Checklist for Art School 
and Departments

By Michael McCann, PhD, CIH


In the over 80 inspections of art schools and university art departments I have done over the last 20 years, I have found many problems related to use of more toxic art materials than necessary, inadequate ventilation, poor storage and handling of art materials, lack of eyewash fountains and emergency showers where needed, improper waste disposal procedures, incorrect selection of personal protective equipment, and more.

However, the major problem I have found is lack of a formal health and safety program.  Such a program would establish proper health and safety procedures and have an ongoing way of ensuring their enforcement.

The following checklist is a self-evaluation tool for art schools and art department to determine the effectiveness of their health and safety program. This checklist also includes basic questions about precautionary measures. It is not intended to be comprehensive or to ensure compliance with OSHA regulations. Answers in the negative indicate a program deficiency.


Health and Safety Program Organization YES NO 1. Is a vice president or comparable official responsible for the program? ______
2. Has the president issued a health and safety policy statement?
___3. Is there a health and safety official responsible for implementation of the program?
___ ___4. Is there a budget for correcting health and safety hazards?
______5. Is there a health and safety  (H&S) committee?
______6. If so, does the H&S committee have representatives of the following groups?

                Administration______               Teaching Staff
______               Technicians______               Maintenance Staff
______               Students______   Health and Safety Program Elements
YES NO 1. Are there regular inspections of all studios?
______2. Is there an approval mechanism for all studios?
______3. Is there an inventory of hazardous chemicals?
______4. Are there material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for all hazardous art materials?
______5. Are MSDSs stored centrally and in studios where they are used.
______6. Is there a procedure for reporting and investigating health and safety problems?
______7. Is there a procedure for reporting and investigating accidents, illnesses and spills of hazardous chemicals (including near misses)?
______8. Are deadlines established for correcting hazards?

9. Are there emergency procedures for the following?

                Fires in a studio.
______               Spills of flammable and toxic substances.
______               Evacuation of buildings (including regular fire drills).
______               Medical emergencies.
______10. Is there education and training in the hazards and precautions of art materials and processes for the following groups?
               Staff______                Students______11. Is there a medical surveillance program for staff and students?
______12. Is there a health and safety manual for staff and students?
______13. Are there procedures for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the H&S program?
______   Student Supervision
YES NO 1. Are students forbidden to bring in their own art materials? ______2. If not, are they required to buy from an approved list?
______3. Do teachers and technicians enforce the above procedures?
______4. Are open studios supervised during regular hours?
______5. Is there a written procedure for students working unsupervised?
______6. Is there a written contract specifying permitted materials and penalties for noncompliance for students in individual studio spaces?
Studio Procedures
YES NO 1. Are the least toxic chemicals available being used?
______2. Are water-based products used whenever possible?
______3. Are liquid products used when possible to replace powders?
______4. Are chemicals purchased in the smallest possible quantities?
5. Is there proper storage of art materials? (e.g., flammable storage cabinets, compressed gas storage, seperate storage of oxidizers, concentrated acids, etc.)
______6. Are all art materials properly labeled with contents and hazards, including student containers?
______7. Is there adequate ventilation for art processes producing airborne contaminants?
______8. Is food, drink, and smoking banned in all studios?
______9. Are all containers covered when not in use?
______10. Are sources of ignition (e.g., flames, sparks, static electricity, etc.) eliminated around flammable and combustible materials?
______11. Are all floors, storage rooms, etc. kept clear of combustible materials and rubbish?
______12. Are fire extinguishers or exits blocked?
______13. Are combustible materials, waste materials, and rubbish stored in approved containers and emptied daily?
______14. Are oily rags, paint rags, and similar materials subject to spontaneous combustion placed in approved oily waste cans which are emptied daily?
______15. Is welding done in a properly equipped and approved area which is free of combustible materials?
______16. Are dusts wet mopped or vacuumed, not swept?


___17. Are spills cleaned up immediately?

18. Are electrical machinery and power tools properly grounded?

______19. Is electrical wiring installed according to the electrical code and maintained in good condition?
______20. Is fixed wiring used instead of flexible cords?
______21. Is there a lockout/tagout program for maintenance of machinery?
______22. Is personal protective equipment (e.g., goggles, respirators) supplies by the school?
______23. Are there procedures for determining the need for and proper selection of personal protective equipment?
______24. Is there training in the proper selection, fitting, use and maintenance of personal protective equipment?
______25. Is there a hearing conservation program in noisy areas?
______26. Are there proper procedures for disposal of waste hazardous art materials?
______27. Are old old art materials and equipment removed from and disposed of properly?
______28. Do studios have the following standard equipment?

                Hand washing facilities
______               Appropriate fire extinguisher
______               Emergency communications system
______               First aid kits
______29. Do studios have the following approved equipment where needed?
               Eyewash fountain
______               Emergency shower
______               Safety cans for solvents
______               Oily waste disposal can
______               Machine Guards for machinery
______               Ground fault circuit interrupters

Art Hazard News, Volume 20, No. 2, 1997

This article was originally printed for Art Hazard News, © copyright Center for Safety in the Arts 1997. It appears on nontoxicprint courtesy of the Health in the Arts Program, University of Illinois at Chicago, who have curated a collection of these articles from their archive which are still relevant to artists today.