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State of the art workplace safety.

By Angela Unsworth

Did you know that today, April 15, is World Art Day and also the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci? On the off chance that you don’t know who he is, he is most-widely known as the creator of the Mona Lisa among other various paintings and sculptures.

He was born in 1452 and was an apprentice to an artist in 1466 at the age of fourteen. Like you, he was a young worker, but unlike you,  his workplace probably had few safety regulations in place.

Each morning, Leonardo would wake up with the sun in his eyes—how did people wake up on time for work before alarm clocks?—roll out of bed and then into a studio that had a variety of workplace hazards. Using the occupational health and safety website as a guide, I’ve identified some potential hazards he may have faced:

  1. Chemical
  • Creative mediums – depending on what kind of material he was using for his different projects (plaster, metal, clay, oil, acrylic, etc.), there would be different chemicals used.
  • Cleaning materials – artists use a lot of chemicals to clean the paints from their brushes.
  • Prepping materials – artists also use a lot of chemicals to prime their canvases.

Who knows what kind of studio he laboured in? The above are just a few considerations for the materials he created with, but there are other things I wonder about like, what kind of ventilation the studio had or, if he worked outdoors, what kind of weather conditions did he work in?

  1. Physical
  • Weight – Leonardo created sculptures using heavy stone. I don’t know if he knew the technique for proper lifting, but even with that knowledge, there is only so much weight that you can safely lift.
  • Ergonomic chairs – some artists sit in front of their paintings for hours. I doubt Leonardo had an ergonomic chair to ensure he sat with correct posture.

It’s hard to know what Leonardo’s workplace was like and what kinds of rights and safety regulations he had. But, you have the advantage of being born and living in the era of the internet and workers’ rights! You can educate yourself on what your rights are and what is a safe or unsafe workplace.

Celebrate Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday today by giving yourself the gift of safety.

We have some posters in the LRTs and transit stations in Edmonton and Calgary. Keep an eye out for these and if you see one, take a picture and share it with us on twitter @HeadsUpAB!

Do you have any stories about workplace safety you’d like to share? Comment or tweet us @HeadsUpAB.

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