King County Art Hazards Safety Program

Concerns about safety have always been a strong part of my shop practice, but the specific push to talk about it in our profession arose from my participation in an innovative local program to enhance studio safety for artists. The King County (Washington) Local Hazardous Waste Management Program is an interagency partnership, established in 1991 to reduce hazards to people and environment.  I attended an evening workshop at the Pratt Institute ( ) given by Dave Wadell. Although aimed at jewelers, the workshop had strong relevancy to the metal working that we do in building mounts.

The workshop started with a session on basic toxicology and moved on to personal protective equipment. From there we talked about localized exhaust systems, how they work, and mostly how they fail to adequately perform. Then it was onward into fumes, smokes, and dusts; pickles and patinas; and back to eye wash stations and chemical storage and disposal. The demonstration of safely neutralizing used pickle was particularly valuable. Two hours went by in a flash, packed with so much information that I wished I’d filmed the whole thing. Thankfully, there is a channel on YouTube with 22 videos to revisit this information and more. Art Hazards Video Series

Then came an unexpected bonus. King County has a site visit program to assess the hazards of artists’ studios, and a grant program to assist in purchase and installation of ventilation systems, HEPA vacuums, and less toxic chemicals to replace ones that are dangerous to the user and environment. Our studio group contacted Dave immediately and arranged a visit. Having his practiced eye look over our spaces and methods was very informative, and helped us work out specific ideas to tackle some of our safety issues. We are now designing an evacuation system to serve each bench. If all goes well, the grant program will pick up 50% of the cost up to $2000.

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As it turned out, our site visit was the last of Dave’s career with the County, as he was retiring the following day. He will be continuing with his work at a somewhat slower pace as a consultant, and others will be carrying on the work. We feel lucky to have gotten to work with him, and happy to know the King County Art Hazards program is still alive and well. I’ll post updates as to the progress of the improvements in future blog entries.



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