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Peace and Safety In The Ceramics Studio

Source: South Texas College, Health and Safety Manual

Communal Responsibilites 

being considerate of others

Communal Responsibilites 

care of the studio

Please help contribute to maintaining a calm and peaceful atmosphere in our studio by being considerate of others with regards to sounds/noise. 

Leave work areas clean and empty for the next person, at least as clean as it was when you started, or better.

  • Wipe clay off surfaces with a damp sponge, including: stools, tables, and walls.

  • Clean the wheel, including: tray, work surface, wheel, side of wheel, legs.

  • Put bats away clean, not caked with clay.

  • Damp mop the floor around the area where you were working.

Take care when using the sink/tub area to get as little clay as possible in the sink.

  • Dump excess water into the large blue barrel

  • Scrape clay into recycling tub.

  • Clean trays in the tubs on the rolling cart.

  • Get a small amount of fresh water from the sink in your throwing bucket. Use that water and a sponge to clean your tools. Dump the dirty water into the blue barrel.

  • Add bleach to the water tubs, blue barrel, and sink as needed to keep the water from growing bacteria and breeding mosquitoes.


  • Take any heavy personal garbage (broken bisqueware, etc.) directly to the dumpster outside the building.

  • Empty garbage cans as needed.

  • If your garbage doesn't fit into a trash can inside, take it to the dumpster rather than leaving it on the floor next to a trash can for someone else to dispose of for you.

If you keep any food in the refrigerator label and date the food so that it doesn't get old and forgotten.



  • We usually keep the doors locked with a key either in the lock or on the marble topped table.

  • Be mindful of your surroundings when entering and exiting the building.

  • Go in and out of the building with a buddy, if possible.

  • Park in the front on the street if you feel uncomfortable with the parting lot.

  • Take care when storing your personal belongings.

Fire Safety

If a fire starts it is imperative you exit the building calmly. Trampling others is the leading cause of injury and death in a fire in a commercial setting.

Equipment Safety, General Rules

  • Turn off and unplug electrical items after using them.

  • Put items you've brought out of storage back where you found them. 

  • Use specialty equipment only after receiving proper training.





Inhalation of all clay materials, especially silica, can damage your lungs.

  • All clay bodies contain some free crystalline silica which can scar your lung tissue and cause irreversible loss of breathing capacity.

  • Free crystalline silica is present in clay bodies from trace to 50% amounts.

  • It is the finest, least visible particles that can hang in the air for hours that are the most dangerous because they are the most easily respirable and because we are less likely to wear a mask when the air seems clear.

Wet clay is a good medium for mold growth and bacterial incubation.

  • People with specific types of mold allergies may be affected.

  • Shared clay in a group setting could potentially be a medium for bacteria transfer.

Avoid excessive dust exposure.

  • Buy premixed, wet clay bodies.

  • Wear a HEPA filter mask that fits well when mixing clay or cleaning the studio.

  • Clean work area before clay scraps have a chance to dry out. Never sweep your studio.

  • Clean studio often with a wet mop, wetvac, or a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter.

  • Provide good fresh air exchange in your work area.

  • Wear plastic or vinyl-type aprons rather than porous cloth-type aprons.

Make sure you know what ingredients are in the clays you use.

  • Ask your suppliers if "low free silica" clay bodies are available.

  • Avoid use of hazardous compounds (see list under GLAZES) to color your clay bodies.

  • Avoid use of Barium Carbonate in an earthenware clay body.

  • Avoid use of asbestos contaminated talc in low-fire white and raku clay bodies.

Attend to your project and use your clay before mold has a chance to develop.

Do not eat, drink, or smoke in your work space. Do not interchange tools and eating utensils. Scrub hands thoroughly after working.

Protect Yourself from Bodily Injury

Overuse and Strain Injuries

These injuries are often called "cumulative trauma disorders" because they develop from repeated small injuries to tissue from overuse and strain. They can occur while wedging, throwing, or hand building with clay. "Potter's thumb," for instance, is the term some potters have used to describe symptoms which are now associated with the early stages of carpel tunnel syndrome. Many potters have acquired carpal tunnel syndrome, a debilitating condition involving compression of the median nerve at the wrist. Tendonitis in various locations and tennis elbow are also common.

Hand, back, and wrist muscle injuries can also occur from sitting at the potters wheel for too long, especially if posture is incorrect. Injuries from lifting sacks of clay, moulds, and the like are common among both potters and ceramicists. To prevent these injuries, pay careful attention to your body for signs of fatigue, pain, changes in endurance, weakness, and similar symptoms. Developing good work habits can prevent these conditions and even may resolve early symptoms.

If you are experiencing symptoms of overuse and strain injuries modify your work habits according to these suggestions. But if your body does not respond quickly, seek medical attention. Early intervention can cause overuse injuries to resolve without treatment or surgery, but delaying treatment can leave you disabled for long periods. 

Prevent or alleviate back stain and wrist injuries with good work habits.

  • Adjust wheel heights, bench heights, and wedging board heights to enable you to work with your back straight.

  • Maintain good posture

  • Keep your back straight when lifting heavy materials or equipment.

  • Take frequent rest breaks

  • Alternate tasks or varying the types of work

  • Warm up muscles before work

  • Move and stretch muscles during breaks

  • Ease back into heavy work schedules after a holiday or hiatus rather than expecting to work at full capacity immediately

  • Modify technique and/or equipment to avoid uncomfortable positions or movements.

  • Try to avoid stressful, repetitive motions by varying your daily routine.

Prevent injury from items getting caught in the spinning wheel.

Prevent injuries by:​

  • Avoid wearing loose, dangling clothing or jewelry that could get caught in the spinning wheel

  • Tie back long hair.


Many glaze materials are hazardous.

Some glaze materials are particularly dangerous.

Crystalline silica is present in almost all glazes and can scar lung tissue if inhaled.

Barium Carbonate, Sodium Borates, and Lead compounds can be present as colorless fluxes in glazes.


Antimony compounds, Cadmium compounds, Chrome compounds, Lead compounds, Cobalt Chloride, Cobalt


Sulphate, Copper Chloride, Copper Carbonate,


Copper Sulphate, Iron Chromate, Iron Sulphate, Manganese Dioxide, Nickel compounds, Uranium compounds, and Vanadium compounds can be present as glazes, slips and stains.


Lustre glazes contain toxic mediums as well as toxic metallic compounds.

Avoid use of these materials whenever possible.

If you do use them, take precautions to prevent ingestion as well as inhalation (which can lead to ingested particles) and skin contact. Even though some of these materials cannot be directly absorbed through the skin, invisible particles can become lodged in the crevices of your skin.

Know what you are using.

  • Call your manufacturer to see if there are any ingredients of concern to you in the commercial glazes, slips, or stains you may be using.

  • Read Material Safety Data Sheets and U.S. Dept. of Labor Occupational Health Guidelines for detailed information about the hazardous materials that you use.

  • DO Not assume that industrial threshold limits for exposure are safe guidelines.

  • Learn distinctions such as: iron oxide is not toxic but iron sulphate is.

  • If you cannot find adequate information about a material, assume hazardous potential.

  • Know than individual sensitivities to hazardous materials vary tremendously and can be affected by medications and health histories as well as genetics.


Do not eat, drink, or smoke in glazing area. Do not interchange eating and glazing utensils. Scrub your hands thoroughly after glazing.

Use a Ceramic dust filter mask that fits well when mixing, spraying, or sanding glazes.

  • Use a mask for vapors and gases when working with lustre glazes.

  • Spray glazes outdoors or in a properly constructed, vented and filtered spray booth.

  • Make sure that the exhaust of the spray booth is vented so that it does not pollute somebody else's breathing air. 


Kilns are potentially hazardous if they are installed or fired incorrectly.

  • Kiln installation must be done with strict adherence to stringent fire codes.

  • All gas and electrical hookups must be done by a professional. Double check with your electrician to make sure that your electric kiln is properly grounded.

  • Firings should only be done by those with firing experience and a thorough understanding of all kiln functions and safety controls.

Touching an element in an electric kiln can be fatal.

  • Never reach into an electric kiln unless all of the switches are turned off.

  • Electric kilns that are wired for 3 phase may pass electricity through the elements even when the kiln sitter timer is off. Since no kiln sitters are made for 3 phase wiring, manufacturers adapt them by adding a power relay after the kiln sitter. When the power relay becomes old, the relay may allow electricity to pass through even when the kiln sitter is off. If that is the case, one must turn off the switches to be sure no current is flowing through the elements. Since our power relays started to fail after 5 years, we are changing them every two years.

  • As an extra precaution, turn off the kiln at the circuit breaker if you vacuum it or insert any other good conductor into it.

Toxic Fumes

Firing of glaze materials in electric and gas kilns can produce fumes of the toxic materials discussed above in the glazing section.

Firing of clay materials in electric and gas kilns produces carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and sulphur dioxide gases.

Always use the ventilation system in the kiln room to remove toxic fumes from the environment.

  • If you fire below the volatilization point for your specific glaze ingredients this may not be a problem.

  • Lead, cadmium, and lustre glazes are particularly volatile at low-medium firing ranges.

  • Copper, chrome, and tin glazes are volatile in high-firing ranges.


Overheated and burning wax produces acrolein and aldehydes, which are respiratory irritants and suspected human carcinogens.

Avoid overheating wax. No respirator filters out all of the hazardous components present in wax vapors. Steam wax out of molds rather than burning it out.


Skin, eye, and respiratory irritant. Contains mild alkalis and can produce burns.

Plaster may only be used outside of the building. It does not mix well with clay.

Wear safety goggles and a NIOSH-approved respirator while mixing investment or divesting molds and use local ventilation. Wear gloves and/or use a protective cream on hands.

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