Australian Fine Artist

OHS For Arts Practices

I have called upon my previous assessment tasks for a little support on this so I hope I’ll be forgiven in advance.

OH&S is a subject that I really do take very seriously. As an employee over the years I have seen some nasty injuries in art departments, dark rooms and print rooms from either poor OH&S policy by the company or by employees not following them properly (sometimes by just rushing to get a job done and the inevitable happening).

I was lucky enough at one contract at Allardice Graphic Arts to be involved in a full day of fire training with the CFA (I have a certificate somewhere but can’t locate it right now – I’ll look) Anyway, the training in the use of fire extinguishers was very useful as well as going outside to put out a real fire. We all received a pass and I was very happy to have this training.

Since then I have done two courses which had OH&S elements but the most important was in my management course last year. I spent two weeks researching and writing the assessment task and building an OH&S policy and training guide for our business. It has proved to be very helpful as well in giving our business a professional edge in this area.

I have applied an OH&S segment to the 9 week course I wrote for drawing last year for Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and also for the 2 hour workshop I delivered in Casey during my holidays this year. This is also included in here just in case people don’t have enough reading to do!

First however, I’ll start with my notes from today’s session.

There are three main distinctions or issues regarding OH&S for arts practices.

  1. Chemical
  2. Physical
  3. Psychological

1. Chemical: The ways we discussed to reduce risk were:

We identified the following items:

  • The use of and storage of solvents. (ventilation and secure storage)
  • The use of spray fixatives and adhesives (ventilation and secure storage)
  • The use of paints (keeping away from mouth and eyes, including water based paints as the problem lies in the pigments and binders)

We discussed the need to read labels on materials for hazards.

We talked about ging to websites for poisons and hazardous materials information such as MSDS (materials data sheets) and UN Numbers (guides made by the United Nations on the use of and medical aid required for hazardous materials.

There are three ways of absorbing chemicals.

  1. Inhaling
  2. Absorbing
  3. Digestion

The ways we discussed to reduce risk were:

  • Elimination or removal of the risk when extremely hazardous
  • Substitution for another material
  • Enclosing or storing in a safe place
  • Adopting safe handling procedures
  • Use of adequate ventilation (with fumes being pulled away from your workspace not directly over your head)
  • Limiting of exposure
  • Use of protective clothing and safety gear (I have just purchased a pile of gloves for my studio for this to add to other gear)

2. Physical: The ways we discussed to reduce risk were:

  • Making sure we do not produce “missiles” or flinging objects across a shared studio
  • Wearing proper shoes (at least closed toes even better, safety shoes)
  • Servicing power tools regularly
  • Tying back long hair
  • Keeping hands away from machinery when working
  • Care when setting up easels (the parts to hold up the art sometimes drop suddenly and can crush fingers)
  • Taking care not to wear loose clothing or scarves
  • Safe seating that is ergonomic
  • Taking time to stretch and take a break from your workstation
  • Correct lighting to help prevent eye strain
  • Ear protection if working in a noisy area
  • Keeping a record of how much you are exposed to radiation from monitors and other electronic equipment
  • A safe working temperature for the workspace (23° C is recommended by many)
  • Knowing where fire extinguishers are and having training in safe use on case of fire. Nathan gave a quick go through on the three types. The labels tell you which to use where. Red is compressed water – not all that useful, Black is carbon dioxide which is great for computers and electrical equipment, white is dry powder good for most but I wouldn’t recommend taking it near your computer unless you don’t want the mother board. It will melt all over it. Another idea is what we have as well as extinguishers which is a fire blanket.

3. Psychological: The ways we discussed to reduce risk were:

  • Reduction of stress (the need to be perfect or attempt to do too much)
  • Setting up schedules and timelines (plan your day etc)
  • Get clear guidelines so you know what is expected of you
  • Stay clear of office politics and poor public relations
  • Learn how to pull apart comments that can be thought of as rejection or criticism. (Don’t take it personally, try to find a positive in it somewhere, walk away if needed)
  • Work on your confidence by getting out and mixing with others and practising your craft
  • Isolation has been a big part of many artists lives for many years. We have guilds, societies, galleries, study groups, workshops, trainers, schools and many other ways to ensure we can mix with like minded people and not feel that loneliness of working in a studio for up to months or years without contact.
  • Many of us get so involved with our projects that we don’t get enough sleep. Know when to knock off and have a rest. If your work is keeping you up have a note pad beside the bed or in the house somewhere to jot down your ideas and then go back to sleep. I do this and it can help.
  • Lack of a formal career structure can be a source of anxiety for artists. We create nearly everything from nothing. Being organised and having a business plan can help, as well as learning what you want to achieve with your arts practice and setting up some small steps in that direction.
  • Finances are an eternal problem for artists. Go back and read Van Gogh’s letter to his brother, and letters other artists wrote to benefactors pleading for money to help them not only paint, but survive. If you don’t marry into money or inherit it, you have to plan a practice that may have several revenue streams or make it a part time thing and bring in your “living” money from another job. We can’t all expect to make ourselves rich as artists so need to plan a business that will hopefully bring in enough to give us an acceptable lifestyle.

Assessment Task Requirements

In the art-based profession that you intend to pursue, undertake a risk analysis of any Chemical, Physical and Psychological hazards that you might face within that profession. Identify strategies for overcoming or minimising these hazards. You should demonstrate an understanding of workplace safety requirements including emergency procedures.
Presentation: Can be presented in a chart form that can be attached to your studio wall, or a written report approximately 400 – 600 words.

Assessment Task

As we have no locking cupboards in the studio part of making our studio area safer is to restrict access to this area by anyone other than the directors with doors from the foyer. We have noticed that too many people can just walk into this area, including niece’s children.

Apart from an existing bell on the front door to the building, we are putting lockable doors on the access points to the rest of the building. Access will be for employees only so clients for the computer repairs and consulting business will also not be able to walk into the repair workshop.

We already have the doors, locks and all necessary materials to achieve this and only need the time from the senior director as this is a two person job. We are looking at being after the floor for the foyer has been painted as the next operational project.

We have priced an exhaust fan for my painting area and it may be achieved during summer as the outside of the building is very soggy due to it being a paddock area and a lot of rain this year so we can’t safely access it yet.

After talking about taking care of hands today I purchased a couple of varieties of protective gloves for the studio for handling solvents and also for working with pastels and certain paints. I had put this off and decided now was a good time to get on with it.

Long Term Plans

We have had many meetings regarding the direction of our business considering the objectives and requirements of each division.

As funds become available we intend on extending our office space to double what it currently is (14 squares to approximately 28). The extension at the rear of the present building which we own, will hold a new studio room specifically for fine art production and one for photography. This will totally separate it from the graphics, computer repairs and admin areas.

As we will be building the studio area from scratch I will be able to plan ventilation, lighting, storage and work areas to suit OH&S requirements as well as making them ergonomically sound. My graphics area will then be able to spread out in the room it now occupies. This addition will also allow for more storage for materials and artworks. We have discussed the idea that if long term archiving becomes a problem we may invest in a cargo container placed directly behind the building and renovating it for archival purposes as we have seen this done elsewhere successfully.

Additional Material

Presentation – Our Workplace Safety strategy

Premises layout

OHS Training Schedule

OHS – Ensure a Safe Workplace

Introduction to Drawing Workshop

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