Section 3: Responsibilities of teachers
Planning for and implementing safety is an integral part of technological practice. The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, along with the associated Regulations, specify the requirements for safety in workplaces. These Acts and Regulations form the basis of this manual’s recommendations. Each school is required to develop, implement, and manage a health and safety policy that is approved by the Board.
If technology education is to reflect contemporary practice, methods of safety planning should reflect relevant Regulations and Standards that underlie safe practice in and across the different technological areas.
3.1 Identifying and managing risk
The MBIE web resource on making a health and safety plan helps businesses plan for safety by identifying workplace hazards (materials or equipment) that can cause serious harm and by planning for ways to eliminate them. It identifies specific steps in effective safety planning. When applied within an educational context, these steps include:
- identifying hazards and considering the educational justification for introducing them
- assessing whether the hazard is significant and the consequences if something should go wrong
- eliminating the hazard if possible (by selecting a safer alternative if one exists)
- isolating the hazard from students if it cannot be eliminated
- minimising the risk to students if the hazard cannot be isolated.
Hazards may be associated with the equipment or materials that teachers and students will use or with their actions. Boards of Trustees are required to take all practicable steps to manage hazards. Where teachers have identified a significant hazard that the Board of Trustees cannot deal with, the Board is required to notify the Ministry of Education. If the Board fails to notify the Ministry, the Board will be liable for any penalties imposed. A sample notification document may be found in the Health and Safety Code of Practice for State and State Integrated Schools.
A number of industrial approaches to safety planning are also relevant in educational settings. One such approach is the Premises Inspection and Certification (PRINCE site assessment) programme of Responsible Care New Zealand (previously the New Zealand Chemical Industry Council), which identifies hazards associated with using and storing hazardous substances. This programme has a strong approach to the development of safe workplace attitudes and environments.
Another publication that sets out a method for identifying hazards when dealing with students is EOTC Guidelines: Bringing the Curriculum Alive. Although not specifically designed for classroom hazard control, it is based around identifying, with students, the hazards associated with a planned course of action. This document also incorporates safety of the environment.
In a school situation, hazards can be associated with inexperienced operators, either students or teachers, using equipment. Training teachers is the responsibility of the school leadership. Such training may be through a mentor system using experienced teachers or from industrial training organisations such as Competenz or The Skills Organisation.
Teachers need to be experienced enough to predict hazardous situations and be skilled enough to prevent them. Teachers involved in general technology education activities are expected to apply common sense in identifying hazards. Those teachers who work at a more advanced level need to have a thorough knowledge of their area so they can identify any hazards and plan effectively for student safety.
Students need to be taught safe procedures when working with equipment and materials. Ideally, students should receive training and be assessed in safe practice in any area of technological practice. See Appendix 5 for a list of year levels when students should use specialist machinery and equipment.
One way to ensure student capability is to design and award certificates of competency in skills that include demonstrating safety practices. An example for young students could be in soldering or using knives.
They should also be involved in identifying possible hazards and determining how to avoid or mitigate them before doing an activity. The use of an online hazard identification form is one way to engage students in safety and hazard identification.
As well as being comprehensive, instructions should be comprehensible to all students, including students with special education needs and those for whom English is a second language.
Wherever possible, instructions should be:
- given orally
- recorded in the students’ workbooks, on the whiteboard, in online reminders, or in chart form
- modelled through teacher demonstration and practice
- demonstrated through images of correct safety procedures – particularly for students with special education needs and those with English as a second language
- monitored during students’ practice and activities.
Planning for safety in technology education should include educational activities outside the classroom, such as those with community and enterprise links.
3.2 Safety planning in technology education
The planning template is designed to help teachers to:
- identify potential hazards in technological activities
- minimise risks for students and the environment.
The planning sheet is based on current industry practices, which have been modified to include classrooms and other educational settings. This planning process reflects technological practice and the integrated strands of the curriculum. In filling out and following this plan, teachers will be meeting the intention of Section 15 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. See Appendix 1 for the template.