Topic 8: Health and Safety in the Industry

Health and safety relates to all aspects of businesses since its introduction in 1974. Photographer’s should apply the working practices outlined in the act for the general safety of staff and other people employed such as models, assistants etc. Particular areas of interest include trip and slip hazards in the studio, electrical safety standards for equipment and COSHH chemical safety must be employed in the dark room environment. Darkroom chemicals can be especially toxic if ingested, inhaled or come into contact with bare skin.

  • Black and white chemicals are in the range of non-toxic to slightly toxic to most people
  • Black and white developers and colour chemicals are in the range slightly toxic to toxic

There are number of conditions related to contact with these chemicals, such as;

  • Bronchitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Increased allergic sensitivity
  • Skin rashes and a host of other more serious damage
  • It is also vital for your health that if you have any of the above, pregnant or planning to be soon, that you consult your doctor to make certain that it is safe for you to work around photographic chemistry.


Darkroom Rules:

  1. You must wear gloves or use tongs when processing black and white paper. The only place you may use your bare hands is to remove prints from the water bath or to wash prints. Developers are toxic, especially if absorbed though the skin for long periods of time.
  2. When processing colour you must wear gloves for both film and paper processing. Colour chemicals are very toxic. You may use bare hands to wash prints after they are out of the processor, but you should wear gloves to hang film. Stabiliser has Formaldehyde in it.
  3. You must bring a cloth towel (bath sizes and fluffy is preferred) to the lab if you are going to work. A towel helps greatly in cutting down chemical contamination only if you use it regularly to dry your hands, and you take it home each week to wash it and remove toxic build up of chemicals (or use disposable paper tissue).
  4. Only labbies or an instructor may mix up chemistry. If you need chemicals mixing find a labbie or instructor.
  5. Clean up any chemical spills immediately. Flood the area with cold water and wipe up with paper towels, cleaning until you are certain that the chemicals are gone. Chemistry dries, turns to powder, gets on clothes and books and then into the lungs or absorbed by the skin.
  6. No eating or drinking in the lab.
  7. If you use gloves or tongs, wash your gloves with soap before you remove them, then wash them inside and out with soap and hang to dry. Whether you use gloves or tongs, wash your hands thoroughly with soap before eating, drinking or smoking.


What to do in case of emergency:

  • INHALATION OF CHEMISTRY: get the person fresh air, call 999 and send someone for the first aider.
  • INGESTION OF CHEMISTRY: call 999 tell them what the person has ingested and follow their instructions. Check the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) for a complete breakdown of the chemical in case the paramedic needs to know more. DO NOT induce vomiting unless the 999 operator states to do so.  and send someone for the first aider.
  • ELECTRICAL SHOCK: if necessary, turn of power at the main switch or fuse box, call 999 and send someone for the first aider.
  • CHEMICALS SPLASHED INTO EYE’S: immediately flood the eye’s with cold water and continue to flood them for 15 minutes. Seek medical attention immediately.

Healthcare professionals seeking poisons information should consult:



Basic Safety Procedures:

  1. Read and follow all instructions and safety recommendations provided by the manufacturer before undertaking any process.
  2. Become familiar with all the inherent dangers associated with any chemical being used.
  3. Know the antidote for the chemicals that you are using. Predominantly display the telephone numbers for poison control, (NHS 111) and emergency treatment centres in your working area.
  4. Many chemicals can be flammable. Keep them away from sources of open heat or open flame to avoid possible explosion or fire.  Keep a fire extinguisher for both chemical and electrical fires.
  5. Work in a well ventilated space. Hazardous chemicals should be mixed under a hood or outside.
  6. Follow mixing instructions precisely.
  7. Keep all chemicals off skin, out of mouth and away from eye’s.
  8. Protect yourself. Wear thin, disposable plastic gloves, safety glasses and a plastic apron. Use a disposable face mask or respirator when mixing chemicals or if you have had any previous allergic reaction. If you have any type of reaction contact a physician immediately or suspend work with all photographic processes.
  9. Do not eat, drink or smoke when handling chemicals.
  10. Always pour acids slowly into water, NEVER POUR WATER INTO ACIDS.
  11. Avoid touching any electrical equipment with wet hands. Install shock proof outlets in darkroom.
  12. Follow instruction for proper disposal of all chemicals. Wash yourself and any equipment that has come into contact with any chemicals.
  13. Store all chemicals properly. Use safety caps or lock up chemicals to prevent other people and pets coming into contact with potential danger.


Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is a piece of legislation referring to occupational health and safety in the UK. It is responsible for enforcing the Act relevant to the occupation, including the photographic industry.

Employers Responsibilities:

  1. Decide what harm you in your job and take precautions to prevent it. I.e. risk assessment.
  2. In a way you can understand, explain how risks will be controlled and tell you who is responsible for this.
  3. Consult and work with you and your health and safety representatives in protecting everyone from harm in the workplace.
  4. Free of charge, give you the health and safety training required to complete your role.
  5. Free of charge, provide you with any equipment and protective clothing you need and ensure that it is properly looked after.
  6. Provide toilets, washing facilities and drinking water.
  7. Provide adequate first aid facilities.
  8. Report major incidents and fatalities at work to: Incident Contact Centre on 0345 3009923 and report any other diseases and dangerous incidents to
  9. Have insurance that covers you in case of injury or illness at work and display a copy of the insurance certificate where you can easily read it.
  10. Work with any other employers or contractors sharing the work place, or providing employees (such as agency workers), so that everyone’s health and safety is protected.


Employee’s Responsibilities:

  1. Follow the training you have received when using any work items your employer has given to you.
  2. Take reasonable care of  your own and other’s health and safety.
  3. Co-operate with your employer on health and safety.
  4. Tell someone (your manager, supervisor, or health and safety representative) if you think the work or inadequate precautions are putting anyone’s health and safety at risk.


Health and Safety in Photography Studio:

  • Tripping: Camera stands, props, tripods. Ensure the lights/fittings are secure on the stands and that there is sufficient space for everyone to move around without tripping/collision hazard.
  • Bumps: Hanging lights, Soft Boxes/Wafers
  • Electricity: Most of the cables are wired upwards and do not cause risk of tripping.
  • Light: Flashlight is very strong and can damage the eyes, photographers, helpers and models should avoid unnecessary exposure to flash photography. Covers need to be removed before switching on the lamps and fittings should be attached prior to the lamps heating up. When closing down never lay cables or anything else over hot lamps. Turn the lights down to their lowest and discharge the power before switching off.
  • Darkness: The low light in the studio presents a hazard in itself. Various props, wires and camera stands are less evident in the dark. When using the studio, users should not rely on their usual senses. Extra attention needs to be paid, taking an extra look around before making movements, taking notice of where things are.
  • Heat: The flashlights become incredible hot and could cause severe burns. They should never be handled.
  • Cables should always be laid where they do not create any hazards. Where this cannot be done gaffer tape should be used to secure the to the floor/walls.
  • At the end of the session all equipment should be safely removed to the edges of the studio.
  • Never leave the studio unattended.


















NATIONAL POISON INFORMATION SERVICE, (2016). Links and Information. [Online] Available from:                                                                        [Accessed: 18 April 2016]

HEALTH AND SAFETY EXECUTIVE, (1974). Health and Safety at Work ect Act 1974. [Online] Available from:                        [Accessed: 18 April 2016]

HEALTH AND SAFETY EXECUTIVE, (2009). Health and Safety Law: What You Need To Know. [Online] Available from:                              [Accessed: 18 April 2016]

UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII, (2007). Darkroom Hazards pdf. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 18 April 2016]


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