Visual Arts & Theater Safety



The Visual Arts & Theater Safety Program is designed to provide guidance to personnel working in art studios and theatrical set design and construction.  The key to safety in these areas is to understand the types of hazards that may be encountered and know how to protect yourself from harm.  

Employees and students must be familiar with proper work practices and personal protective equipment and follow the applicable safety guidelines detailed below.


Every studio and shop storing and utilizing hazardous chemicals and/or equipment must be registered with the Safety and Risk Management Office.  This process ensures that the Safety Office has a current list of occupied spaces and responsible parties, a survey of the type of work being conducted, and an accurate list of emergency contacts.

The supervisor is required to submit the Studio Registration Form to initially register the space and at any time in the future if any of the following apply:

  • You are relocating to a new space, or become responsible for an additional space
  • You are using a new hazardous chemical or hazardous piece of machinery

The Safety Office will use the information provided on the form to develop door signs.  This provides a necessary reference in the event of an emergency.

You are required to submit a copy of your current chemical inventory with the registration form.  Please send the URL if your inventory is online or use the Chemical Inventory Template to submit a spreadsheet inventory.


As required by state and federal law, the Safety and Risk Management Office will conduct inspections to determine compliance with the Visual Arts and Theater Safety Manual and other relevant safety policies.  These surveys are comprehensive and address record keeping, fire safety, egress, engineering controls, personal protective equipment, work practices, and where appropriate, chemical and machine guarding safety.  At least one annual inspection will be announced in order to work directly with the studio supervisor to address specific items, such as inventories of particularly hazardous materials or processes, and any other safety concerns that arise.  Other inspections may be unannounced to provide a snapshot of compliance and help to continually improve the safety program.

Inspection Reports

An inspection report identifying deficiencies and areas for corrective action will be directed to the studio supervisor.  These items must be corrected within 30 days of receipt of the inspection report.  If the items cannot be corrected in that timeframe, the supervisor should submit a written corrective action plan detailing the expected corrections and estimated date of completion within the same 30 days. Any inspection finding deemed an imminent danger (likely to cause a serious hazard, injury, disability, or death) must be corrected immediately. 

Inspection Follow-up Process

  • If no response is received within 30 days of the initial report, then the Safety Office as a courtesy will contact the supervisor with a reminder.  Additional department designees may also be notified. 
  • If no response is received and/or corrective actions are not completed after 60 days from receipt of the initial inspection report, the studio will be deemed noncompliant and information will be forwarded to the Dean’s Office. 

Previous inspection reports are a good measure for addressing safety issues and eliminating risks.  To help prepare for future inspections, please review the Studio Inspection Checklist and perform self-inspections on a regular basis.   The self-inspection process is an excellent learning tool for students and other studio personnel and should be documented as part of the safety training requirement.


A studio or shop where potentially hazardous chemicals are used or stored is required to comply with the requirements listed below.  These requirements will ensure proper handling and storage of potentially hazardous chemicals and protect personnel from exposure.

  • Ensure that a copy of the current Visual Arts & Theater Safety Manual is available to all personnel working in the studio or shop.
  • Prepare a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for any particularly hazardous substance (PHS) or hazardous equipment used in the studio.  A PHS is defined as a select carcinogen, reproductive toxin, pyrophoric, water reactive, or acutely toxic material.  This information is provided on the container label and the chemical Safety Data Sheet.  Contact the Safety Office if you have questions about the chemicals you are using or intend to use in your area. 
  • Maintain a current chemical inventory.
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS, formerly MSDS) for all chemicals used or stored in the area must be available to personnel.  The University permits electronic access, but there must be no immediate barrier to employee access when an SDS is needed.  The SDS should be consulted before using a chemical for the first time.  SDSs are available for download from many different chemical vendors (Sigma Aldrich, Fisher Scientific, Grainger, etc.).
  • Store chemicals in appropriate cabinets and follow the Chemical Storage Guide to separate incompatible materials.   
  • Procedures involving volatile chemicals and those involving solids or liquids that may result in the generation of toxic vapors must be conducted in a chemical fume hood (CFH).  This provides protection from inhalation of hazardous contaminants as well as chemical splash, sprays, fires, and minor explosions.  Fume hoods must be used properly in order to maximize their effectiveness.  Follow the Chemical Fume Hood User Guide to ensure adequate protection and hood functionality. 
  • Compressed gas cylinders can present a variety of hazards due to their pressure and contents.  The Compressed Gas Program manual provides guidance for the storage, use, and handling of compressed gases on campus. 


  • All employees (paid students, faculty, and staff) are required to complete safety training courses that are relevant to their job description at WCU.  Each employee working in a studio or shop needs to submit the Hazard Assessment Training Determination Form - College of Fine and Performing Arts to be enrolled in the required courses.  This form is required initially and at any time in the future if additional duties or new procedures are implemented.
  • Unpaid personnel (undergraduate students or volunteers) must also receive safety training relative to their duties on campus. This is provided directly from their supervisor and also by request to the Safety and Risk Management Office (828-227-7443).
  • The studio/shop supervisor should document the training received by their paid and unpaid lab personnel.


All employees must immediately report any injury or illness associated with an incident at work to their supervisor, no matter how minor the injury may appear to be. This initiates a process to investigate the incident and put corrective action in place to prevent similar events from occurring in the future. The supervisor is responsible for notifying the Safety & Risk Management Office as soon as they are made aware of a work related injury, typically within 24 hours.


The effectiveness of the Visual Arts and Theater Safety Program depends on the cooperation and understanding among all parties involved.  The general safety responsibilities of each of the key participants is summarized below:

Faculty & Supervisors:

  • Enforce safety rules with personnel, students, and visitors.
  • Ensure that proper safety equipment, such as safety showers, eyewash stations, and fire extinguishers are readily available, operable, unobstructed, and the location known to all people in the studio or shop.
  • Ensure that the area is equipped with adequate ventilation and other applicable safety equipment.
  • Provide staff training on hazard information, safety rules, and recommended work practices, etc.
  • Ensure that Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for chemicals used and stored in the area are readily available for personnel.
  • Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for particularly hazardous chemicals and equipment used in the studio or shop.
  • Review the safety manuals and guidance documents provided by Safety and Risk Management and perform self-inspections on a regular basis.

Safety & Risk Management Office

  • Update safety manuals and guidance documents.
  • Conduct safety inspections and provide corrective action reports in a timely manner.
  • Conduct Chemical Fume Hood inspections and certification annually.
  • Monitor hazardous material storage and disposal.
  • Investigate hazardous material incidents.
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