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Health & Safety Network Conservation Wiki

Copyright: 2021. The Health & Safety Wiki pages are a publication of the Health & Safety Network of the American Institute for Conservation.

Some of the information included on this wiki may be out of date, particularly with regard to toxicological data and regulatory standards. Also, because new information on safety issues is continually published, resources outside of AIC should be consulted for more specific information.

Contributors: Kerith Koss Schrager



Biological Monitoring & Exposure Assessments

See: Biological Monitoring

Chemical Hygiene Plan

See: Chemical Hygiene Plan

Emergency Response

An emergency is defined as a serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate action. Preparing for an emergency response, whether resulting from a natural disaster or a building facilities failure, is an important aspect of collection care.

Policies for response should be included in an organization’s disaster plan and should address not only the procedures to recover collections but the health and safety of the responders.

Any time collection caretakers are called upon to respond to an emergency, it is important to remember that not all stages of an emergency demand rapid response—the recovery and assessment of cultural property will be a secondary response. Access to cultural properties will only be allowed once immediate threats to life and health are cleared.

Always put the health and safety of individuals first, otherwise, you put the entire response effort at risk. With every experience in an emergency response, greater insight is gained into those accumulated best practices that promise to improve both personal skills and lasting contributions to the knowledge of emergency response.

For more information see Health and Safety in Emergency Response, also available in a print version,

Ergonomics

Eye Health

Fall Protection

Fire Safety

Fire Codes and Regulations

National Fire Protection Association

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global self-funded nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. NFPA delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards.

This code describes principles and practices of protection for cultural resource properties (such as museums, libraries, and places of worship), their contents, and collections, against conditions or physical situations with the potential to cause damage or loss.
Free access available by registering account with NFPA

This code describes principles and practices of fire safety for historic structures and for those who operate, use, or visit them.
Free access available by registering account with NFPA

Risk Assessment

Fire Suppression

Fire extinguishers

See: Fire extinguisher

Sprinkler Systems

Fire Recovery

  • Impact of Fire Extinguisher Agents on Cultural Resource Materials Fire Protection Research Foundation (2016)
    In 2009, recognizing the need for further investigation, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Technical Committee on Cultural Resources submitted a project proposal to the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF). The proposal was to develop test specifications and procedures for measuring the impact of portable fire extinguisher agents on cultural resource collections. This document reports the results of two subsequent studies conducted by Jensen Hughes and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as part of an Institute of Museums and Library Services National Leadership Grant (IMLS-NLG) to explore the impacts of fire protection agents on cultural heritage materials.
  • The Hidden Hazards of Fire Soot
    September 2010 (35:5) 1, 3-5, Dawn Bolstad-Johnson

Job Hazard Analysis

See: Job Hazard Analysis

Risk Assessments

Safety Training

See page 2 of Start Here! Introductory Health & Safety Resources for the Health & Safety Network's PDF checklist for workplace safety training.

As conservators begin school and start new internships and jobs, laboratory and workplace safety training should be part of your introduction to your workplace. Safety training is not just good sense–it is required for all employers.

Who should have safety training?

Anyone who works in the conservation lab or studio should receive workspace-specific safety training in addition to safety training provided by the overall institution, unless they are under direct and constant supervision of someone with safety training every moment they are working. This includes new as well as current full- and part-time conservation employees, contractors, volunteers, interns and anyone else who may have contact with hazardous materials or situations within the space such as custodians and art handlers.

How often should safety training be conducted?

Individuals should review their safety training annually or whenever new safety policies are implemented. Anyone newly entering the lab or studio should receive training as soon as possible.

What should be included in safety training?

  • Review and location of the Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP)
  • Review of Chemical Safety, including chemical handling, labeling and storage
  • Locations and types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Review of hazardous materials handling and waste disposal
  • Locations and use of first aid kits, eye washes and showers
  • Review and location of the Disaster & Emergency Plans
  • Review of Evacuation Routes
  • Review and locations of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and Hazard Communication Protocols
  • Review of use of fume extraction and ventilation (including respirators, if used)
  • Contact information for persons responsible for safety protocols and emergency response (for the lab, institution and city) *Review of any lab and institution specific safety plans (such as handling pesticide residues or ladder/scaffolding use)
  • Instruction on creating and using a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)
  • Review of radiation use and safety (if used)

Employer/Supervisor Responsibilities

  • Create a work environment where workers feel comfortable and confident in performing tasks safely and reporting safety concerns
  • Provide safety training for all workers in the lab or studio
  • Implement, review and maintain all safety documents (CHP, SDS, Disaster Plan)
  • Enforce safety protocols
  • Maintain relationships with and request information from appropriate safety professionals
  • Ensure workspace and equipment meets all city, state and OSHA safety guidelines
  • Provide annual fit testing for respirators if they are used

Worker Responsibilities

  • Be proactive in your own health and safety
  • Participate in employer provided safety training
  • Follow safety protocols
  • Promptly inform supervisor of all safety concerns
  • Request safety training if it is not provided to you