As conservators, we routinely use a host of chemicals, sometimes in ways that are unusual. As a result, it is important for us to take proper precautions at all times. However, as objects conservator Kerith Koss Schrager and industrial hygienist Julie Sobelman pointed out at this year’s annual meeting, we may not always do so. Since we are used to solving complex problems, we do not always seek out health and safety experts to interpret for us, even though they may be required. Much of our behavior around health and safety is learned by example, and we may make judgments based on personal experience. While we are always taught to prioritize the safety of the objects we treat, we may not always prioritize our own safety in the same way.
Kerith and Julie illustrated these issues using the example of cyclododecane. Cyclododecane is used in multiple areas of conservation, and while there are over 100 conservation publications mentioning it, few of these mention health and safety concerns. Most of conservators’ information about the chemical comes from the safety data sheet (SDS), which suggests that it is not hazardous. A survey of conservators found that roughly half of those surveyed did not believe it was safe, while 18% believed it was. The respondents based their answers on either the SDS or on hearing of other conservators using it. However, the SDS for cyclododecane is based on industrial use of the chemical, which is very different from the way conservators use it. In the case of cyclododecane, research is conflicting as to whether it is hazardous.
Rather than looking at just the SDS for a chemical before using it, Julie suggested consulting additional resources such as EPA Chemview and CDC/NIOSH International Chemical Safety Cards. If we have to use chemicals about which we are uncertain, using proper environmental controls and other protective equipment is important: using a fume hood does reduce exposure.
Julie and Kerith ended their presentation with a plea for conservators to create a culture where health and safety matters. As a newly fledged conservator who does oversee interns and volunteers, I left the room committed to making sure that those who share my lab have no reason to regret doing so.
The Health & Safety Committee is happy to announce NEW and IMPROVED respirator fit testing for the Annual Meeting in Chicago! We have listened to your feedback and have modified the process to make fit testing more accessible. The new program includes:
An online lecture–no more conflicts with Annual Meeting programming!
More options for medical evaluations. Medical evaluations will be provided through AIC (and are included in the price of the fit test) OR you can still see your own doctor.
CIPP members get a discount! FREE Fit Test if you sign up for the CIPP Seminar.
Appointments are limited, so register now!
Why Get a Respirator Fit Test?
The AIC Fit Test Program is specifically designed for conservators, particularly those who are self-employed or who do not have a respiratory protection program provided through their employer.
Whether you are using hazardous chemicals in your laboratory or working with mold-infested artifacts after a flood, you need to be sure you are protected with a properly fitting respirator. Do the elastic straps still pull tightly? Do you need a new type or size due to facial changes resulting from weight gain or loss or surgery? Are you using the right kind of protection for your hazard?
OSHA requires individuals be fit tested on an ANNUAL basis to assess the condition of both the respirator and the user. If you perform work that requires the use of a respirator your employer MUST provide the appropriate respiratory protection, medical evaluation, training, information and fit testing–even disposable dust masks are considered by OSHA to be respirators requiring proper fit testing.
It is important to be proactive in your own health and safety and to follow OSHA recommendations and protocols, even if you are your only employee.
What is Involved?
The AIC Respirator Fit Test Program consists of three parts in order to be compliant with the OSHA standard:
(1) An OSHA Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire completed by the registrant and reviewed prior to the fit test either with the Chicago-based clinic contracted by AIC (included in the registration fee) or with their own healthcare professional (at their own expense).
(2) An informational lecture (~ 1 hour) and quiz, which can be completed online prior to the meeting.
(3) An individual fit test (about 15-20 minutes/person) at the Annual Meeting.
Fit test appointments will be available on Tuesday, May 30 (9am-5pm) and Wednesday, May 31 (8:30am-11:30am).
Both the lecture and fit test will be conducted by a qualified Occupational Safety Professional or Certified Industrial Hygienist.
Registrants can bring their own respirator if they already use one and/or try on a selection of sample respirators. They will be contacted directly by the Health & Safety Committee to provide the link to the online lecture, to discuss medical evaluation options and to schedule appointments.
This year, the Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP) Specialty Group is generously funding fit testing for its membership. CIPP members who register for the CIPP seminar, Innovative ‘Tools’ to Enhance Your Business, can also sign up for a FREE fit test. Can’t attend the seminar? You are still eligible to sign up for a fit test for the reduced rate of $30 (a 50% discount from the regular registration fee). If you aren’t currently a member, add CIPP to your AIC Membership Renewal to receive this benefit ($25).
From the “Sessions” checkout screen, select the “Respirator Fit Test” option and the appropriate registration status (Regular, CIPP Member or CIPP Seminar Attendee) and proceed to checkout. AIC will confirm your status eligibility prior to contacting you about scheduling a specific appointment.
We look forward to seeing you in Chicago!
The Committee would like to thank all the members who completed our online survey! Fit Test organizers are making sure to address all the helpful comments, questions and concerns.
Conservators frequently rely on filter-based particle and fume extractors to remove or reduce airborne contaminants in their work spaces. Health and safety professionals often warn about the hazards of using these extractors and even discourage their use for a variety of reasons. However, the Health & Safety Committee recognizes that they may be the only options for conservators working in temporary work sites, studios that are situated inside homes or rented spaces, rooms without windows, or where the building structure cannot be altered. Therefore, the Committee is currently working on a guide to help conservators research, purchase, and safely use portable extractors based on experiences of both conservators and health and safety professionals.
If you have purchased a fume and/or particle extractor, we’d like your feedback on how you rate your particular model and your experiences using an extractor in general. The purpose of the resulting guide is not necessarily to recommend any specific model, but to identify particular features and concerns that will assist conservators in purchasing the correct product for their work and how to use extractors properly.
Just when you thought the government was hopelessly deadlocked on pretty much everything, Congress has approved a major overhaul of the nation’s primary chemical safety law for the first time in 40 years!
H.R.2576 revises “the process and requirements for evaluating and determining whether regulatory control of a chemical is warranted” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It includes enforceable deadlines and schedules for both currently manufactured as well as new chemicals before they are allowed to enter the market. The law also contains provisions on animal testing and “cancer clusters,” describes funding and safety information that must be provided by manufacturers, and emphasizes investigation of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals (PBTs).
Most importantly, the EPA can now take action on reviewing chemicals solely based on environmental and safety concerns. Chemical safety reviews will be more science-based (instead of current cost-benefit balances) and take into consideration populations that are disproportionately at risk, such as vulnerable groups (e.g., pregnant women, children, seniors) or those groups that have greater exposure to the chemical (i.e., chemical workers).
What does this mean for you? The new legislation gives the EPA the authority to investigate and regulate chemicals by removing many of the bureaucratic hurdles that previously made the process burdensome and restrictive, and had resulted in only a small number of chemicals having meaningful health and safety information. For example, have you ever come across phrases such as “not listed as a carcinogen” and “generally recognized as safe?” These statements do not necessarily indicate that a chemical is not toxic, but may mean that it has never been tested or has insufficient research.
The EPA must come up with a list of high-priority chemicals to undergo review on a specific schedule. If their current Work Plan for Chemical Assessments is any indication, we should hopefully see more significant health and safety information on commonly used conservation chemicals.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, June 22, 2016, President Obama signed the bill to overhaul the TSCA stating, “I’m absolutely confident that we can regulate toxic chemicals in a way that’s both good for our families and ultimately good for business and our economy. Here in America, folks should have the confidence to know that the laundry detergent we buy isn’t going to make us sick, the mattresses our babies sleep on aren’t going to harm them.”
Environmental Defense Fund lead senior scientist Richard Denison said, “President Obama’s signature today launches a new law that will help to improve public health for years to come. While not perfect, the Lautenberg Act fixes the biggest problems with a badly broken law that has left our health at risk. Now the hard part must begin: tending to decades of neglect when it comes to unreviewed and unregulated chemicals.”
As we approach another conference in which Gwen Spicer will share her vast knowledge in the workshop sessions Ferrous Attractions, the Science Behind the Magic (spots available as of this writing), we call attention to her 2015 session in which she explained attention that can be paid as to the sustainability of their use. This content has also been submitted to The Book and Paper Group Annual 34, but for those who are not BPG subscribers, is available on her website: The How and Why of Reusing Earth Magnets.
First she addressed what exactly are the “rare earths” from which these strong magnets are made. Chiefly, they appear among the lanthanide series of elements from the lower part of the periodic table – elements 57 through 71 and a few more. They are called rare because although they are naturally found intermingled, early on in industrial mining history, they were hard to separate due to their chemical similarities. (More information including a timeline of refining and increased production may be found on Spicer’s website and blog.)
Addressing the primary theme of the conference, Spicer asked “is it sustainable or not to use these elements, and if so, why?” Today, advanced industrial processes have made these rare earth elements easier and cheaper to separate, leading to their relative ubiquity, to a point that they are now are considered disposable. You may be surprised to learn that they make up components in so-called green technologies, such as hybrid cars and wind turbines. Because they make rapid electrical transmission in miniaturized components possible, they are one of the things that make inexpensive portable electronics possible, such as small appliances, earphone/buds, and mobile phones. While recycling/e-cycling the more expensive products such as phones is becoming more common and a cash value is placed on turn-in programs, those smaller items represent a non-recoverable portion of an ultimately finite resource.
To refine these rare earth elements, because they appear “rarely”, mining companies actually have to go through a very large amount of product to recover a small amount of valuable stock, resulting in industrial waste. As with any mining process, there are sad truths of waste management, such as polluted tailing ponds, release of atmospheric dusts, and junk metals discarded, all of which are potential contributors toward environmental pollution.
While there was production in the US, a highly visible mine incident in Mountain Pass, CA, led to closure based on EPA citations. Not surprisingly, much of the world’s production (95%) comes from China, where environmental standards are considerably more lax. To make the most profit, some countries will also offshore the labor intensive refining and processing of ore to poorer countries, leading to other uglier truths, such as the protection of the worker and environment coming down to an economic compromise, or conflict. Population studies in some countries show higher incidence of higher cancer rates and shorter life span for workers in these industries.
Spicer reported that economic and political tensions has caused Japan to invest in production of more efficient technologies and reexamining of older technologies, so as to use less material overall. As the trend shifts from the cheapening of the source material to what may eventually become more costly due to the consumer waste and reduced availability. (For further reading, Spicer goes into more detail on geo-economic and political tensions in the BPG article linked above.)
On a more positive note, Spicer turned back to what the conservator interested in using earth magnets can do; first she advises becoming a wiser and more informed consumer and user. (Just reading this article is a start!) Proper care and handling of earth magnets, chiefly the Niobium-Ferric-Bromide type, can reduce one’s overall impact by conserving the intensive material resources needed to make them. There is an excellent table of information in the article; as example, tips drawn from this session discussion include:
⁃ Earth magnets have sensitivities: protect them from extremes of heat, mechanical shock, moisture.
⁃ Use appropriate techniques to adhere or countersink them into substrates. For instance, use of hot melt glue can deactivate a magnet.
⁃ To ensure longevity during storage and use, separators are key, such as foam padding, or sinking them into other materials such as corrugated boards or foam.
⁃ Use smaller containers such as the ones they are shipped in, or pill separators, to keep them from banging into each other or ferromagnetic surfaces. Recycle other small containers, such as contact lens cases, to increase separation in small cubic space.
⁃ Keep like materials together and unlike apart – niobium apart from ferromagnetic surfaces to avoid demagnetization.
⁃ See further references in Spicer’s bibliography.
Lastly, as a watchword, Spicer leaves us with the mantra “let us be aware of best environmental practices just as we do in other areas of treatment…”
In the Q&A period, the following discussions arose:
Q: About suppliers: do any companies have more sustainable practices than others?
A: There are kind of two categories – some companies are affiliated with the mining sources, converting earths to magnets; and then there are those that just sell them. For instance, the Mountain Pass mine has started up again in US, under new restrictions, using previously gathered raw material to produce new product
Q: Are there any insights into how to dispose of or recycle earth magnets?
A: There are at least 12,000 e-cycling programs across the U.S., definitely contact them! Recycling can also a present a conflict for resources as trash picking and separation is an economic way of life for some. But for broken ones, sharp or deactivated, recycling companies are a good option to divert the unusable portion versus the municipal waste stream. Harvard University Libraries suggests contacting Terracycle of NJ, to take away waste stream that is disallowed from municipal collections.
Q: At a recent symposium, the personal safety issue came up. What are current safety recommendations for bulk storage of magnets or use for persons with pacemakers or other electronic medical devices?
A: From discussions Spicer has had, generally a magnet force field limited to three inches from the pacemaker (or other medical appliance), can be a distance of concern – this could take even place where dangling earbuds with embedded magnets are present (see the tiny print warning label on packaging of these). It is important to note that the force of the magnet is a factor of its size and any shielding around it or the object it may be attracted towards. Generally an artifact in exhibition which is mounted with magnets is very far from that distance, but it could be true for workers in a lab, or someone carrying an object enclosure with an embedded magnet.
Use of signage on enclosures or mounts indicate presence of covered magnets is a good common sense warning. As magnets are brittle, and can fly across a table at each other at great speed and shatter, safety goggles are highly recommended at all times. Hand protection may also be necessary for the worker, as pinching, splinters or nail breakage, can all be issues when separating magnets, or prying them out for reuse. If you maintain a private practice with a studio in your home, or have occasional younger visitors to your lab, be aware that swallowing by children or animals is an issue! See the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warning that was issued for more information on magnet dangers for small children. (This author is currently working on a Job Hazard Analysis for work with magnets with the assistance of an industrial hygiene group; potentially this may become available through AIC Health & Safety group as well.)
The New Year marks an important point in the implementation of OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS); the labeling provisions of the standard went into effect in 2015. This means that all chemicals you receive as of January 2016 should have the new Global Harmonization System (GHS) label format, and all Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)–formerly MSDSs–must follow a uniform sixteen section format.
The purpose of both the label and SDS are to provide information for making decisions about using the product safely. The label is intended to deliver critical information at a glance, whereas the safety data sheet provides greater detail. What does this mean to you, the end user?
First and foremost, it is important to understand that the information provided is based on the intrinsic properties of the material – pH, flammability, affinity for a specific organ or tissue, etc.
The risk associated with the product depends on circumstances surrounding its use, storage and handling.
While chemical manufacturers have a responsibility to tell you about the hazards of their products along with basic guidelines for safe use, the manufacturer has no way of knowing exactly how you intend to use the product. It is the end user’s responsibility to evaluate product information in the context for which the product is being used in order to minimize risk.
The example label below is in the required GHS format:
The product is clearly identified with the name Xylene.
This container of xylene has the signal word Danger. The signal word is selected following set criteria for hazard determination. There are two possible signal words – Danger and Warning. Danger indicates more severe hazard than Warning. 
The hazard statements for this container of xylene are: Flammable liquid and vapor. Causes skin irritation. May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways. May cause drowsiness or dizziness.While straightforward and clear, issues of vapor generation/minimization and selection of appropriate personal protective equipment require more in-depth analysis of product use. The label is providing an indicator of risks you must consider.
Three “pictograms” correspond to the particular hazard statements:
The flame indicates flammability
The exclamation mark indicates irritation and narcotic effects (drowsiness or dizziness)
The torso with starburst indicates aspiration toxicity.
NOTE: Pictograms have to be considered along with other label information.The exclamation mark pictogram for example may represent: Irritant (skin and eye), Skin Sensitizer, Acute Toxicity, Narcotic Effects, Respiratory Tract Irritant and Hazardous to Ozone Layer (Non-Mandatory). Because a pictogram may have multiple meanings it should never be relied upon as a stand-alone source of hazard information.
Precautionary Statements used on the example label address prevention and response.
Prevention: Keep away from heat, sparks and open flames – No smoking.Keep container tightly closed. Avoid breathing vapors or mist. Wash hands and any other contaminated skin after handling. Wear protective gloves and eye protection. Use only outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
Response: If swallowed, immediately call a poison center or doctor. Do NOT induce vomiting. If inhaled: Remove person to fresh air and keep comfortable for breathing. Call a poison center or doctor if you feel unwell. If on skin: Take off all contaminated clothing. Wash with plenty of soap and water or shower. Wash contaminated clothing before re-use. If skin irritation occurs: Get medical attention.
In case of fire, use foam, water spray or fog. Dry chemical, carbon dioxide or sand may be used for small fires only. Do NOT use water in a jet.
If this were a real label, it would also have the name, address and phone number for the manufacturer or distributor of the material.
As labels go, this sample provides a quite a bit of precautionary information. HOWEVER, it still requires interpretation with respect to use. Is a large quantity of the material being used outdoors on a hot day or just a few drops on a cotton swab in a laboratory? How much ventilation is necessary? What is the correct type of protective glove? Answers to these and similar questions will enable you to minimize the risk associated with use of the chemical.
More detailed product information is available on safety data sheets. New formatting requirements provide consistency which is intended to make the SDSs more user friendly. SDSs are also required to include certain minimal information which is explained here.
As a consumer, it is important for you to understand the new label elements and take the time to obtain and review the safety data sheets so that you can make informed decisions about safe chemical use and storage and disposal.
When you receive new chemicals you should replace your old bottles and MSDSs with the new bottles with GHS-compliant labels and updated SDSs. All secondary containers (smaller bottles you fill yourself) should also be appropriately labeled. Labels are available through retailers, such as www.mysafetylabels.com, and laboratory and safety suppliers. Free GHS label-making software is also available. Additional information about Hazard Communication and the Global Harmonization System is available at www.OSHA.gov and through the AIC Health & Safety wiki.
UPDATE (2/29/2016): In response to requests for more information on how the other labeling systems relate to the new GHS labels–
The purpose of well-known “diamond label” from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), NFPA 704, is to provide basic information for emergency personnel responding to a fire or spill and those planning for emergency response. The number system is 0-4 where 0 is the least hazardous and 4 the most hazardous.
The Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) is a numerical hazard rating that incorporates the use of labels with color developed by the American Coatings Association as a compliance aid for the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. This is a tool that can be used for in-house labeling of secondary containers. The HMIS Color Bar is similar to the NFPA fire diamond. Before 2002 the fire diamond and the color bar both had sections colored blue, red, white, and yellow. After April 2002, with the release of HMIS III, yellow in the color bar (which stood for reactivity) was replaced by orange, standing for physical hazard. The fire diamond is designed for emergencies when information about the effects of short, or acute, exposure is needed. The color bar is not for emergencies and is used to convey broader health warning information. Numeric ratings have historically been:
(4) Life-threatening, major or permanent damage may result from single or repeated overexposures (e.g., hydrogen cyanide).
(3) Major injury likely unless prompt action is taken and medical treatment is given.
(2) Temporary or minor injury may occur.
(1) Irritation or minor reversible injury possible.
(0) No significant risk to health.
A new version of HMIS (HMIS Implementation Manual 4th edition) contains the information necessary to align with the written hazard communication program and labeling requirements of the revised OSHA HCS (March 26, 2012). http://www.paint.org/advocacy/occupational-health-and-safety/hmis/
As explained above, manufacturer’s labels on shipped containers include six standard elements:
Product Identifier matching the product identifier on the safety data sheet
Supplier Information including name, address and phone number of responsible party
Signal Word, either “Danger” or “Warning” depending upon severity
Pictogram(s), black hazard symbols on white background with red diamond borders that provide a quick visual reference of hazard information
Hazard Statement(s) that describe the nature of the hazard and/or its severity
Precautionary Statement(s) that provide important information on the safe handling, storage and disposal of the chemical
Exactly what information goes on the label for items 3-6 is determined by the classification/categorization of the chemical which also is much more systematic under GHS. For instance, any chemical that is classified as a Category 1 Flammable Liquid will carry on the label the signal word “Danger” and the hazard statement “Extremely flammable liquid and vapor.”
Where things start to get tricky between GHS and the NFPA/HMIS systems is in the use of numbers. With GHS, the lower the categorization number, the greater the severity of the hazard. This is opposite of the way numbers and severity relate to each other under NFPA and HMIS. For instance, with NFPA, the higher the number, the greater the severity.
The numbers in the GHS system, as adopted by OSHA, do not show up on the label, instead they are used to determine what goes on the label. The numbers appear in section 2 of GHS formatted safety data sheets along with other information describing the hazard.
Comparison of NFPA 704 and HazCom 2012 Labels can be found on an OSHA Quick Card. For more information on the GHS system, see the Health & Safety Committee’s Guide, Revised OSHA Hazard Communication Standard Improves Chemical Label Information–Changes You Need to Know. Please note that the Committee’s 2005 article “Health & Safety: A Conservator’s Guide to Labeling Hazardous Chemicals,” has not yet been updated to reflect the current GHS system.
29 CFR 1910.1200, Appendix C.The Hazard Communication standard defines the terms warning and danger, requires that they be included on labels and states danger is more severe than warning. Appendix C shows how the label elements are allocated. For example, if the hazard determination per Appendix A results in a category 1 acute toxicity, the word Danger is used
Are you concerned about the health and safety of yourself and others? Do you want to get involved in AIC and be part of a great team? Will you be enrolled in a graduate conservation program during the upcoming academic year?
The Health & Safety Committee of AIC is seeking a new student member to serve a 2-year term (2016-2018).
Health & Safety is a very active committee, with members contributing articles and guides to the AIC News and AIC wiki; hosting an informational booth, workshops, and sessions at the Annual Meeting; and regularly addressing questions and issues related to health and safety in our field. Membership parameters:
The Committee is composed of eleven members (maximum) that include:
Up to nine Conservation Professionals, who serve a four-year term with a possible renewal for a second term.
A Conservation Student, who serves a non-renewable two-year term, 50% of which must be in school and/or internship.
At least one allied Health and Safety Professional (s), who serve a two-year term with up to three possible renewals.
All Committee members must be members of AIC
Student member position description:
The student member will share with the other committee members the responsibility to plan for AIC Annual Meeting activities, attend meetings/conference calls, contribute to H&S projects, and represent the organization. This position will also offer the student member an opportunity to act as the liaison between H&S and the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network. The ideal candidate will have a strong interest in health and safety issues, and a desire to participate and learn from the more experienced members of the committee.
For more information on the H&S Committee, please visit our website. If you would like details on the duties and commitment of the position, please contact current student member Miranda Dunn, email@example.com. Potential candidates should submit a resume or CV and statement of interest to Co-Chair Kerith Koss Schrager, Kerith.Koss@gmail.com, by March 1, 2016.
Here are three simple, quick yoga sequences, all from Yoga Journal, that are good for conservators. The first two sequences are nice for anyone who sits at a desk or a lab bench for long periods of time. If you have frequent neck pain or headaches, check these out. They were written by Ray Long, an orthopedic surgeon, and they help correct for upper and lower crossed syndrome. These syndromes occur when muscles shorten, tighten, and weaken as a result of sitting for long periods of time. You can read the full article about these muscle imbalances here, or you can go straight to illustrations of the issues and the slide shows of poses. Click here for upper crossed syndrome and here for lower.
The third sequence (click here) is good for anyone who stands for long periods of time, or who has lower back pain in general. I like this as an antidote to the pain caused by standing on my museum’s concrete floor for hours during exhibit installation. This sequence is written in ten minute increments, so that you can keep going and practice for up to 30 minutes if you like. Personally, I only ever do the first ten minutes.
You can do these sequences without a yoga mat, but make sure to practice in bare feet on a non-slippery surface. You will need a belt for the upper crossed and back pain sequences. You can use a yoga belt, a regular belt, or – if you don’t have any kind of belt at all – you can use a scarf or a towel. The upper crossed sequence also recommends lying on a bolster. If you don’t have a bolster, you can use anything that will allow your chest to open while still supporting your head: roll up a towel, a blanket, or try a sofa cushion (removed from the sofa). For the lower-crossed sequence, a block is useful. If you don’t have a yoga block, you can improvise. When I’m traveling, I use my one-liter, Nalgene water bottle as a block; it’s the perfect height. If you are not super flexible, you might not need a block at all – your thigh might work fine.
Jan Dariusz Cutajar, graduate student at UCL, began by commenting that inspiration from last year’s AIC conference had caused him to investigate this topic. Cutajar states that in some instances the terms, ‘sustainable’ and ‘conservation’ are used interchangeably, but he argues that each term needs to be carefully defined: ‘sustainable’ as reusable, not causing harm to the environment, people or culture. Sustainability has environmental, social and economic faces – it is a cultural construct.
Cutajar believes that currently sustainability initiatives are not well integrated into conservation programs.
The existing Green Chemistry principles, outlined by the mnemonic “Productively” he has replaced with a mnemonic of his own devising: “To Conserve”, which stands for:
T – Temperature and pressure considerations
O – Only use what you need
C – Conscientious waste prevention
O – Optimizing Health and Safety
N – Negligible toxicity is best
S – Safer, alternative methods
E – Environmentally non-persistent, biodegradable chemicals
R – Renewable materials and energy sources
V – Verify solvent sustainability
E – Examination and monitoring
These principles must work in combination with the eco scale: factors of time, price, safety and fate of materials.
Cutajar surveyed a range of university and institutional conservation laboratories and private practitioners about their sustainable lab practices with regard to chemical usage. He discovered that there is a general awareness in the profession of the impact of chemicals but differences in available time, money and other resources resulted in different approaches. He found that university laboratories had the most sustainable practices, with institutional conservation departments being hampered by time pressures such as digitization and exhibition programs, and private practitioners being restricted by both time and cost considerations. He feels that stronger communication of sustainability principles and a cohesive change in attitude and habits within the sector will further improve sustainable conservation practice.
Whether or not you were lucky enough to have attended the luncheon on create safe and practical conservation studios, you will be happy to know that the entire PowerPoint is available on the Health & Safety site (http://www.conservation-us.org/publications-resources/health-safety/other-resources#.VV9GjU_Byyo). The presenters are architects and engineers with EwingCole, and were extremely generous in sharing their expertise. Having conducted numerous interviews with conservators in private practice (mostly paintings and paper), and toured many studios and labs, the presenters were able to provide specific examples of both challenges and solutions. The luncheon was divided into 2 sections, each with round table presentations followed by time for questions.
During the first section, the discussion focused on ways to identify and understand risks (probability and severity). Practical tips were provided to ensure safe storage for chemicals both at the work space and in cabinets. A broad discussion about workplace design started with information about different types of buildings, concerns about adjacent spaces, and the importance of accounting for all people who might be in a studio space (including children and pets). Fire prevention, detection, and suppression were covered. The section on ergonomics included a tip that I particularly appreciated – a board for step aerobics can provide adjustable heights for conservators working at tall tables.
The second section included information about air flow and exhaust. Since many conservators are concerned about the management of fumes, this generated a lively discussion with many questions. The PowerPoint includes a number of helpful charts, tables, and equations to help conservators determine the ventilation needs and capabilities of their spaces. Also included are case studies with practical solutions to ventilation needs, as well as links for helpful online resources.