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Avoiding Fire Risk and Hazards, In The Art Studio

Ryn Shell

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October 20th, 2017 - 09:27 AM

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Avoiding Fire Risk and Hazards, In The Art Studio

When I have taught art, a high proportion of my art students were cigarette smokers, and I never allowed cigarette smoking in my studio both for safety reasons and my dislike of the cigarette smoke and the smell.

I would like to know these things, and I would be interested in comments on this subject.

This does not affect me personally, as I do not use highly volatile thinners, though most artists do and many also smoke cigarets while working with these materials. I have seen an artist smoke a cigarette while cleaning brushes over a large can of open kerosene, creating a risk of fire. Common sense is not always common.

Fire Hazards Associated with Chemicals Used in the Arts

The fire hazards associated with artist’s materials are often overlooked, yet fire may be the most significant risk artists face. Common art materials that may cause a fire include flammable or combustible solvents, oily rags, chemical oxidizers, and compressed welding gases.

Improper use of solvents causes most art-related fires.

Artists must be aware of a solvent’s flashpoint and volatility, the two primary properties that influence a solvent’s ability to initiate a fire.

The flashpoint, the most critical factor, is the temperature at which a solvent gives off enough vapour to form an ignitable mixture with air and can ignite in the presence of an ignition source such as a flame or electrical spark. The lower the flashpoint, particularly when it is at or below room temperature the more hazardous the material.

A substance’s volatility determines how much of it will evaporate and mix with air. In order for a solvent to catch fire, it must evaporate and its vapours must mix with air to form the right fuel/air ratio (typically 1-3 percent). The more volatile the solvent, the more readily it will evaporate and the more likely it will create an ignitable fuel/air mixture.

Acetone is extremely volatile, and if spilled, it will evaporate almost instantly. Mineral spirits, which has a much lower volatility than acetone, will evaporate much more slowly if spilled.

To control the risk of a fire, always choose a solvent with the highest possible flashpoint and the lowest potential volatility. Ventilate the area to keep the solvent concentration from reaching an ignitable air/fuel mixture.

Remove ignition sources such as open flames and electrical equipment that may generate sparks.

Vapours from flammable solvents are heavier than air. They can travel some distance to an ignition source and then flash back to the solvent source.

When dispensing flammable solvents, from large metal containers, ground both containers to dissipate static electrical charges.

To prevent fires, store rags soiled with setting oils (tung oil, linseed oil) in tightly closing metal.

containers and have them picked up daily for professional laundering or disposal

Flammable solvents should be stored in a storage cabinet designed for combustible materials.

When using flammable solvents, out in the studio, store them in safety cans. If you handle chemical oxidizers such as chlorates, chromates, nitrates, or peroxides, store them apart from organic solvents and other readily combustible materials in storage units specifically designed for these materials.

Some types of substances such as organic peroxides and nitric acid are so reactive they should be stored separately from all other chemicals. If you use compressed gases, such as acetylene or propane, be familiar with all the complex regulations that apply to them. Secure them in an upright position and test the regulator fittings and connections for leaks before using them.

Store flammable compressed gases, separately from compressed oxygen.

I travel extensively to draw inspiration for my paintings and writing from life experience.
You will discover my Australian rural-lit novels at www.rural-lit.com

​Ryn Shell.

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