Safety guidelines for Fine Arts students working from home

While campus facilities are closed, the university is committed to safeguarding the health and safety of members of the community.

Artists can make use of many hazardous materials in their day-to-day work, such as solvents, resins, photography stock solutions, and paints and pigments. Other normally non-hazardous materials can pose health issues if not used correctly, such as sculpting materials (dusts from treated wood, stone, or plaster), fibers, and textiles. Even certain common household consumer products can be hazardous.

Last updated: August 2020.


For more information, contact:
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)

514-848-2424, ext. 4877 or

Appendix 1: Safe work practices for specific tasks

Some Fine Arts activities require specific control measures, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) or efficient exhaust ventilation systems that are not necessarily available at home. It is strongly discouraged to carry out activities involving or generating hazardous chemicals, such as:

  • the use of extremely corrosive chemicals, such as hydrofluoric acid (HF) solutions or concentrated acidic solutions and other mordants in etching processes (e.g. in printmaking, intaglio and lithography).
  • curing procedures processed at high temperature in specific fuel-fired or electrical kilns that can release toxic combustion products (e.g. carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, sulfoxides).

Hierarchy of Controls

Controlling exposures to hazards is the fundamental method of protecting workers and students. Traditionally, a hierarchy of controls has been used as a means of determining how to implement feasible and effective control solutions.

Although some sources may use additional levels and a variation of the hierarchy of controls, it is widely accepted that there are at least five main ways to control a hazard (see Figure 1). The concept behind this hierarchy is that the control methods at the top of graphic are potentially more effective and protective than those at the bottom.

Figure 1


1.      Elimination

This is the process of removing the hazard from the workspace. It is the most effective way to control a risk, although not always feasible.

2.      Substitution

Involves substituting hazardous materials, machines or equipment with less hazardous ones. For this to be effective, the user must evaluate the hazards related to the products to be substituted along with the ones associated with potential substitutions. That is, one hazard must not be traded for one of equal or more hazardous properties. Very often, Safety Data Sheets comparison is useful in this process.

Common non-hazardous alternatives include:

  • Non-toxic pigments
  • Non-aromatic solvents
  • Water-based paints
  • Low VOC paints
  • Pellets, crystals, flakes instead of fine powders

3.      Engineering controls

Engineering controls include methods built into the design of an equipment or a process to minimize the hazard. Process control, enclosure and ventilation are among the most efficient ways to control and mitigate chemical exposures. However, this type of control is the most difficult to achieve while working at home. Some process controls such as wet method, steam cleaning can easily be applied but the use of methods aiming to enclose, isolate the chemicals from the user or properly ventilate the workspace (general or local exhaust) often require specific techniques or equipment that are not available at home.

4.      Administrative controls and training

These control measures are intended to improve users’ work practices by creating and implementing standard operating procedures (SOP), guidelines, training programs, and appropriate signage. The hazard itself is not actually removed or reduced. However, training and education about the operating procedures (handling, storage, disposal), good housekeeping programs, the maintenance of equipment, along with the awareness/preparedness in case of emergency (spills, fire, injury) and the adequate personal hygiene practices are essential to control and mitigate hazardous exposures.

5.      Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Contrary to preconceived notions, PPE do not represent the best method for protection from the hazards but are an alternative in the absence of elaborate engineering control systems and when elimination and substitution is not feasible. PPE is considered as the last line of defence between the individual and the hazard. PPE includes respirators/dust masks, gloves, eye protection, protective clothing, and footwear. PPE should never be the only method used to reduce exposure but rather a combination with other control measures. One type or brand of PPE does not protect against all hazards. The selection will depend on the type of activities and the hazards generated and a combination of PPE is often required. Contact EHS for help in choosing appropriate PPE.  



Appendix 2: Pigments

Appendix 3: WHMIS and Consumer Products Pictograms

WHMIS 2015 pictograms


WHMIS 1988 pictograms


Consumer products symbol under the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations (CCCR), 2001


Comparison of pictograms and symbols from different regulations

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