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for Students

Manchester School of Art
Photograph of a student using a machine in a workshop


Your health and safety is very important, not only during your time here as a student but also in your future career. Sound workshop practices, safe use of machinery and careful handling of materials should underpin your design studies. The Manchester Metropolitan University follows the guidelines set by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and strives to ensure that these are maintained at all times.

Good Workshop Practice in Ceramics

The main risk to your health whilst you are working in the ceramics area is from the clay itself. The following is taken from the HSE information sheet of advice for small and medium-sized potteries.

Silica dust exposure and risk

Clay contains crystalline silica, most of which is chemically combined with other materials. The crystalline silica that is not chemically combined is often referred to as ‘free silica’ and in this form it poses a serious health risk.

Fine dust particles containing free silica are the biggest concern because they can:

  1. Be invisible to the naked eye under normal lighting conditions
  2. Be airborne for long periods of time in your breathing zone
  3. Penetrate deep into the lungs when inhaled.

Breathing in silica dust may ultimately lead to a lung disease known as silicosis. This is an irreversible disease that continues to develop after exposure has stopped. The greater the airborne concentration of silica and the more prolonged the exposure, the greater the risk.

However, if the following guidelines are adhered to the risk of contracting silicosis is extremely low.

Plastic Clay

When using plastic clay ensure that:

  • Clay is kept damp
  • Dry or unworkable clay is placed in the appropriate reclaim bins
  • Floors are kept clean
  • Tables are washed down at the end of every working day

Clay Casting Slip

The major risk during casting arises when the outside of the mould becomes caked with dried slip. When using casting slip ensure that:

  • Drips are wiped from the surface of the mould and not allowed to dry out
  • Any spillages are cleared up before they dry out
  • Associated equipment such as jugs, buckets, sieves etc. are washed up immediately after use

Fettling of finished goods

Where possible, ware should be finished by sponging rather than fettling to reduce exposure to silica dust. You should:

  • Avoid fettling dry clay
  • Use damp sponging where practicable
  • Only dry fettle in extraction booths, whilst wearing a mask


Clay that dries out on the workshop floor and clay dust that settles on ledges and windowsills can become a serious health hazard. Always:

  • Clear up spillages before they dry out
  • DO NOT DRY SWEEP – This is prohibited. Floors MUST be washed clean and dried to avoid slipping
  • The floor areas in the studios must be kept clear at all times. All your personal belongings must be stored in your locker, finished work should be stored on the shelves provided. The floor areas are washed regularly and items on the floor are likely to become very wet. Your personal belongings must be kept free from dust in the interests of safety, therefore the best place for them is in your locker.

Personal protective equipment

  • It is important to wear the correct protective equipment as provided by the University. This will minimise the risk of carrying silica dust on your clothes. Good practice in ceramics is as follows
  • Wear your apron at all times in the studio
  • If you leave the studio to go to the Café or another area leave your apron in ceramics and wash your hands thoroughly
  • Your apron should be rinsed at the end of the session and left clean for the next day

And finally

Eating and drinking are not allowed in the workshops.

The use of personal stereos is banned.

Mobile phones are to be switched off as a courtesy to others

Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap before leaving the workshop. Always make sure your hands are clean before you eat, drink or smoke.


> Also see the general Workshop Safety Advice