Ra­zor sharp blades, san­ders, and drills can cre­ate the per­fect storm for a work-place ac­ci­dent; in­dus­try stats alone sug­gest work­shop-based pro­fes­sions have the high­est in­jury rate. So when Aus­tralia’s school chil­dren en­ter haz­ardous work­shops with lit­tle

The Australian Education Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - EL­IZ­A­BETH FABRI

DE­SIGN and Tech­nol­ogy has been a core pil­lar of the Aus­tralian cur­ricu­lum for years, en­com­pass­ing ev­ery­thing from wood­work to elec­tron­ics and me­tal­work classes.

While each dis­ci­pline may dif­fer in con­tent, De­sign & Tech­nol­ogy classes all pose var­i­ous risks as stu­dents as young as 12 de­part the rel­a­tive safe quar­ters of the class­room and en­ter work­shop en­vi­ron­ments for the very first time.

Re­plac­ing the typ­i­cal pen­cils, pens, cal­cu­la­tors and rulers found in class­rooms are high tech and complex tools and machinery.

But with all new en­vi­ron­ments comes the sub­se­quent les­sons; and in this case the first and fore­most in­volves safety.

For some, work­shop classes are the be­gin­ning of a life-long ca­reer in a trade, in­tro­duc­ing stu­dents to oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety sys­tems they will later find in the work­place.

For oth­ers, the classes pro­mote the devel­op­ment of prob­lem-solv­ing, cre­ative think­ing and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with tech­nolo­gies to man­age and pro­duce projects; skills they will carry onto their cho­sen field.

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Cur­ricu­lum, by the end of Year 10 stu­dents will have had the op­por­tu­nity to de­sign and cre­ate at least four de­signed so­lu­tions fo­cussed on one or more of the five dis­ci­plines.

“Stu­dents will de­velop skills to man­age projects to suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion through plan­ning, or­gan­is­ing and mon­i­tor­ing time­lines, ac­tiv­i­ties and the use of re­sources,” the Cur­ricu­lum states.

“This in­cludes con­sid­er­ing re­sources and con­straints to de­velop re­source, fi­nance, work and time plans; as­sess­ing and man­ag­ing risks; mak­ing de­ci­sions; con­trol­ling qual­ity; eval­u­at­ing pro­cesses and col­lab­o­rat­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with oth­ers at dif­fer­ent stages of the process.”

On oc­ca­sions when the learn­ing


ex­pe­ri­ence in­volves the use of po­ten­tially haz­ardous sub­stances or equip­ment, the Cur­ricu­lum said the onus was on the school.

“It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the school to en­sure that duty of care is ex­er­cised in re­la­tion to the health and safety of all stu­dents and that school prac­tices meet the re­quire­ments of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, in ad­di­tion to rel­e­vant state or ter­ri­tory health and safety guide­lines,” it states.

Duty of care in­cluded en­sur­ing tools and equip­ment met Aus­tralian stan­dards and were reg­u­larly au­dited and main­tained; la­bels and safety mes­sages were vis­i­ble and clear to stu­dents; per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment (PPE) was avail­able and worn cor­rectly; and ap­pro­pri­ate in­struc­tion and su­per­vi­sion was given.


While safety mea­sures such as this have been en­forced in school work­shops since day one, in­juries can be en­coun­tered when chil­dren or teach­ers fail to fol­low said poli­cies and pro­ce­dures.

Safe­work SA Work­place Ad­vi­sory Ser­vices man­ager Glenn Far­rell said equip­ment found in school work­shops posed a sig­nif­i­cant risk to peo­ple if not man­aged ap­pro­pri­ately.

“Each item of plant may be unique in its de­sign, but com­mon risks may in­clude elec­tri­cal, chem­i­cal, me­chan­i­cal and ra­di­a­tion exposure,” Mr Far­rell said.

“It’s im­por­tant that those in­volved in the risk as­sess­ment of plant and equip­ment are com­pe­tent to do this and utilise in­for­ma­tion from man­u­fac­tur­ers, in­dus­try, codes of prac­tice or rel­e­vant Aus­tralian stan­dards.”

Safety In­sti­tute of Aus­tralia (SIA) deputy chair­man Nathan Win­ter said while data specif­i­cally re­lated to in­juries to school chil­dren in tech­ni­cal stud­ies classes was not pub­li­cally avail­able, old ABS data to 2003 showed that the num­ber of child fa­tal­i­ties due to an in­jury had a steady down­ward trend be­tween 1983 and 2003.

“There is also data that shows the ma­jor­ity of in­juries to chil­dren in 2001 were due to falls or col­li­sions dur­ing leisure or sports ac­tiv­i­ties, as op­posed to from in­juries sus­tained in tech­ni­cal stud­ies classes,” Mr Win­ter said.

Sig­nif­i­cant in­juries were rare, but iso­lated in­ci­dents still oc­curred, Mau­rice Black­burn prin­ci­pal Pub­lic Li­a­bil­ity lawyer Dimi Ioan­nou said.

The Vic­to­ria-based lawyer said the firm re­ceived “a few en­quiries” in re­la­tion to chil­dren who suf­fer in­juries in schools, and was cur­rently work­ing on a case.

“In this par­tic­u­lar case our stu­dent was at­tend­ing a wood­work class, and the day that the teacher was pro­vid­ing in­struc­tions he was away sick on the day and they never fol­lowed up to pro­vide him with the proper pro­to­cols,” Ms Ioan­nou said.

“He wasn’t given ad­e­quate in­struc­tions on how to use the belt sander and as a re­sult of that he sliced his right in­dex fin­ger.”

Slater Gor­don Na­tional Prac­tice Group Leader in Pub­lic Li­a­bil­ity Bar­rie Wool­la­cott had also en­coun­tered cases of this na­ture.

“Not sur­pris­ingly they’re all hand re­lated in­juries,” Mr Wool­la­cott said.

“One of them was a saw bench in a wood­work­ing class; the saw bench had been mod­i­fied in some way on a pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sion and the trou­ble with the mod­i­fi­ca­tion is that it meant the safety guard failed to op­er­ate as it was sup­posed to op­er­ate.

“It was a case of com­pla­cency around the need to make sure if a mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the equip­ment was made that it needs to be still com­pli­ant with the rel­e­vant safety stan­dards.”

Mr Wool­la­cott said he had also wit­nessed a band saw ac­ci­dent that was a re­sult of in­ad­e­quate con­trol and su­per­vi­sion ex­er­cised by the class­room in­struc­tor.

“The ma­chine had been demon­strated in terms of its use and on this oc­ca­sion the stu­dent was try­ing to do too many pieces of tim­ber in the one cut,” he said.

“The re­sult be­ing that the thing sort of jammed up with him and he ended up with hand in­juries when the tim­ber was re­moved from the blade.

“The band saw case is an ex­am­ple of ‘Ok I’ve shown the kid how to use the band saw, now I’m off show­ing some­one else’ as op­posed to ‘well hang on, are you also mon­i­tor­ing that the demon­stra­tion that you gave is be­ing fol­lowed?”’

He said teach­ers should be aware that chil­dren may not be pay­ing at­ten­tion when in­struc­tions have been given, so it was im­por­tant to fol­low up with each stu­dent to en­sure the mes­sage was un­der­stood.

“I re­mem­ber this case pretty well be­cause the teacher was pretty in­cred­u­lous and pretty dis­mis­sive on the ba­sis that they had ob­vi­ously shown the stu­dent how to use the thing so he ob­vi­ously wasn’t pay­ing at­ten­tion,” he said.

“That might be right but the fact is, if you’re try­ing to give a demon­stra­tion to three or four kids around the band saw there’s a good chance that one of them might be dis­tracted and may not be get­ting it all.”


Safety in school work­shops is an is­sue that State gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and In­de­pen­dent school bod­ies take se­ri­ously.

The WA Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion said al­most all of its De­sign & Tech­nol­ogy staff re­cently com­pleted an in­ten­sive, face-to-face oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health train­ing course tai­lored to their roles.

“School staff work in line with the Depart­ment’s Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health pol­icy at all times, in­clud­ing dur­ing de­sign and tech­nol­ogy and wood­work classes,” a depart­ment spokesper­son said.

“Reg­u­lar train­ing is pro­vided to staff that use machinery or in­struct stu­dents in th­ese classes.

“School staff re­ceive pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment when­ever new equip­ment is in­stalled.”

The NSW Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion said schools in the State could take ad­van­tage of safety re­lated we­bi­nars and work­shops, and the ‘equip­ment safety in school’ database that pro­vided risk as­sess­ment and guid­ance ad­vice on the range of fixed equip­ment and por­ta­ble power tools used in school work­shops.

“The ad­vice also ad­dresses, but is not lim­ited to, pro­hibit­ing spe­cific items, lim­it­ing ac­cess to spe­cific ma­chines and the level of su­per­vi­sion re­quired,” a NSW Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son said.

“The ad­vice is en­dorsed by an in­de­pen­dent ex­ter­nal safety con­sul­tant.

“The depart­ment’s fa­cil­i­ties main­te­nance con­trac­tor en­sures that the es­sen­tial safety re­lated in­fra­struc­ture, such as dust and fume ex­trac­tion and ven­ti­la­tion, is fully op­er­a­tional.

“Fixed plant and ma­chines are in­spected and main­tained on an an­nual ba­sis; those which are deemed to be beyond eco­nomic re­pair are re­placed at no cost to the school.”

Sim­i­larly, the Queens­land Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion pub­lished the Cur­ricu­lum Ac­tiv­ity Risk As­sess­ment (CARA) ac­tiv­ity guide­lines, while South Aus­tralia had its own Plant Risk Man­age­ment pro­gram.

SIA deputy chair­man Nathan Win­ter said the South Aus­tralian Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Child Devel­op­ment had en­gaged cer­ti­fied mem­bers of SIA to per­form au­dits of plant/machinery through­out South Aus­tralian schools.

“Th­ese au­dits in­clude as­sess­ment of the plant against the lat­est rel­e­vant Aus­tralian Stan­dards,” Mr Win­ter said.

“The lat­est ver­sion of AS4024 - Safety of Ma­chine was up­dated in 2014; this stan­dard is hun­dreds of pages long and is only one of the Aus­tralian Stan­dards that needs to be considered when per­form­ing an as­sess­ment of machinery com­pli­ance with the lat­est stan­dards.

“It is ob­vi­ously not rea­son­ably prac­ti­ca­ble for ev­ery tech­ni­cal stud­ies teacher to read all ap­pli­ca­ble stan­dards and as­sess whether the machinery within their classes is fully com­pli­ant.

“Hence it makes sense to en­gage a spe­cial­ist Cer­ti­fied Pro­fes­sional mem­ber of SIA that is al­ready fa­mil­iar with the rel­e­vant stan­dards to make such an as­sess­ment.”

Mr Win­ter said rec­om­men­da­tions from such an as­sess­ment may in­clude ex­tra guard­ing placed on some machinery, or that cer­tain ma­chines be re­placed al­to­gether.

“Tech­nol­ogy is ad­vanc­ing rapidly and there are much more so­phis­ti­cated forms of in­ter­locked and light cur­tain guard­ing de­vices avail­able at more affordable prices than there has been in the past,” he said.

In­de­pen­dent schools across the coun­try were also ac­count­able to gov­ern­ing reg­u­la­tions.

“With re­gard to the In­de­pen­dent Sec­tor on th­ese mat­ters, all In­de­pen­dent Schools in West­ern Aus­tralia go through a rig­or­ous re-regis­tra­tion process through the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion Ser­vices,” As­so­ci­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Schools of WA deputy di­rec­tor Ron Gor­man said.

“There are a num­ber of stan­dards that all schools must meet; there is a spe­cific stan­dard, ‘Lev­els of Care’ that re­quires that schools pro­vide safe and healthy en­vi­ron­ments for stu­dents at all time.

“All schools there­fore have clear poli­cies and pro­ce­dures for the safety and well­be­ing of all stu­dents.” It doesn’t mat­ter what a work­shop looks like – the ap­proach to safety should be the same, Safe­work SA Work­place Ad­vi­sory Ser­vices man­ager Glenn Far­rell said.

“Iden­tify all haz­ards and do what is rea­son­able to elim­i­nate them,” Mr Far­rell said.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, work­place in­ci­dents in­volv­ing plant and equip­ment are nearly al­ways at­trib­ut­able to one or a com­bi­na­tion of the fol­low­ing, all of which are pre­ventable: lack of train­ing; lack of su­per­vi­sion; poorly main­tained plant and equip­ment; lack of, or in­ad­e­quate, guard­ing; plant and equip­ment be­ing used in­ap­pro­pri­ately; and horse­play.

“Where haz­ards can­not be re­moved, con­trols must be put in place to min­imise the risk of a stu­dent, or any other per­son, be­ing ex­posed to in­jury or harm.”

Mr Far­rell said teach­ers needed to en­sure stu­dents were ap­pro­pri­ately trained in the safe use of plant and equip­ment, in­clud­ing what to do if some­thing went wrong.

“Ef­fec­tive train­ing will en­sure stu­dents know about is­sues that will or could af­fect their health and safety and make it a safe en­vi­ron­ment in which to speak up,” he said.

“This will put them in good stead when they leave school and en­ter the work­force.”

Mr Far­rell said main­tain­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment also re­quired reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing of the space via work­place inspections, plant and equip­ment main­te­nance as per the man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions, and hav­ing a hazard, near-miss and in­jury re­port­ing process.

“Plant and equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers will rec­om­mend main­te­nance sched­ules, which may re­quire parts to be re­placed or ser­viced,” he said.

“Check­ing that guards are in place and that safety mech­a­nisms func­tion prop­erly should be per­formed prior to be­ing used each time.

“Schools should con­tin­u­ally re­view the plant and equip­ment in use to iden­tify if it com­plies with cur­rent leg­is­la­tion and that any haz­ards as­so­ci­ated with it is elim­i­nated or min­imised, so far as is rea­son­able and prac­ti­ca­ble.

“Older machinery doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean it’s not as safe as newer de­signs, but when con­sid­er­ing pur­chas­ing new plant and equip­ment, the safety fea­tures pro­vided by dif­fer­ent mod­els should be considered as part of the pur­chas­ing de­ci­sion.”

Slater and Gor­don’s Bar­rie Wool­la­cott said in an age where DIY hard­ware was read­ily avail­able to the gen­eral pub­lic, safety mea­sures taught in schools were “re­ally im­por­tant” to give chil­dren exposure.

“Com­mon sense isn’t nec­es­sar­ily an in­nate hu­man skill, it’s largely built up through our ex­pe­ri­ences and ob­ser­va­tions over time in in­cre­men­tal ways, so work­shop ex­pe­ri­ence is a great way to build up com­mon sense in the kids as com­mon sense th­ese days is be­com­ing pretty un­com­mon,” Mr Wool­la­cott said.

“I think there needs to be a grad­u­ated in­tro­duc­tion to the more dan­ger­ous equip­ment so kids aren’t ex­posed from dan­ger­ous equip­ment from the get go.

“Teach­ers ought not to be afraid to en­cour­age and per­mit in­cre­men­tal exposure to dan­ger­ous equip­ment.”


The re­spon­si­bil­ity of safety in school work­shops lies with the school.

Schools should con­tinue to re­view equip­ment to en­sure it meets Aus­tralian safety stan­dards .

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