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Ceramics and Product Liability: Article or Project

Whether you deal with clay or cast molds, ceramics as a hobby can quickly become a business. If you only sell a few items for pin money or a little extra cash to support your hobby, or to generate an income, once you start selling, you open yourself up for liability. It begins innocent enough, but one must keep in mind that once a ceramic item leaves your hands, you become personally liable for its safety.

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When you sell anything that might possibly harm someone, you need to make sure that they meet all state and federal safety laws and standards A simple Google search for Safety Standards in the USA will net you a long list that covers many industries and products. For ceramists, the standards are primarily the UL (Underwriters Laboratory), the FDA and the American National Safety Institute.

The basic law states that a manufacturer is liable for any injuries caused by defects in their product which were knowingly or reasonably anticipated to cause some form of injury to the consumer and end user. Primarily, ignorance is no excuse.

As a ceramist, it is your responsibility to make sure items are food safe, oven safe, microwave safe, safely wired for electricity, safe for use with candles, etc. Decorative items are of minor concern unless they are for candles or wired for electriity, but emphasis is given to functional items like bakeware, dishes, utilityware, lamps and the like.

Liability is often subjective. Imaginative lawyers can twist the definition of ‘safe’ to meet their own standards. Many judges rule on the side of the consumer even when things are not deemed unsafe, but were misused by the consumer.

In creating your items, play it safe. If in doubt, don’t make the product or make sure it complies with ALL safety standards. Research and due diligence should be the rule of the day

Some Dos and Don’ts
Make sure your greenware or clay is safe when used for food products.
Make sure greenware is fired to appropriate temperature for food safety, oven safety, and microwave use
Verify paints and glazes are food safe when used on utility items. If you don’t know then test the surfaces.
Make sure products are used as designated by the manufacturer.
Make sure firing temperatures are appropriate for ovenware, microwave, and food items.
Make sure electrical components are UL approved.
Consider not installing wiring to lamps and electrical products. Hire someone who is licensed to do this if possible.
Include instructions with bakeware, dishes and other utility items so people will know how to use them (i.e. do not put cold bakeware from a fridge direct into a hot oven, items are or are not microwave safe, etc.)


OTHER LIABILITY

If you do chows, craft festivals, baazars, have a studio or conduct your business where the public has access, you will also need to keep some kind of coverage for personal liability in case of accidents, falls or other personal injury of individuals who enter your space.

Ceramic crafters often purchase insurance against any possible liability. Often this can be a rider on one’s home owner’s insurance, or as a separate policy. These type of policies can be purchased annually or for specific events. But anyone who sells throughout the year would be best served with a long term policy rather than an event policy.








 

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