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Ceramic studio safety.

Ceramic studio safety

YOU DON'T MAKE IT THROUGH THE Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda schools without getting some clay under your fingernails. Working with ceramics is a fifty-year tradition and source of pride in this upstate New York district. An integral part of our curriculum, it helps youngsters understand three-dimensionally and expands their awareness of what they are capable of achieving. Students have an opportunity to marue and grow with popular courses on elementary, middle and high school levels. It's not unusual for graduates to win scholarships and continue their studies at college. Many enter art careers.

In good measure, the program's success is supported by our record of safety in working with studio equipment. We have long been aware of the potential risks associated with kiln use. worn out equipment is quickly replaced, not always with the "newest and latest," but with what we feel best matches our needs. In any classroom setting, it is important to provide as much safety as possible, both for students and faculty. Because of our heavy kiln use, proper ventilation of work areas has always been a concern. As in other school systems, kilns are often placed in general purpose workrooms that are used constantly, not only for ceramics, but for drawing, painting and other studies. Teachers frequently spend the entire day in the same room. For many years, we used the only available alternatives--open windows and roof ducts. This was not always an effective answer. Odors and fumes would usually dissipate throughout the studio before being evacuated.

Several years ago, we were preparing to embark upon another round of kiln replacement. At about the same time, I heard of a new ventilating method developed by a local ceramic artist. His solution was said to be much more effective than total room ventilation and very economical to operate.

When I visited the inventor's studio, I was impressed with what I saw. Each of his kilns was covered with a movable hood that could be lowered to capture hot, rising emissions at the source. AN exhaust fan and flexible hose, built into the system, carried smoke, odors and fumes directly outside. Complying with OSHA regulations, the simple device had been thoroughly tested and required no kiln modification. I immediately could see its potential for classroom use.

My recommendation to purchase the Vent-A-Kiln ventilating system was fully checked out along the usual chain of command, and subsequently approved by our board of education. Our own buildings and grounds department easily handled installation of the first new ventilating system. We chose an exterior wall location, out of the normal flow of traffic. The vent was mounted on a swinging wall bracket. A sheet metal plate for attachment of the exhaust line replaced one of the room's upper windows to complete installation.

The new venting proved to be a quick remedy for our different workroom conditions. During warm months, excessive heat in the studio was no longer a problem. Cold drafts from open windows were eliminated during the winter. The venting unit's energy consumption needs were minimal.

Safe venting units are now standard in the Kenmore-Tonawanda schools. While the units have made a vast improvement in comfort, we think health and safety are the prime reasons for their use. Considering the popularity of ceramics programs and increased concerns over liability in the work place, adequate kiln ventilation can add an extra margin of protection and peace of minds in any school district.
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Author:Contas, John
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1989
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