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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Some of the information included on this wiki may be out of date, particularly with regard to toxicological data and regulatory standards.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

All conservation laboratories and studios contain materials which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers hazardous. A hazardous material is defined by OSHA as any chemical which poses a physical or health hazard.

Chemicals must be handled according to institutional, local, state and federal regulations.

Personal Protective Equipment[edit | edit source]

Material Selection[edit | edit source]

Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and handling protocols should be utilized when working with chemicals. Gloves, goggles, respirators, and clothing need to be selected based on the specific chemical being used. The Health & Safety Network has created the PPE Chemical Protective Material Selection Guide to help conservators select the appropriate material for chemical use based on data from the Quick Selection Guide to Chemical Protective Clothing.

Important Considerations for the Selection and Use of Chemical Protective Clothing[edit | edit source]

(Adapted from Forsberg, K and Mansdorf, SZ. 2007. Quick Selection Guide to Chemical Protective Clothing, 5th Edition. New Jersey: Wiley & Sons Inc.)

  • All chemicals eventually pass through or permeate any protective barrier. Replace periodically and at any change in appearance.
  • Even the best protective clothing products will not perform properly if they are torn, cut or damaged. Always check for leaks and holes.
  • A barrier may protect against one chemical very well, but perform poorly against another or a mixture of chemicals.
  • Recommendations are generally based on tests that have been performed at room temperature; higher temperature usually decreases the breakthrough time of chemicals.
  • Generally, thicker is better. The use of multiple layers of the same material (i.e., double gloving) can increase protection.
  • Chemically resistant gloves and other chemical protective clothing may all look alike. Be sure that the material you are using is the right one for the job you are doing.
  • Once the barrier material has absorbed a chemical, it will continue to permeate (pass through) the material.
  • Many recommendations for glove use give the common generic name of the glove material. Most of the polymer formations in each material type vary by manufacturer and can vary by product lot.
  • Some protective clothing has a shelf life and/or requires special storage measures, such as avoidance of sunlight, ozone, or moisture and temperature extremes.
  • Very thin ultra-lightweight gloves in rubber and polyethylene often offer poor chemical and mechanical resistance.

Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP)[edit | edit source]

A CHP is a written program stating the policies, procedures and responsibilities that protect workers from the health hazards associated with the hazardous chemicals used in that particular workplace.

For instructions on creating a plan for your laboratory see:

Safety Data Sheets[edit | edit source]

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires chemical manufacturers, distributors, or importers to provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDSs) to communicate the hazards of hazardous chemical products. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) and Lab Safety Standard (1910.1450) both require that SDSs be available during to employees when they are in their work area.

Conservators should obtain SDSs for every chemicals they are using and the SDS must be specific to each chemical used in the workplace (i.e., from the same manufacturer as the chemical being used).

Update to Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication[edit | edit source]

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)), revised in 2012, requires that the chemical manufacturer, distributor, or importer provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) (formerly MSDSs or Material Safety Data Sheets) for each hazardous chemical to downstream users to communicate information on these hazards. The information contained in the SDS is largely the same as the MSDS, except now the SDSs are required to be presented in a consistent user-friendly, 16-section format. This brief provides guidance to help workers who handle hazardous chemicals to become familiar with the format and understand the contents of the SDSs.

The SDS includes information such as the properties of each chemical; the physical, health, and environmental health hazards; protective measures; and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical. The information contained in the SDS must be in English (although it may be in other languages as well). In addition, OSHA requires that SDS preparers provide specific minimum information as detailed in Appendix D of 29 CFR 1910.1200. The SDS preparers may also include additional information in various section(s).

Sections 1 through 8 contain general information about the chemical, identification, hazards, composition, safe handling practices, and emergency control measures (e.g., fire fighting). This information should be helpful to those that need to get the information quickly. Sections 9 through 11 and 16 contain other technical and scientific information, such as physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity information, toxicological information, exposure control information, and other information including the date of preparation or last revision. The SDS must also state that no applicable information was found when the preparer does not find relevant information for any required element.

The SDS must also contain Sections 12 through 15, to be consistent with the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), but OSHA will not enforce the content of these sections because they concern matters handled by other agencies. (OSHA Safety Data Sheets)

For more information on Safety Data Sheets see:

Labeling[edit | edit source]

OSHA requires that all hazardous chemicals be labeled with an appropriate warning. The purpose of these warning labels is to let employees know the identity of the hazardous chemical, what its hazards are, what level of risk it poses, if it has any special hazards, and what personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed when handling the chemical. These warning labels also alert emergency personnel as to what dangerous materials are present in an emergency situation. Of all the OSHA regulations, this requirement is one of the most frequently cited during an OSHA inspection. Since the lack of appropriate labeling of hazardous chemicals can be easy for an OSHA inspector to observe, it is one of the most obvious infractions during an inspection. Labeling is a relatively easy and inexpensive task. Proper labeling of all hazardous chemicals should be among the highest safety priorities in a conservation laboratory.

For more information see:

GHS Labels[edit | edit source]

Health & Safety Network Templates[edit | edit source]

Labels that are compliant with the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication and will fit small, secondary containers.
Downloads are Word Templates (.doc format) for 1" x 2 3/8" labels (30/sheet).
Note: Some adjustment of margins may be needed for your printer

These labels may need be edited to reflect the safety information provided by the manufacturer of your specific chemical

Commercially Available Labels[edit | edit source]

Storage[edit | edit source]

Waste Disposal[edit | edit source]

The moment you open and use a can of solvent you are a waste generator. Conservation laboratories might only produce 10–15 gallons of waste each year and private conservators only one quart, but the improper disposal of even small quantities may cause health, safety, and legal problems.

Although conservators are well aware of the dangers involved in working with chemicals on a daily basis and articles have been written suggesting methods for proper storage, most conservators do not know how to go about safely disposing of these chemicals after having used them. Some of these materials are highly toxic and many are incompatible when mixed together.

Proper disposal requires knowledge of federal and state regulations applying to the disposal of hazardous materials. It is incumbent upon conservators to contact their state and local officials to determine exactly what regulations apply in their instance, because the conservator, as a waste stream generator, bears the responsibility for ensuring that their waste is dealt with in a safe and environmentally sound manner. The regulations can be quite complicated; thus, this article is just a brief introduction into the issues of handling hazardous waste, and serves as a brief guide for the conservator.

For more information see:

Special Topics[edit | edit source]

Pigments[edit | edit source]

Hazards of Metals and Metal Compounds Table
H&S References for Pigment Health Hazards Chart
H&S Pigment Guide Toxicity Chart