Core Documents

Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice

Commentary 4a - Health and Safety

  1. Rationale
    • Conservation procedures often involve the use of materials or methods that may endanger the health and safety of conservation professionals, other persons involved in carrying out procedures, and the public. Since, in the past, this issue has not received the attention it demands, it is especially important that conservation professionals be aware of health and safety issues.
  2. Minimum Accepted Practice
    • The conservation professional must comply with all relevant federal, state, and local standards and regulations (e.g., OSHA, NIOSH). These may pertain to:
      • job safety;
      • use, storage, handling and disposal of hazardous materials;
      • fire prevention.
    • The conservation professional must be aware of various hazards associated with cultural property. These include:
      • biological activity within or on cultural property(e.g., microbial, fungal);
      • chemical components of cultural property (e.g., lead, cellulose nitrate films, asbestos, radium);
      • chemicals used in past treatments (e.g., heavy metal compounds);
      • physical aspects of cultural property (e.g. weight, sharp edges, unstable building structures).
    • The conservation professional must be aware of various hazards associated with the materials and methods used in conservation procedures. These include:
      • solvents, pigments, dyes and other chemicals;
      • radiogenic techniques (e.g., x-rays, beta radiography, ultraviolet radiation);
      • physical hazards (e.g. repetitive motions, eye strain, equipment usage (power tools)).
    • Conservation professionals must assure that all personnel working under them are informed about health and safety issues, including emergency procedures.
  3. Recommended Practice
    • The conservation professional should:
      • use methods and materials that are the least harmful to health and to the environment;
      • remain current about health and safety issue by reading, appropriate material safety data sheets (MSDS) , publications of the AIC Health and Safety Committee, and relevant newsletters;
      • use routinely all appropriate health and safety equipment, including fume extraction units, protective clothing, respirators;
      • use appropriately rated storage systems for solvents/chemicals;
      • provide access to appropriate health and safety training for all personnel;
      • assure that all personnel are encouraged to raise questions regarding health and safety issues.


Approved by the AIC Board October 1998.