Safe use of kilns in schools and craft studios
Ceramic kilns are essentially simple and safe to use, provided that the proper controls and safety devices are fitted and that the safe method of working is fully understood.
For proprietary kilns, the manufacturer's guidance on positioning and operation should be carefully followed. "Ad-hoc" kilns should be thoroughly risk assessed before use.
Adequate ventilation should be provided with free air movement. A canopy to take heat and fumes from a kiln to the outside is desirable. Combustible equipment and materials should not be stored close to any kiln.
Historically, most fires involving ceramic kilns have occurred at night, due to overheating of wood forming part of the construction of roofs/ceilings/floors above kilns. Adequate clearance should maintained between hot surfaces and flue pipes and any part of the building structure. If this is not possible, other fire prevention precautions may be necessary.
In studios to which the public are admitted, a protective barrier, eg a metal cage is recommended for any kiln with accessible hot surfaces.
It is useful if operating instructions are readily available with emergency instructions clearly displayed on or near to each kiln. Anyone who operates a kiln should have knowledge of the position, function and setting of all controls and safety devices, and be able to recognise faults and cope with abnormal or emergency situations.
Most modern kilns have refractory ceramic fibre as part of their construction. This should be treated with care. Inhalation of the fibre dust and contact with the skin should be avoided. The use of personal protective equipment, eg. dust respirators may be necessary.
Older kilns may be insulated with asbestos materials. Specialist advice should be obtained if any work on a kiln which would expose or disturb asbestos is planned, or occurs accidentally. HSE can advise on the names of licenses asbestos contractors.
CLEAPSS (Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services) has Arts & Design Model Risk Assessments for many topics in Ceramics including Kilns
IGEM (Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers) IGEM/UP/1101 Communication 1745 "Guidance on gas installations for the management and staff within educational establishments"