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Ministry of Education.
Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore to tātou waka e ū ki uta

Section 1: Legal requirements and responsibilities

A student reading from a piece of paper

The legal requirements and responsibilities of schools for the safety of staff and students are covered by several pieces of legislation. These include the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and its subsequent Amendments, the Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Regulations (1998, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009), and the Health and Safety Code of Practice for State and State Integrated Schools.

The Acts of Parliament and their Regulations form the framework for safety planning in this area and must be complied with. Health and Safety in Schools: Guidelines to the Health and Safety in Employment Act and The Health and Safety Code of Practice for State and State Integrated Schools and the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories interpret the Acts and Regulations (some of which were designed for industrial situations) and give guidelines on how legal requirements can be met in an educational setting.

The relevant Acts, Regulations, guidelines, and codes of practice are listed below.



Guidelines and Codes of Practice

1.1 Legislation affecting technology education

The following summaries identify the legislation that impacts on safety in technology education.

Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992

The Labour Group of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment administers the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and all associated Amendments, Regulations, and Codes of Practice to provide for the protection of employees and to promote good health and safety management by employers. (As of April 2013, the government is looking to establish a new workplace health and safety agency. Check the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment link above for the latest information.)

Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees, and in particular, shall take all practicable steps to:

a. provide and maintain for employees a safe working environment; and

b. provide and maintain for employees while they are at work facilities for their safety and health; and

c. ensure that plant used by any employee at work is so arranged, designed, made, and maintained that it is safe for the employee to use; and

d. ensure that while at work employees are not exposed to hazards arising out of the arrangement, disposal, manipulation, organisation, processing, storage, transport, working, or use of things –

  1. in their place of work; or
  2. near their place of work and under the employer’s control; and

e. develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that may arise while employees are at work.

(Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, Section 6)

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 applies to employees in schools in the same way it applies to a wide variety of businesses and organisations. In the school setting, the employer is the Board of Trustees (as an entity), and the employee is any adult paid to work for the Board.

The health and safety of students is covered in two sections of the Act. The safety of students in classroom situations is covered by Section 15, while Section 16 covers students outside classroom situations, such as those on community visits.

Section 15: Duties of employers to people who are not employees

This section of the Act states:

Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure that no action or inaction of any employee while at work harms any other person.

(Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, Section 15)

This section applies to students while they are on the school premises.

Section 16: Duties of persons who control places of work

Section 16 of the Act covers other people (not necessarily employees) in a workplace and also people in the vicinity of a workplace.

This applies when students, their families, or whānau are outside the school visiting workplaces, cultural settings, and so on.

This section places responsibility on employers to warn visitors of significant hazards on the worksite. This warning needs to be only verbal and given once. If this is done, responsibility for the safety of visitors is passed to the visitors themselves. In a situation where a group of students, their families, or whānau are visiting an enterprise site, the warning needs to be given only to the person in charge of that group.

Section 25: Recording and notification of accidents and serious harm

Recording accidents and serious incidents is mandatory under Section 25(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995

The Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995 outline employers’ safety responsibilities to their employees, and many are not relevant to a school situation. The following Regulations have a direct bearing on technology education practice.

Regulation 4: Duties in respect of facilities at every place of work

Regulation 4 sets out the requirements of employers to supply:

  • hand washing facilities
  • first-aid facilities
  • lighting facilities that enable employees to perform their work and move about safely
  • ventilation providing either fresh or purified air
  • facilities for controlling atmospheric conditions, including air velocity, radiant heat, and temperature
  • facilities to control any atmospheric contaminants as closely as possible to their source
  • facilities for treating or carrying off any atmospheric contaminants to minimise the likelihood of its harming any employee.

Regulation 11: Noise

This Regulation includes a technical definition of the maximum noise level that employees may be subjected to. The limit is defined in terms of both volume and length of exposure to noise.

This states that employers must ensure that no employee is exposed to noise above the following levels:

  • a noise level equivalent to 85 dB (decibels) for eight hours
  • a peak noise level of 140 dB.

If noise levels rise above these limits, personal hearing protection devices, such as earmuffs, must be worn.

Schools should promote safe work practices and encourage the wearing of earmuffs or earplugs in any situation where the noise level makes it difficult for people to hear each other, such as in workshops, science laboratories, or visits to industrial sites. This may include expecting students to wear earmuffs or earplugs when using machines or when they are near machines.

Regulation 13: Overcrowding

Overcrowding can become a safety issue when too many people or things are gathered in one area. Teachers should manage technology classroom spaces so that students are not put at risk by having too many people moving around the room or in one part of the room. Similarly, classroom materials can become a safety issue if too many are crowded into a space where students are working. Examples are when extension cords or machinery are used in the classroom.

Section 24.1 of the Health and Safety Code of Practice for State and State Integrated Schools describes standards for overcrowding in teaching areas – 1.5 m2 for each year 1–8 student and 1.75 m2 for each year 9–13 student.

Regulation 16: Raised objects

Where students or teachers work under a heavy object that has been raised off the ground, supports must first be placed under it to prevent it falling.

Regulation 18: Woodworking and abrasive grinding machinery

This type of machinery must be used with safety devices. Details of the types of machinery and their safety devices are listed in Schedule 1 of the Regulations.

Regulation 59: Presence of young persons

This Regulation has implications for community and enterprise visits. It prohibits anyone under the age of 15, at any time, from being in an area where goods are being prepared or manufactured for trade or sale.

There are exemptions (under sub-clause 2), which allow young people in these areas if they are:

  1. in any part of the area to which the public has access
  2. under the direct supervision of an adult
  3. on a guided tour
  4. in any office
  5. in any part of the area used only for selling goods or services.

Regulations 66 and 67: Duties of designers, manufacturers, and suppliers of plant

In technology education, these two provisions become important when students use “plant” to design and develop technological outcomes. Teachers need to take steps to ensure that the plant they provide for students to use and any technological outcomes students design comply with these regulations.

Plant in the context of technology education refers to equipment (fixed or portable) that is used by teachers and students or designed by students. Examples of plant include such things as: desks, sewing machines, bench saw, chairs, disc grinder. 

Regulation 66 (1)

1. Every designer of plant shall take all practicable steps:

a. to design any plant in accordance with applicable ergonomic principles, including (without limitation) any such principles in relation to the placement of any power control; and

b. to design any plant in such a way that, if the plant is:

  1. manufactured in accordance with the design; and
  2. used for the purpose for which it was designed; and
  3. installed, adjusted, used, cleaned, maintained, repaired, and dismantled in accordance with the designer’s instructions; there is no likelihood that the plant will be a cause or source of harm to any person, or the likelihood that the plant will be such a cause or source of harm is minimised as far as practicable.

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996

The purpose of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 is to protect people and the environment by ensuring the management of hazardous substances and new organisms. The Act is administered by the Ministry for the Environment and implemented by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). There are a number of Regulations that support the Act, and teachers should refer to these if they are planning to use hazardous substances during technology education.

Hazardous substances

A hazardous substance is any material that can harm people or the environment. As well as chemicals used in school laboratories, dishwasher detergents, methylated spirits, bleaches, and petrol can all be dangerous or poisonous. The Hazardous Substances (Classification) Regulations 2001 give further descriptions of hazardous substances.

Safe procedures with chemical substances

Many technological investigations involve the use of chemicals. Section 6 of the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories gives details relating to senior secondary school students’ use of specialised chemicals, safe storage, handling practices, and the disposal of unwanted residues.

Appendix 3 in the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories describes forbidden chemicals. Technology teachers should become familiar with this information before planning any teaching.

New organisms

The Act requires all school biotechnology investigations that involve transgenic manipulation to be approved by the EPA New Zealand. This approval needs to be sought for the genetically modified organism that will be produced, not the technique used to produce it. Information about how to seek approval for new organisms can be obtained from the EPA Hazardous Substances section.

The appendix in the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories provides information on substances allowed in schools and those that are prohibited by the Ministry of Education.

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Regulations that support the Act:

  • define a genetically modified organism
  • specify how to assess the risk from developing genetically modified organisms.

Health and Safety in Schools – Guidelines to the Health and Safety in Employment Act and The Health and Safety Code of Practice for State and State Integrated Schools

The Health and Safety Code of Practice for State and State Integrated Schools forms part of the terms and conditions of property occupancy that Boards of Trustees must follow. It defines their obligations in relation to a range of health and safety matters which relate primarily to the physical environment of a school.

The Code of Practice covers areas of relevance to technology education, such as:

  • protective clothing and equipment (26:1)
  • lighting (18:1)
  • ventilating systems (34:1)
  • heating (16:1)
  • removal of steam, fumes, and dust (34:2)
  • no eating and drinking in certain areas (21.3)
  • first-aid facilities (13)
  • access and egress (exits) (3)
  • overcrowding (24)
  • hazardous substances (15)
  • storage of materials generally (31)
  • persons working under loads (19:1)
  • carrying heavy loads (19:2)
  • confined spaces (7)
  • laboratories (17:1)
  • noise (22).

The Guidelines to the Health and Safety in Employment Act that accompany the Code also cover:

  • the Board of Trustees’ duties to non-employees (10)
  • the employee’s duties and participation (11).

Safety specifications outlined in the Code are binding over all school practices, so teachers need to understand and use them.

Disposing of hazardous materials

If a technology programme requires the use of hazardous materials, there could be a need to dispose of any material. The disposal of hazardous waste is covered in the Responsible Care New Zealand (formerly the New Zealand Chemical Industry Council) Preparing for a Chemical Emergency: Approved Code of Practice.

The Code of Practice describes the mandatory emergency preparation of what to do and how to do it. It draws from a range of legislation including the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, the Building Act 2004, and the Fire Safety and Evacuation of Buildings Regulations 2006.

1.2 Other legislation and Regulations

Because technology education covers a wide variety of subjects and experiences, the requirements of a number of other Acts and Regulations may also be relevant:


There are a number of situations in which animals could be included in a technological setting. Schools should have an animal ethics policy that meets the legal requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (see the Guide to the Animal Welfare Act on the Ministry for Primary Industries website). Any procedure that involves interfering with the normal physiological, behavioural, or anatomical integrity of any vertebrate animal requires approval from an animal ethics committee. Section 6 of the Act defines “animal”, and the policy paper The Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Teaching: Users Guide to Part 6 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 explains this section. When animals are used in any technology investigation, students must adhere to the Code of Ethical Conduct for the Use of Animals in school programmes and apply to their local animal ethics committee before starting any such investigation.

Details of this process can be obtained from:

National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee c/o Ministry of Primary Industries
PO Box 2526, Wellington
Phone: 0800 00 83 33 or (04) 474 4100

Fax: (04) 474 4133 Website: www.mpi.govt.nz

Care for animals must include:

  • a secure cage or container, with space for the animal to move around freely
  • adequate food, water, and shelter
  • placing the animal away from draughts and direct sunlight
  • providing adequate, clean bedding and changing it regularly
  • removing and seeking veterinary attention for unhealthy animals
  • appropriate weekend and holiday care
  • checking that, when animals go home with students, responsibility is taken for the animals’ security and welfare.

Animals caught in the wild cannot be kept at school without a permit. They may be carrying diseases such as tuberculosis. It is good practice to encourage students to wear disposable gloves when handling animals. If students do not use gloves, they must wash their hands before and after handling any animals, and existing cuts and abrasions should be covered.

Under the Wildlife Act 1953, it is illegal to keep any species of native animals without a permit from the Department of Conservation.

Local authorities

Some local authority bylaws made under the Local Government Act 1974 also apply to issues of health and safety in technology education. Because these bylaws vary from place to place, Boards of Trustees and teachers should consult their local authority for advice.

New Zealand Standards

Many New Zealand and Australian Standards cover aspects of technology education and also need consideration as they apply to general classroom practice.

Electrical equipment (mains powered)

AS/NZS 3760:2010 In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment requires all mains-powered electrical equipment in a classroom to have an annual safety check. All electrical equipment, including plugs, sockets, and extension leads should be in serviceable condition. Electrical equipment borrowed from another source for short periods should also be checked before use.

Wherever practicable, the mains electrical supply should be drawn through an isolating transformer or RCD (Residual Current Devices) to provide safety extra-low voltage (SELV).

If portable power boards are used, these should be protected from overloading. Switches, sockets, and associated power supply fixtures in the room should be regularly checked for damage, such as cracks and exposed wiring. All flexes and cords should be routinely checked to ensure they are not cracked or burnt.

1.3 School policies and procedures

Boards of Trustees and teachers should be aware that the National Administration Guidelines also make reference to health and safety.

National Administration Guideline 4 (c) states that each Board of Trustees is required to:

  • comply with the negotiated conditions of any current asset management agreement, and
  • implement a maintenance programme to ensure that the school’s buildings and facilities provide a safe, healthy learning environment for students.

National Administration Guideline 5 states that each Board of Trustees is also required to:

a. provide a safe physical and emotional environment for students

b. comply in full with any legislation currently in force or that may be developed to ensure the safety of students and employees.

Boards of Trustees should have policies and procedures that ensure the health and safety of staff and students. These policies and procedures should link with others within the school, such as those for:

  • accident reporting
  • animal ethics
  • education outside the classroom
  • hazard identification and assessment
  • waste disposal.

School staff are required to adopt safety policies and procedures that have been developed in conjunction with the Board of Trustees. In turn, Boards of Trustees are required to provide adequate safety training, safety facilities, and safety resources and to allow time for safety procedures to be implemented.

It is important that all technology staff accept the policies, practices, and procedures to promote and implement safety. In all safety situations, common sense should prevail.

Accident recording, reporting, and investigating

By recording accidents, schools can identify patterns. If minor accidents occur often in a particular situation, this can be a sign that some aspect of safety planning has not been addressed adequately, and safety procedures should be reviewed before a more serious accident occurs. For this reason, students and teachers should be encouraged to report all accidents. Information on safety documentation, including report forms, is available on the Ministry of Education website.

Emergency procedures


Teachers need to be prepared for such emergencies as minor chemical spills, small fires, electric shock, and students injuring themselves. The school should have policies and procedures for dealing with these problems and guidelines for when to contact emergency services. All students and staff should know the procedure to follow in response to an accident. MBIE – Labour Group recommends that a telephone with unrestricted access, capable of dialling emergency services and contacting other parts of the school, be readily available.

Emergency telephone numbers or instructions must be posted by each telephone and should include:

  • Fire Service
  • ambulance
  • hospital
  • Police

For hazardous materials, including chemicals:

There should be first-aid kits in all technology classrooms, and teachers should be trained in first aid. In larger schools, where a nurse is present, classroom first-aid kits need be only minimal, with any serious injury being referred to the nurse. Suggested contents of a first-aid kit can be found in Health and Safety in Schools – Guidelines to the Health and Safety in Employment Act and The Health and Safety Code of Practice for State and State Integrated Schools.


The Fire Safety and Evacuation of Buildings Regulations 2006 require schools to have a fire evacuation scheme under Section 21A of the Fire Service Act 1975. Teachers should be aware of the school’s policy, and teachers and students should be aware of the procedures to be followed in the event of a fire. Boards of Trustees are responsible for ensuring that the fire-safety equipment meets minimum standards. Appropriate signs must be provided for all fire equipment, and teachers must take responsibility for ensuring that fire equipment is serviced on the required dates and is refilled and/or replaced immediately after use.

Natural disasters

Boards of Trustees are required to have policies and procedures in place in case of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a flood. Technology teachers should be aware of these policies. 

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