The ceramics industry uses potentially harmful substances and procedures so care should always be taken to comply with health and safety legislation to make the workshop as safe an environment as possible for both you and any employees you have.
Some of the key areas where legislation is likely to affect your business are listed below.
What licences does a pottery business need?
There are no licensing requirements relating specifically to craft potters.
If you plan to play background music in a shop or showroom then you'll need a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd. There is an annual fee for this which you can pay online on the PPL PRS website.
Safe kiln operation
Provided that proper controls and devices are fitted and safety procedures followed, ceramic kilns are simple and safe to use. However, there are dangers associated with both gas and electric fired kilns which you should be aware of so that you can control the risks. Make sure that your kiln is adequately ventilated and sited in such a way that surrounding structures and materials do not overheat. The kiln should be installed by a qualified and competent electrician or gas fitter and maintained regularly. If members of the public will have access to your studio you should make sure they cannot get near the kiln.
You can find more information in the ceramics section of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website and on the Pottery Crafts website.
Control of silica dust
Clay and glazes produce fine dust particles containing free crystalline silica. Breathing in silica dust can result in a lung disease known as silicosis, so anyone working in a pottery must take precautions to reduce their exposure to silica dust. Both employers and employees have duties under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations to assess the potential threat to health. You must put in place systems and equipment to reduce exposure to silica dust as far as possible and to monitor Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs). It is important to take the potential danger seriously, particularly as silica dust can be invisible to the naked eye.
There is a helpful HSE publication Control of substances hazardous to health in the production of pottery which you can download from the HSE website.
Ceramic Articles in Contact with Food Regulations
If you plan to produce ceramic products which will be used with food you should be aware that these Regulations (and similar regulations in Scotland) cover the permissible release of lead and cadmium from ceramic kitchen and table ware. Contact your local authority for details of product safety testing services available.
You should be aware that materials containing asbestos may be used in the construction of a kiln and they may give off potentially harmful asbestos fibres. The Control of Asbestos Regulations require employers to reduce employees' exposure to asbestos as far as possible and to provide respiratory protective equipment if exposure levels exceed certain limits. Visit the HSE website for more information on asbestos at work. In Northern Ireland, visit the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) website.
Protecting original designs
You should be aware of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. This gives copyright protection to original designs, including 'artistic craftsmanship'. The copying of original designs without permission is prohibited. If you produce unique designs, you can protect yourself from counterfeiting by registering your designs with the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). A single design item can be registered if required.
Personal protective equipment
People working in the ceramics industry may be exposed to several potentially harmful substances on a regular basis, for example, silica dust, lead, barium, nickel and so on, and you should consider what protective clothing you should provide to minimise the risks to health. For example, you might provide all employees with washable overalls. You should make sure your employees use the protective clothing correctly and you should arrange for it to be laundered on a regular basis. The HSE and HSENI provide a number of free guidance documents that can be downloaded from their websites.
If you decide to sell direct to members of the public you should be aware that there is a wide range of legislation that applies to retail outlets and that protects the interests of the consumer. For example, goods and services must not be misleadingly described and the retail price of goods must be clearly displayed. You will be responsible for making sure that all goods or services are fit for their intended purpose and of satisfactory quality. There's further information about consumer protection and fair trading legislation on the Gov.uk website.
If you sell goods online then there's special legislation that applies to your business. It covers matters like the information you must give on your website, customers' cancellation rights, distance selling and email privacy.
There's detailed guidance on your legal obligations to consumers, and on the requirements when selling online, on the Trading Standards Business Companion website. There's more information about email and online privacy laws on the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) website. From May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation has introduced additional protection for personal data.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland you may need a waste management licence or an exemption if you reprocess broken ware from firing into usable material. In England and Wales this process is covered by an exemption (U9 using waste to manufacture finished goods), but you will need to register the exemption. You must take care that your activities don't harm humans, animals or the environment.
The Gov.uk website provides guidance on various different aspects of environmental protection and management.
Insurance for a pottery business
Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:
- premises, premises contents, equipment and stock (raw materials, work in progress and finished pieces)
- goods in transit (being collected or delivered)
- business interruption
- employer's liability
- public liability
- product liability
- motor insurance (for business vehicles)
As with many other items of business expenditure, you can often save money by shopping around. Although many insurers can offer a complete package of business insurances, often at a competitive price, remember that you don't have to take out all of your insurance policies with the same insurer.
Fellows and Professional members of the Craft Potters Association (CPA) benefit from £5 million public liability cover as part of their membership.
When comparing insurance quotes, uncover the differences between policies by using an insurance comparison form.