kiln peepholes to protect your eyes from radiant heat. Normal sunglasses are inadequate for this purpose. Protective glasses also allow you to see witness cones more clearly. These glasses are located on the shelf in the kiln yard.
    • Students must be properly trained by the professor on safe work practices associated with using the kiln.
    • Students should only use the kiln if there is direct supervision from a professor.
    • Students must follow all safe work practices while using the kiln.
  2. Protection Against Dust Exposure
    • Do not wear contact lenses when working in dusty environments. Dust particles may become trapped between the lens and the surface of the eye, and these small particles can scratch the eye.
    • Use the spray booth when spraying water-based glazes and solvent based materials.
    • For work with hazardous particulates, use a NIOSH approved respirator for fumes.
    • Maintain the spray booth according to the manufacturer directions.

  1. The only persons authorized to operate the kilns are professors; however, students can add and remove projects while the kiln is in use if there is adequate supervision. These students should be properly trained and records must be maintained.
  2. Do not leave papers or combustibles around the kiln, or place objects on the kiln while firing. Always unplug the kiln while making any repairs.
  3. Do not try to unload the kiln until the outside of the kiln is cool to the touch and the pieces can be easily touched by hand or with gloves. Removing hot pieces presents risks of burns or fires or crazing of glazed surfaces.
  4. When unloading a kiln, be careful of glaze defects on ceramic pieces. They can be sharp and should be smoothed as soon as possible with a grinding wheel or stone. Wear safety glasses while grinding overglaze.

Many glazes are formulated to be safely used on surfaces that come in contact with food or drink.

  1. If surfaces will come into contact with food or drink, use only glazes that are specifically for food or dinnerware.
  2. Proper firing of food-safe glazes is critical. Use pyrometers or pyrometric shelf cones on the kiln shelves to ensure that the pieces are fired hot enough, even if the kiln is electronically controlled or has an automatic kiln sitter. If glazed surfaces are crazed, blistered, under fired or otherwise defective, glazes may not be food safe.

These products are easy to use safely and will present no problems as long as these three important rules are observed: keep out of reach of children, use in a well-ventilated area, and clean up after use. Before using spray aerosols, solvents or overglazes, read the warning labels and safe use instructions on the containers. Over exposure to solvent-containing ceramic materials can result in symptoms of eye or nose irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea and confusion.

The department shall provide materials to students or provide a list of materials that students are permitted to bring into the Ceramics Studio.

  1. Containers should be kept tightly closed when not in use.
  2. Aerosol sprays, solvents and solvent-based overglazes should be used out of doors, in a locally exhausting hood or spray booth or with a window exhaust fan to assure adequate cross ventilation.
  3. Flammable Materials - If solvents, spray aerosols or solvent-based overglazes are flammable, do not use them near a heat source or open flame, or close to the kiln. Rags and paper towels or tissues used with these products should be placed in a metal container designed for disposal of flammable materials. Alternately contaminated materials can be washed or placed under water until final disposal.
  4. Aerosol cans cannot be discarded in the trash. They must be properly collected as a hazardous waste in a properly labeled waste container.

As with any finely ground substance, dust control is the primary safety factor to be remembered by those who customarily mix powdered slips, clays or ceramic glazes. Slips, clays, and some ceramic glazes contain quartz. Dust exposures also occur when cutting, sanding, grinding or drilling ceramic materials.

  1. Excessive inhalation of quartz dust can result in chronic lung damage. Quartz dust, when it is in a respirable (breathable) form, is considered a human cancer agent.
  2. When activities potentially generate ceramic dust, use a NIOSH-approved mask for fumes.

When spraying glazes, use extreme caution and follow these safety instructions. Glazes may contain quartz or metallic oxides whose toxic potential increases if inhaled.

  1. Use a spray booth equipped with a strong fan that exhausts all glaze mists outside of the work area.
  2. Use a NIOSH-approved mask appropriate for the type of glaze being sprayed.
  3. Wear protective clothing including hair covering that is removed before eating, drinking, smoking or leaving work. Wash hands thoroughly immediately after spraying and removing protective clothes. Do not eat or drink in the work area and remember that smoking is prohibited on campus.

Keep these common-sense safety rules in mind and remember to observe them.

When working in the Studio:

  • Keep work surfaces and shelves clean by wiping down with a wet sponge.
  • Clean up spills when they occur. Do not allow to dry.
  • Try to work on a newspaper or paper towel for easy cleanup and disposal.
  • Do not eat or drink in the work area. If a break is needed, students should go outside to eat or drink. Food or drink should not be present in the work area to prevent crosscontamination.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly when you are through working.
  • Use a smock when working with ceramic materials or wash clothes after.
  • Do not work with moving equipment if you have long hair, clothing or jewelry that may become caught in the moving parts of the equipment.
  • Sensible shoes with closed toes and slip-resistant tread should be worn. Open-toed shoes such as sandals; and similar shoes like heals must not be worn in the work area.

When using solvent-containing ceramic materials:

  • Work in a locally exhausting hood or with an exhaust fan.
  • Do not use or store near kilns, other heat sources or an open flame.
  • Dispose of used rags in an airtight metal container that is properly labeled for hazardous waste accumulation. EH&S must be notified of these locations to ensure that hazardous waste is accumulated and handled in accordance with all Federal, State and local regulations. EH&S can be contacted at x4697 for assistance or questions.

When spray-applying glazes:

  • Work in a spray booth.
  • Use a NIOSH-approved respirator for mists.

Try not to track dust from the studio to other areas of the building.