As with any other activity, painting requires a bit of common sense. Paints and painting supplies can be dangerous if not used properly and paints especially can be quite harmful. Following a few simple safety tips will ensure your painting sessions are safe and free from problems.
Always read the label
It goes without saying that labels are very important and should not be overlooked. Product labels these days come with a great deal of useful information. They can look overwhelming at first given the amount of information, but what is there is relevant. Usually the most important safety advice will be clear and in a larger font than less important text so that it stands out. Simply do and avoid doing whatever any label tells you to. Most of it is common sense, but it's always best to double check any labels just in case. Keep products in their original tubes or whatever else they came in, so you can always match a product to its label.
Keep your work area well ventilated
Lots of paints and paint supplies can cause harm if you work with them in a small space that doesn't have good ventilation. Ideally, you should work in a large space and keep all windows open. If you have a fan, the best place to put it is right by the window, so it'll blow air out of the room. You don't want to breathe in nasty fumes which can cause breathing problems if you breathe in too much of them.
No food or drink
Do not have any food or drink with you in your studio. If you want to eat or drink, leave the studio and wash your hands before eating or drinking. You don't want to run the risk of paint from your hands getting on your food and ending up getting eaten. You also don't want to accidentally dip your paintbrush in a glass of water that you drink from.
Keep skin contact to a minimum
Painting can be a very messy activity and it's very easy to get stuff everywhere, including on your skin. However, certain paints and paint supplies can damage your exposed skin. To prevent this, try to cover up as much skin as you can. Wear gloves if you have to, so you minimise the risk of getting paint on your hands. Even a little bit of exposure to hazardous chemicals over an extended period of time can cause problems. As an extra precaution, wash your hands after painting, even if your skin has been protected, just in case. You should also never let anything get near your mouth. This includes paintbrushes - even if you're trying to get a good point on the end of the brush, don't put it near your mouth.
Disposing of paints and paint supplies
You shouldn't put solvent or paints down the drain. In fact, anything with paint or solvent on it shouldn't be put down the drain. This can lead to blockage and can contaminate water supplies. Instead you should dispose of them in a metallic fire-proof container - solvents such as turpentine are highly flammable and rags covered in turpentine have been known to spontaneously ignite. Check your local recycling centre to see where you should drop your metallic containers off.
Keep all painting supplies out of the reach of children. Always clean up properly once you're done and don't leave hazardous products unopened and unattended. If you spill anything that can be hoovered up, hoover it up. Always wash your hands whenever you leave your studio and once you've finished painting.
Joanne Perkins is a Berkshire-based artist with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and specialises in painting Berkshire landscapes. She is happy to accept all queries and questions. For more information about Joanne, her work and her current projects visit: http://joannesberkshirescenes.com/default.aspx