42nd Annual Meeting – Workshop, May 28, Respirator Fit Test Lecture and Respirator Fit Testing, May 29 by appointment, AIC Health and Safety Committee

In the past year have you:

  • Grown a beard to emulate your conservation idol Steve Koob?
  • Participated in a juice cleanse which inspired a new pattern of healthy eating and daily lunchtime walks?
  • Had a little work done ?
  • Contracted Hepatitis B while doing archaeological site conservation in an exotic foreign location? (I sure hope not!)

Steve Koob, Conservation Idol

Juice cleanse

Rivers set for Charles comedy gala
A little work

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are a candidate for a respirator fit test even you don’t work in a place where an annual test is required. Facial hair, weight loss or gain of 20lbs or more and any other changes in the shape of your face may mean that the respirator you have been wearing is no longer tight-fitting. Serious illness may compromise your respiratory and/or other systems making respirator use dangerous.
I trust that those reading this are already aware of the importance of protecting ourselves from the potentially harmful chemical compounds (vapors and particulates) and other irritants (such as mold) that we may be exposed to in the course of our work. Depending on the risk, such protection might be afforded in a variety of ways such as via the use of laboratory fume hood, appropriate room ventilation systems including workstation elephant trunk style air outlets, and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a dust mask or respirator.
If you don’t work in a museum or other institution with a designated health and safety officer following OSHA required guidelines, you might be unclear about what kind of mask is required for a particular contaminant and even what “fit testing” means. Personally, never having been “fit tested” before, I will admit that for years I wasn’t even 100% clear whether it meant “are you fit (in proper health) to wear a respirator?” or “does the respirator fit?” Of course it means both! These days all you need do is consult the very informative AIC Health and Safety Committee Wiki to get your fill of information about respirators and so much more
As a conservator in private practice, I have no employer checking up on whether or not I am protecting myself. Several years ago I purchased a respirator, which seemed to fit well. While wearing it with the correct cartridges for the organic solvents I was working with, I figured “If I can’t smell the vapors it must be fine.” But I was never really sure that it fit and it is important to follow guidelines about the life of your cartridges to be sure you are getting adequate protection.
When I signed up for the respirator fit test, the AIC Health and Safety committee sent me the six-page OSHA Medical Evaluation Form (mostly check boxes with yes or no) to fill out and have signed by my doctor prior to fit testing. Keep this in mind if you plan to participate in fit testing at AIC next year – you must plan ahead and have this signed paperwork in hand or you will not be allowed to be tested! This form is available for download on the wiki.
 The respirator fit testing consists of two steps, both of which fulfill the annual requirements mandated by OSHA. First, a brief Powerpoint, given by James R. Smith, Safety Coordinator at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, covered topics from the requirements of the Respiratory Protection Program (29CFR 1910.134) to hazards requiring a respirator, how to choose the correct respirator, care and maintenance, donning and doffing and training requirements for employers. The lecture was accompanied by handouts prepared by AIC Health and Safety and we were given a 10 question true or false quiz at the end.
I had scheduled my fit testing appointment prior to traveling to San Francisco. AIC Health and Safety asked participants to choose their top three time slots on the given date in order of preference. When I arrived, I noticed that there were still a couple of time slots available. I would highly recommend pre-registration for fit testing at AIC if you plan to do it next year because then you are guaranteed a spot.
The fit testing itself was quite simple. After donning my mask, James handed me a card with a poem to read while moving my head up and down, side to side and in a circular motion.
While I read this rainbow poem, he followed me with a little pen like device emitting an irritant smoke. I believe that the finale required bending at the waist. The test was brief and painless and I was relieved to hear that I had passed – particularly since I had already used the respirator on numerous projects. Once the test was over, James offered to prove to me that the respirator worked by allowing me to experience the irritant sans respirator. I declined saying that I trusted the test. However, he said that some people like to have proof and offered again. Somehow I took the bait and learned first hand that indeed, the gas is an irritant and my respirator is working properly.
Thank you to James, Kathryn A Makos, MPH, CIH (Industrial Hygienist (Ret.) Smithsonian Institution) and the rest of the AIC Health and Safety Committee for offering this service at the annual meeting.

NEW! Health & Safety Session at the Annual Meeting

The members of the Health & Safety Committee and 2014 Annual Meeting organizers are excited to announce the first full-day session dedicated to health and safety topics at the 42nd Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Health & Safety Session: Sustaining the Conservator will take place on Saturday, May 31 and will include the following talks:

Controlling Hazardous Collection Materials
Kerith Koss Schrager, Anne Kingery-Schwartz and Kathryn Makos
Responsible stewardship of hazardous collections materials involves implementing policies that ensure the health and safety of the materials as well as the individuals who come in contact with them. This talk will discuss employing collections-based risk management plans, understanding hazard disclosure requirements, and knowing when and how to consult health and safety professionals.

Unintended Consequences of Persistent Residual Vapor-Phase Chemicals within Collection Storage
Catharine Hawks and Kathryn Makos
Residual chemicals within cabinetry and collections have been identified through technical scientific study. While health implications are cautionary and controllable, adverse consequences to the condition of the collections can be significant. Recommendations for mitigation of these hazards will be presented.

Solvents, Scents and Sensibility – Part II, Sequestering and Minimizing
Chris Stavroudis
Continuing with the topics covered in Solvents, Scents and Sensibility-Part I (General Concurrent Session), this talk includes a discussion of safer solvents to help sustain the conservator and the environment, toxicity overviews, in-depth reviews of reformulating “bad” solvents, and molecular interactions and solubility parameters.

Medical Evaluations for Museum and Collection Care Professionals
David Hinkamp, MD (University of Illinois School of Public Health) and Ruth Norton.
Using examples from the Field Museum, the authors will discuss methods to promote occupational health benefits and safer working practices through medical evaluations, exposure monitoring, maintaining lists of materials used, and accurately describing conservation and collections care work practices to medical staff.

Sustainability for the Conservator: Mold Remediation
Chris Stavroudis and AIC Emergency Committee
The AIC Emergency Committee will present lessons learned and techniques used for Hurricane Sandy recovery at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn, New York to highlight the key steps conservators need to take to protect themselves when working with mold or moldy artworks.

Ergonomics in Collection Care
David Hinkamp, MD (University of Illinois School of Public Health)
Dr. Hinkamp will discuss current ergonomics theories and best practices for improving workstations and postures/positions using real world conservation task examples supplied by Emerging Conservations Professionals Network and the Health & Safety Committee.

The Committee is also organizing events that will take place throughout the 2014 Annual Meeting:
Yoga and Stretching
General session and some specialty group sessions
Don’t just sit there – get up and stretch! Throughout the meeting, organizers will encourage attendees to move around between talks with guided instruction.
‘The Safety Doctor Is In’ with J. R. Smith (Safety Manager, Smithsonian Institution)
Health & Safety Booth in the Exhibitors Hall
Friday, May 30: 9am-12pm and 1pm-3pm OR contact smithjr@si.edu for an appointment
Learn how to create a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) for conservation tasks. This is a standard occupational safety approach to breaking down a task into simple components, materials, operations and then analyzing for hazards and setting ways to prevent an injury or illness from that hazard.
Health & Safety Booth
Exhibitors Hall
We’re teaming up again with the Emergency and Sustainability Committees to provide information on current health and safety issues. Stop by if you have questions or comments for members of the Committee.
Respirator Fit Testing
Lecture: Wednesday, May 28: 6:30-7:30pm
Appointments: Thursday, May 29: 9am-6pm ($39)
Register now for your annual respirator fit testing! Respirator fit testing requires that you complete the lecture, a 15-20 minute fit test appointment, and an OSHA Medical Evaluation Form signed by your healthcare professional (available on the Health & Safety webpage).
We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!
Have a question or concern about health and safety in your conservation work? Contact the committee at HealthandSafety@conservation-us.org.
Also visit our webpage and wiki for more information and Committee publications on conservation-related health and safety topics.

Health & Safety Committee Call for Student Member

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 (2014-2016).
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 a full day of sessions at the Annual Meeting; and regularly addressing questions and issues related to health and safety in our field.
Membership parameters:

  • All H&S Committee members are AIC members
  • Members serve a 4-year term with an option to serve a second term if other members approve. Student members serve a single, 2-year term.
  • There are 10 H&S member positions, including Chair, 8 professional members, and 1 student member; at least one member is a health professional.
  • The members are supported by an AIC board liaison, the Collections Care Member, and a staff liaison, the Membership and Meetings Director.

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: www.conservation-us.org/healthandsafety. If you would like details on the duties and commitment of the position, please contact current student member Heather Brown, hbrown@udel.edu. Potential candidates should submit a resume or CV and statement of interest to Chair Kathy Makos, kamakos@verizon.net, by April 1, 2014.

Employment in Health and Safety for Conservators

Monona Rossol is one of our field’s greatest spokespersons for conservation lab and artists’ studio health and safety guidelines; she is also a fount of knowledge on changing regulations for use of conservation chemicals and understanding of personal protective procedures and equipment. Please visit her website at  www.artscraftstheatersafety.org/bio.html.
She does general safety and OSHA-required training sessions for art and art conservation students/faculty in universities, colleges, public and private museums, conservation laboratories, and more. What will happen when she retires? She has no understudy! Is there someone out there in AIC with a very strong chemistry background and understanding of conservation lab practices and artists’ materials who would be interested in branching out to include safety training and consultation to their skills? Monona promises to help direct such people to sources of technical training and to share her expertise and training materials. Once someone is qualified, she will gleefully recommend them to her clients. In fact, she has repeatedly offered to turn over her small nonprofit to someone qualified so she can do more writing.
I carried out a history interview with Monona in 2003 and have worried ever since about making sure she has protégés with whom she can share and possibly pass on a great body of knowledge and a very busy practice.  This is certainly an area of our field with increasing need and certain future employment.  If you are interested in exploring this possibility please contact Monona at ACTSNYC [at] cs.com.
–Submitted by Joyce Hill Stoner

41st Annual Meeting-Tours, May 29, "Indiana Historical Society"

A slight communications glitch caused the group from the Indiana State Museum Tour to start without the group that was only doing the Indiana Historical Society tour; we knew that they were supposed to rendesvous with us, but they didn’t know that we existed.
We finally caught up with the other half of our tour group in the Isolation Area of the Indiana Historical Society building, where Paper Conservator Ramona Duncan-Huse was explaining how they set aside a purpose-built space to quarantine, inspect, and treat incoming collections. Because the Historical Society actively acquires entire pallets of archive boxes, staff cannot examine every single item as it enters the collection. This holding room gives the Conservation Department the opportunity to detect insect evidence or mold and prevent cross-contamination with other collections. The room was the envy of many on the tour who could only dream about a room with such great features: negative pressure, floor drains, industrial freezers, etc. The Historical Society’s mold treatment room was a smaller room contained within the Isolation Area that had polyethylene sheeting over its entrance, easily-cleaned tile walls, and its own negative pressure air handler, designed to prevent the outflow of airborne particles through doorways.
After being “wowed” by both the size and quality of the contaminated holding area, the tour moved on to the conservation exhibit.  The “History Lab” is a delightful, interactive, kid-friendly installation in a second-floor gallery adjacent to the conservation lab. The exhibits’ objective is to explain what conservation is and what conservators do. The exhibit has been popular with audiences and funders, so the Conservation Department will be undertaking a renovation and expansion of the exhibit and the Conservation Lab. Facilitator Nancy Thomas oversees the hands-on paper mending practice area in the current exhibit. There are also computer-based interactive exercises.
Romona Duncan-Huse turned over the next part of the tour to Sarah Anderson, the designer who is helping to transform the History Lab in its next phase, scheduled to open in September. She showed storyboards for the new exhibit and explained its objectives. The current exhibit is very popular with school groups and families, but some visitors see it as a children’s exhibit and walk right past it. There will be “before and after” objects, and lots of touchable materials, as well as touchscreen computer-based items. Duncan-Huse maintains a conservation Pinterest page, so they plan to incorporate that into the new exhibit. The new exhibit will explore more of the “why” and “how” of conservation treatment decisions, and it will be a lighter, more open design (think Brookstone or Sharper Image meets Apple Store meets Williams-Sonoma); it still incorporates hands-on interactive activities, but with a more sophisticated feel than the old exhibit.
With the new gallery construction slated to begin in June, the impending removal of some walls of the conservation lab meant  that there were no treatments in progress during our visit. Conservation staff were happy to describe some of their recent activities to us.  Tamara Hemerlein, the Local History Services Officer, explained the IMLS Statewide Connecting the Collections (C2C) project, which includes a traveling conservation panel exhibit, “Endangered Heritage.” The project also includes training for volunteers and museum boards around the state, and she has done 85 site visits to collecting institutions.  In late August, they plan to release Deterioria and the Agents of Destruction, a conservation graphic novel. They let us see advance proofs, and it is AWESOME! Several members of the tour (including me) were involved with C2C, so we were all jealous. I asked if they had plans for conservator action figures.
After the lab tour, we had the opportunity to visit the galleries on our own. I went back to the conservation exhibit to get a closer look and to take a few pictures. I want to thank Ramona Duncan-Huse and everyone at the Indiana Historical Society for such an interesting tour.

Review of Health & Safety for Museum Professionals appears in January issue of JOEM

Working in a city where there is a museum nearly at every corner, we enjoyed reading Health & Safety for Museum Professionals because it illuminated a world of work and workers largely hidden from our view when we visit the many museums here in Washington, District of Columbia. Most of all, we enjoyed reading this book because it is well written, well organized, and informative without being a ponderous reference book. Health & Safety for Museum Professionals is a valuable addition to any safety and health professional’s shelf of resource books, but it would seem to us an indispensible one for every museum safety professional.”

Excerpt from book review by John Howard, MD, and Anita Schill, PhD, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Washington, DC, appearing in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 54, Number 1, January 2012