Visual arts


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Guideline review date: 28 October 2021​

​This guideline is provided to support schools in implementing the managing risks in school curriculum activities procedure.

The CARA planner must be used for the specific school context in conjunction with this guideline considering additional risks, hazards and controls and including environmental, facility, equipment and student considerations.

For activities beyond the scope of this guideline, complete a CARA record using the CARA generic template.

Activity scope

This guideline relates to student participation in visual arts activities (e.g. drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, film developing) to support curriculum delivery.

Depending on the scope of this activity, other risk assessments may be required when planning. Curriculum activities encompassing more than one CARA guideline (e.g. mixed media activity involving inks and electronic images) must comply with the requirements of all CARA guidelines appropriate to the activity.

For perfor​mance art activities, consult the dance, drama​ activity guideline.

For media arts activities (e.g. digital photography, electronic imaging, film and animation, sound art), consult the media arts activity guideline.

For fibre art and wearable art activities, consult the fabric and fibre activities​ activity guideline.

For activities involving industrial processes and equipment (e.g. welding, brazing, woodworking, soft soldering, thermoforming plastics), consult the practical workshop activities​​ guideline.​

The use of the following materials are prohibited: cutting oils containing amies or nitrates, hydrofluoric or nitric acid, rosins, antifreeze as a lubricant or coolant, glazes containing barium, CCA treate​d pine, compressed boards containing formaldehyde and/or aerated​ concrete​.

The following processes are prohibited: metal casting, salt-glazing.

For activities conducted at a non-Department of Education venue, and/or when engaging external expertise, request written risk assessment advice and attach it to this CARA record.​

For activities cond​​ucted off-site, schools must comply with the school excursions procedure.

Low risk: Visual arts activities involving the use of non-hazardous chemicals and/or non-electrical equipment/tools (e.g. rasps, pliers, punches) that should not cause injury unless deliberately misused.
Medium risk: Visual arts activities involving the use of low or moderate hazard chemicals, sharp hand tools (e.g. craft knives, hand saws) and/or medium risk equipment and/or machinery (e.g. air compressor, pottery wheel).
High risk: Visual arts activities involving the use of high hazard chemicals, heating processes and tools (e.g. melting wax, body casting) and/or high risk equipment and/or machinery (e.g. jigsaw, pug mill).
Extreme risk: ​Visual arts activities involving dangerous artistic processes (e.g. sculpting large pieces) and/or extreme risk equipment and/or machinery (e.g. angle grinder, bandsaw).

Activity requirements

If any requirement cannot be met, the activity must not occur.

If any other safety recommendation cannot be met, modify the activity (or elements of it) and/or identify and use the hierarchy of controls to implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the minimum safety standard.​

Unfamiliar activities (e.g. from online sources) must be trialled without students to identify foreseeable hazards, plan controls, ensure processes are appropriate and educational outcomes outweigh the risks of the activity.

Electrical equipment in schools must be managed in accordance with the department’s guide to managing electrical equipment in departmental schools and workplaces​.



Principals make final supervision decisions for the activity. Sufficient adult supervision must be provided to manage the activity safely (including emergency situations).

The number of adult supervisors required to fulfil emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the activity, students' ages, abilities and specialised learning, access and/or health needs.

Before the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be familiar with the contents of the CARA record
  • must inspect the intended location in order to identify variable risks, hazards and potential dangers.

During the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be readily identifiable
  • must closely monitor students with health support needs
  • must closely monitor students during the activity. It is recommended that teacher demonstration be used as the principal teaching strategy for high and extreme risk activities
  • must comply with control measures from the CARA record and adapt as hazards arise.

Supervisor qualifications

Principals make final decisions in determining supervisor capability (competence, relevance and currency) and are responsible for encouraging and enabling school-based activity supervisors to raise their qualifications to improve safety standards.

All adult supervisors must comply with the working with children authority—blue cards procedure and be able to identify, and respond to, risks or hazards that may emerge during the activity.

A registered teacher must be appointed to maintain overall responsibility for the activity.

For low risk activities:

  • At least one adult supervisor is required to be a registered teacher with demonstrated knowledge of the activity and its potential hazards or an adult supervisor, working under the direct supervision of a registered teacher, with demonstrated competence (knowledge and skills) in the activity.

For medium risk activities:

  • At least one adult supervisor is required to be a registered teacher with demonstrated competence (knowledge and skills) in teaching the activity or an adult supervisor, working under the direct supervision of a registered teacher, with qualifications in the activity or similar.

For high and extreme risk activities:

  • At least one adult supervisor is required to be a registered teacher, or other adult supervisor working under the direct supervision of a registered teacher, with demonstrated ability to conduct safe practices during the specific activity. Examples of demonstrated ability include:
    • ­qualification in visual arts specific to the activity
    • competence in safely using plant, equipment and machinery specific to the activity (consult the practical workshop activities qualification recommendations)
    • ­competence in safely using hazardous chemicals (consult the science guideline qualification recommendations)
    • or another method determined by the principal.

Facilities and equipment

The qualified adult supervisor of the activity, in consultation with the principal, determines the requirements for facilities and equipment appropriate to the local context.

Consult chemicals in curriculum activities for support in assessing the risks of chemicals used with/by students in curriculum activities.

If a CARA record is required in OneSchool, a summary of chemicals, plant, equipment and/or materials used in the activity must be provided by entering directly onto the CARA record in OneSchool or by attaching a summary. Sample templates are provided on chemicals in curriculum activities and plant, equipment and materials in curriculum activities.

Location must be suitable for the activity being undertaken, including sufficient space, adequate lighting and ventilation (e.g. local exhaust, extraction fans as determined by Safety Data Sheets [SDS]) to ensure safe participation and that safety rules and procedures can be followed. Undertake a reconnaissance of new or infrequently used locations to ascertain suitability.  

Consider additional hazards created by oversized artworks (e.g. stability, sharp edges). 

Participants must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as relevant (e.g. enclosed footwear, safety glasses). Consult the SDS for specific PPE requirements, as relevant.

Safety zones must be established when working with potentially hazardous processes and equipment.

Stable benches (e.g. artist tables) with adequate space to work safely.

Running water available adjacent to the work area in case of burns, spillage or splashes.

Flammables storage cupboard to store all flammables (e.g. adhesives, solvents, dyes). 

All containers labelled in accordance with SDS and/or manufacturers’ instructions, including when decanted into smaller, unbreakable containers.

Use physical barriers around artworks with dangerous projections, particularly when on open display where children may be present.

Food and/or drink is not permitted in the activity area.

Additionally for high and extreme risk activities:

  • chemical spill kit with contents suited to clean-up/neutralisation of chemicals used in the activity. Consult SDS for details
  • ABC type or dry chemical fire extinguisher in close proximity 
  • eyewash facilities available nearby.

 Hazards and controls

Further to those listed, include any additional hazards and control measures considering the local context of the activity.

Material hazards Control measures

Small objects

Ensure small objects (e.g. beads, polystyrene balls) do not pose a choking hazard.

Dye, fixative, sealer, developer, solvent, lubricant, oils

Use the least toxic product available (e.g. waterbased dyes, inks, adhesives, waterbased paints, pigments and oxides).

Use chemicals according to established safety processes (e.g. product label instructions, SDS, SOP, chemical risk assessment).

Do not use cutting oils that contain amines or nitrates.

Do not use antifreeze as a lubricant or coolant.

Use only the smallest quantity that will guarantee the viability of the activity.

Implement protection and handling processes to avoid accidental contact (e.g. rinsing equipment after use). Ensure there is no feathering of acid when etching.

Dilute chemicals by adding chemicals into water, not the reverse. Individually supervise students when diluting acids.

Manage spills immediately.


Note: Carcinogenic dust is created when some products are cut, sawn, abraded, sanded or crushed (e.g. concrete, clay, hardboard, MDF).

Comply with control measures for preparation, use and disposal of materials provided on the vendor SDS and/or safety instructions on the product label.

Cover all work spaces with paper or plastic. After dampening by flooding, dispose of the paper or plastic.

Always wear the personal protective equipment required by the SDS (e.g. eye and respiratory protection), including during clean-up.

Minimise dust during the activity:

  • use a fume cupboard and/or fit extraction bags to equipment, as appropriate
  • avoid filing or sanding in the dry state wherever possible
  • keep spray bottles, wet rags, sponges and water containers nearby
  • wash clothing separately, including aprons, to remove hazardous dusts and oils.

Clean up the work area using the wet method, never dry brush or blow. Dampen down all surfaces then use a wet sponge to wash tables, tools, and floor. Remove dust from electrical devices using a HEPA filtered vacuum.

Do not use concrete in a way that may generate dust. Use an alternative that does not contain crystalline silica.

Use the lowest firing clay possible to achieve the learning outcome.

Do not ball mill dry clay.

Always mix powdered clay outside wearing an appropriate dust mask.

Do not pour powdered clay directly into a container from any height. Instead, place the bag in the container, then cut the bag open and slowly put in the amount required, then lift the bag out. Slowly pour the water onto the clay powder by getting as close to the powder as possible. Start slowly mixing the clay body until all the clay becomes moist.

Do not slap/slam clay down onto canvas clay boards. Wash canvas boards outside with water immediately after use.

Never brush or sand dry clay. Use a wet sponge to achieve the same effect.

Premix powdered dyes and oxides. Wear a dust mask and avoid generating dust when measuring out powders and mixing. Mix powders in a box lined with damp paper towel in the bottom of a sink to control spills and dust.

Found objects

Instruct students on the potential hazards of found objects (e.g. plants, shells) before collecting them for use.

Glass and metals
Aluminium, copper

Do not heat or cool glass quickly.

Participants must wear personal protective equipment (e.g. cut resistant gloves) when handling glass or metals with sharp edges.

High and low fire

All glazes containing barium and the salt-glazing process are prohibited.

Glazes with blue, red or green colours/oxides are not to be applied to the surface of an artefact intended to contain food or beverages.

Purchase glazes in a pre-mixed form.

Do not heat or cool quickly.

Spray glazes in a spray booth.

Plaster of Paris
Gypsum plaster

Closely supervise participants using plaster, as it may cause severe burns when setting on the skin. Apply petroleum jelly or barrier cream onto the skin to avoid contact.

Wash plaster off skin before it sets. Keep a bucket of fresh cold water, a sponge and towel available to rinse off plaster splashes.

Do not carry out body casting directly onto the skin. Use a barrier between the skin and plaster (e.g. cling film).

Carry out body casting in sections and only on body parts where the cast can be lifted away at any stage (i.e. not in a container of wet plaster of Paris).

When mixing plaster, ensure that face masks or goggles are worn to protect the eyes.

Avoid filing or sanding plaster in the dry state wherever possible.

Do not use equipment or utensils intended to contain food or beverages.

Melted wax

Closely supervise participants using heat sources. Never leave melting/molten wax unattended.

Conduct hot wax activities (including ironing out wax) under extraction fans, in a fume cupboard or outdoors.

Use cold wax, or a wax blend with the lowest possible melting point, to achieve the desired learning outcome. One-third beeswax and two-thirds paraffin wax is recommended.

Use a lid to cover the wax when melting to avoid ignition.

Do not douse wax fires with water.

Use an electric frying pan as the heating vessel and a thermometer. Heat the wax slowly and do not allow wax to exceed 45°C. Do not allow the wax to smoke or boil.

Avoid moving hot melted wax.

Do not allow the level of wax to get too low.

Remove wax by ironing between several layers of absorbent paper. Do not use solvents such as petrol, white spirits or carbon tetrachloride to remove wax from fabrics, tools and surfaces.

Equipment hazards Control measures

All equipment machinery, tools

Follow the Safe Operating Procedure (SOP). If an SOP does not exist for the equipment, machinery or tool intended for use, schools may be required to develop an SOP. Consult with the regional health and safety consultants for support in conducting a plant and equipment risk assessment to develop SOPs for specific equipment, machinery or tools.

Switch off machinery and store cleaned equipment safely after use.

Use guards for protection from moving parts (e.g. belts) on equipment being used.

Use equipment that enhances safety processes (e.g. bench supports for cutting lino and wood blocks, non-slip cutting mats).

Ensure electrical leads do not pose a tripping hazard or cause an obstruction.

Air brushing equipment

Use an electric air compressor or a cylinder of compressed air as the air source when air-brushing. It is recommended that compressors for air-brushes be installed outside the room.

Use non-toxic water-based acrylics or water-based inks for air-brushing.

Gas (propane) torch

Restrict use to a particular work area. Do not move the torch under any circumstances.

Closely supervise students using propane torches.

When applying heat to leather using a propane torch, the leather must be placed on heat-resistant material and water should be kept close at hand to extinguish any ignited leather.

Do not use solvents or solvent-based dyes/lacquers near naked flames or hot objects.

Use flameproof material when gas torches are used. Bench tops should be surrounded by on 3 sides to retain heat and exclude draughts.

Screen gas cylinders from any naked flame.

Hand tools
Abrasion, cutting, carving, etching, stitching

Ensure hand tools are sharp and in good condition.

Closely supervise participants using sharp tools.

Provide additional equipment to enhance safety (e.g. non-slip bench supports for cutting lino).

Always cut away from the body. Keep hands away from sharp edges and the free hand behind the tool.


Students must not be directly involved in the use or operation of kilns. Refer to the kilns in schools. Follow the hazard alert for art kilns.

Slab rollers

Ensure hands, hair and clothes are away from cables, rollers, moving parts and pinch points when adjusting the shims, positioning the canvas/clay and/or when rolling clay.

Pottery wheel

Secure, level and balance the pottery wheel to reduce vibration and movement.

Ensure the power cord or water from the splash pan does not pose a slip or trip hazard.

Ensure hands, hair and clothes are away from moving parts and pinch points.

Pug mill

Ensure pug mills have a grate.

Printing equipment

Allow only one user at a time.

Student issues

For students in Prep to Year 6, teacher demonstration must be used as the principal teaching strategy for activities involving sharps or heat (e.g. lino cutting, molten wax).

General hazards Control measures

Gases or fumes

Comply with control measures for products containing or generating gases or fumes provided on the vendor SDS and/or safety instructions on the product label.

Always wear the personal protective equipment required by the SDS (e.g. eye and respiratory protection), including during clean-up.

Work in a well ventilated area away from sources of ignition.

Do not create artistic effects by applying heat to materials that may generate toxic fumes (e.g. chrome-tanned leather or synthetics such as polystyrene, polyurethane, nylon fabric).

Hot-wire polystyrene in well ventilated areas (e.g. using extraction fans, in a fume cupboard or outdoors).

Do not cut polyurethane by the hot-wire method. Use sharp tools only (e.g. knife).

Place drying racks in a suitably ventilated area (i.e. not a classroom), in a position of maximum airflow.

Environmental conditions

Follow the school’s sun safety strategy if participating outdoors and cease the activity if the weather becomes unfavourable (e.g. extreme temperatures, thunderstorms).

Faulty or dangerous equipment

Inspect equipment for damage/cracks before use.

Keep all cutting tools sharp, well maintained and stored in a safe manner.

Manual handling

Use correct manual handling processes when lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying.


Use hearing protection when excessive noise is generated (e.g. using air-compressors or hammering).

Student issues

Remove accessories (e.g. jewellery, lanyard) before participating.

Ensure fingernails, hair and clothing do not interfere with the activity.

Wash hands and other contaminated areas of the body with soap and water before leaving the activity site.

Sharp implements or objects

Direct all sharp objects away from body.

Use physical barriers around artworks with dangerous projections, particularly when on open display where children may be present.


Make clean-up equipment available (e.g. broom, dustpan and brush).

Manage spills immediately.

Clean brushes and equipment quickly.

Dispose of dye solutions daily.

Use waste bins that allow air to circulate or keep oily waste in water.

Dispose of oil/chemical-soaked items promptly, including emptying bins.

Wash hands immediately after the activity and whenever dust is generated. Wash clothing, including aprons, to remove hazardous materials (e.g. oils, dusts).

Last updated 18 April 2023