Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

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

Section 9: Safety in technology for resistant materials and textiles

A student using a lathe

9.1 Information for all teachers, including safety in non-specialist rooms

Teachers in resistant materials and textiles technology should have a thorough knowledge of safety when working with these materials. This includes knowledge of materials and their properties as well as production techniques and processes. If this is not the case, teachers should seek advice from a specialist. Each school is required to develop, implement, and manage health and safety policies and procedures that are approved by the Board of Trustees. These policies and procedures are expected to be adhered to in addition to implementing the recommendations in this manual.

Before working with students, teachers need to do a risk analysis to identify any hazards in relation to:

  • the people involved, resource personnel, and the intended end users of the outcomes produced (including cultural and ethical considerations)
  • the materials and equipment used, including energy sources and wastes associated with the process
  • the environment, for both the production process and location where the final outcome will be placed.

Students should also be made aware of the importance of risk analysis. This should become an integral part of their classroom practice.

In the areas of resistant materials and textiles technology, the teacher’s role in implementing safe practices is vital. Teachers should give careful instructions that are supported by clear, practical demonstrations.

Students’ behaviour with machines and equipment must be constantly monitored. Therefore, teachers need to be fully aware of the dangers associated with each piece of machinery and the materials, know and use safe practices, and be able to plan ahead for the safety of students.

Full safety instructions must be given before any student uses any machine. This should include demonstrating any safety equipment and modelling safe working practices.

Only one person at a time should use a machine, including starting and stopping it. The only exception to this is when another person is needed to help with heavy objects. As a guide, other students should stay a minimum of 1 metre away from a machine when it is operating.

Students need to be taught how to prepare for work by:

  • working out the correct order of operations before they begin
  • deciding on the correct machine to do the task
  • stacking or storing the required material in a convenient, safe place
  • checking materials for any potential handling hazards.

Animal-related products

If students are involved in technological activities that develop products for animals, such as a pet food containers or animal activity products, and wish to trial its suitability with animals, schools should have an animal ethics policy that meets the legal requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 or any other legislation. See Section 6: Safety in biotechnology for further details about animal safety requirements. 

Using machinery

All machines, whether used with resistant materials or textiles, can seriously injure the operator if used incorrectly, so they must be correctly installed, safely guarded, and maintained. All permanently wired machines should be anchored to the floor, and electrical machines on a wooden floor must be correctly earthed.

Note: In years 7–10 in particular, teachers must check the set-up of all machines before students switch them on.


In some areas of technology education, it is difficult to predict what outcomes students will want to develop. Students should not have to limit their choice because the school does not have the facilities. For one-off projects, teachers should consider outsourcing. The issues of cost versus choice should always be considered, as well as the availability of a reputable supplier.

In some situations, the safety of the end user relies on the quality of the workmanship of a product during its development. If teachers are not confident that students have all the skills needed to manufacture a product that is safe for the end user, outsourcing should be encouraged, for example:

  • for any equipment where personal safety depends on the manufacture or repair of a product and/or part
  • for any repair to bicycles or cars. (In this case, a reputable and qualified agent should be sought. This also applies to the modification of parts.)

Classroom requirements

The school’s materials technology room should be large enough to ensure there is no overcrowding. Bench layout should enable the easy flow of students around the room, with aisles, entries, and exits kept free of obstructions and all benches anchored to the floor. Machine bay areas need to have enough space so that bulk materials from storage can be broken down for student use.

It is difficult to ensure that benches and machines will be at a suitable working height for all students. Some ergonomic consideration needs to be given to varying the heights of benches and machines. Students must stand on stable platforms to operate machines.

The risk of accidents increases in rooms with poor heating and ventilation. Students should be able to work in a comfortable temperature without having to wear extra clothing, like coats. Ventilation must distribute fresh air without creating draughts. This may not be enough to remove dust and fumes, so exhaust equipment should be positioned to remove polluted air from hot-metal bay areas, finishing rooms, and spray booths.

Floors should have non-slip surfaces, be maintained in good condition, and be free of tripping hazards.

Materials that are forbidden in all classrooms

Appendix 2 of the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories lists substances forbidden in New Zealand schools.

Materials and equipment that can be used in all classrooms

The following materials are the ones most likely to be found in schools. For comprehensive details about their safe use, teachers will need to do their own research on the correct way to handle them before deciding whether they are appropriate to use in the classroom.

All materials used in classrooms must be stored safely, especially in specialist rooms. All students’ project work should be stored in lockable cupboards. Do not store work above head height because it could shift during an earthquake. For safe storage of chemicals and other materials, consult the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories.

Adhesives (glues)

Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for adhesives. Restrict access to glues that could be used for solvent abuse. Whenever handling resins, solvents, and a number of adhesives, wear safety glasses, aprons, rubber gloves, and face masks. Treat resins with respect because many adhesives are chemically active or are activated when a catalyst is added, such as superglue. After working with resins and adhesives, always wash hands to avoid the risk of dermatitis. Store adhesives in clearly locked containers in lockable cupboards.

Cleaning agents

Store all cleaning agents, including turpentine and methylated spirits, close to the floor in a lockable cupboard labelled with a hazard warning. If the school stores more than 15 litres of flammable materials in one place, keep them in a dangerous goods store.


The term “plastic” can describe a wide range of synthetic, composite, and natural resin materials. Many of these materials are worked by moulding, by heating, or by chemical treatment. They can also be worked with most hand tools, but sanding by hand is preferable. When working plastic or bending it with heat, handle it with cotton or leather (not rubber) gloves to prevent cuts. Because solvents, cements, resins, and catalysts used with plastics can give off toxic fumes, students should use as little as possible. Provide adequate ventilation and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.


When polystyrene is cut with a hot wire, dangerous fumes are given off. It is recommended that polystyrene is cold cut with saws. If a hot wire is used, it must be carried out in a well-ventilated space, and students must use a half-mask respirator. Hot-wire cutters must be operated from a battery source or through a transformer.

Recycled materials

A variety of reused or recycled materials can be useful in technology education. All recycled material should be clean and hygienic. When using aluminium or tin cans, ensure they have no sharp edges.

Craft knives

These should be issued by the teacher and used under supervision. Students should be discouraged from using their own craft knives in class.

Place a board under the object to be cut to prevent the knife from slipping and injuring the student and damaging the work surface. If cutting a straight edge, students should use a safety ruler, never an ordinary ruler. Before students use craft knives, they must be taught how to use them correctly and safely.

Guillotine (paper type)

Because these cannot be fully guarded, students need to be fully instructed in their use. If there is any doubt about a student’s ability to use this device safely, an older student, parent helper, or teacher should do the cutting.

Hot-glue gun

Use these with care. Teachers who are concerned about their students’ ability should encourage them to wear a glove on the hand that holds the work or have an adult or senior student help them. Use safety holders for glue guns when they’re not in use.


Carry scissors by the blades, with the blades shut, and pass them to another person handle first. Store scissors safely with handles readily available and blades pointing away.

Electrical safety

Black-heat appliances, soldering irons, and electric irons should have a red indicator light to indicate when they are switched on and warming up. All machine switches should comply with electrical Regulations. Emergency machine-stop systems must be maintained – the use of foot or knee-stop buttons on machinery is an important safety device.

All electrical equipment and installations must comply with local authority and safety Regulations. A registered electrician must carry out all wiring and electrical maintenance except for replacing a fuse. The following defects must be investigated immediately and corrected by a registered electrician:

  • machinery or equipment that gives electric shocks, however slight
  • overheated switches or plugs
  • sparking or spluttering from cords or plugs
  • broken or frayed leads or cords
  • broken switches.

Regulations require that all electrical appliances including portable power tools, isolating transformers, and RCDs (Residual Current Devices) used in schools are:

  • inspected and tested before use
  • inspected before being used after repair
  • inspected at least every 12 months
  • tagged at inspection – each piece of equipment should be tagged, and all inspections should be carried out by a registered electrician or by an approved power tool agent
  • recorded in a school register of all electrical equipment. 

9.2 Safety for resistant materials and equipment in specialist areas

The tools, materials, machinery, and processes used in schools’ workshop facilities are similar to those found in industry. If used correctly, this equipment is safe, but there is always potential for hazard.

Teachers employed in this area must be fully trained in the use of this equipment. This includes having an understanding of the equipment’s maintenance. Users of these machines must wear protective clothing, safety glasses, and where required, earmuffs or earplugs. They should also use correctly designed push sticks where necessary.

No machine should be left unattended when it’s running.

When operating machines, follow all the safety guidelines mentioned above for supervising students, using correct operating procedures, and carrying out safety requirements.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 does not set qualifying ages for the use of machinery and equipment. The Act states that a person may use a particular machine providing they have adequate training. However, in the interests of student safety, teachers should restrict students’ access to some machines and equipment until they are old enough to understand the need to adhere to safety procedures and/or are physically capable of using the equipment.

A list of recommended minimum year levels for using machinery and equipment is provided in Appendix 5

Resistant materials used in specialist rooms


In sheet form, aluminium has sharp edges, as do most metals. Therefore, care needs to taken when handling aluminium in and around hot metal areas.


When bone is worked, it gives off fine dust that can be carcinogenic. Adequate ventilation is required, and each student should wear a dust mask that covers the nose and mouth. Teachers must apply cultural considerations when using bone.


Refer to the notes about steel on page 47.


Copper has sharp edges in sheet form, and it hardens when worked. It occasionally requires annealing to soften it.


Fibreboard, such as medium density fibreboard (MDF), has sharp edges. Take care when shifting large sheets. Dust from fibreboard can be a fire danger when it is held in a waste extraction system because heat can build up, with explosive results. Students should not use a sanding machine with fibreboard because the fine dust particles that are released contain adhesive.

Finishing materials

Finishing materials, such as enamel paints, varnishes, thinners, and solvents, are highly flammable. Store these products securely and away from heat. See cleaning agents (page 44) for information on storing large amounts of flammable materials.


Fluxes are used in conjunction with solder and give off poisonous fumes. Use them only in a well-ventilated space and when wearing protective clothing. If spattering occurs, wash the flux off immediately.


Where glass has been cut, take special care to clean up the workbenches. Glass is a hazardous waste and should be placed in a separate waste bin. Wearing safety glasses is recommended when using glass.

Glass-reinforced plastics (GRP)

Conditions for working with GRP are similar to those for plastics. Use safety glasses, aprons, gloves, and face masks. Because resins and catalysts require careful handling, follow the manufacturer’s instructions at all times. Although glass fibre is non-combustible, most other materials used in GRP are. Store GRP in a lockable cupboard.


Lead is heavy in large quantities. Do not breathe lead dust because the effects are cumulative and may have serious consequences. Lead is one of only two metals that may be cast in school workshops.


Clean up any oil spillage immediately. Oily rags should be laid out flat until they are dry and fumes have evaporated. They can then be put into a rubbish bin. Scrunched up oily rags can self-ignite if left in a rubbish bin.

Sheet metals

All sheet metals should be stored flat and handled with gloves.


Some solder contains flux, which is a potential irritant and can trigger reactions in some students, especially asthmatics, so ventilation is required. Simple ventilation systems can be set up in a dedicated area using a range hood and extractor fan arrangement, with soldering activity limited to this area. Active carbon filter fans are another option. These can be purchased from an electronics supplier. A further protection for students is for the teacher to roll solder into coils and insert them into small plastic containers with a hole in the lid so students can avoid handling the material.


Keep solvents away from heat and store them in cool conditions. Label containers of solvents clearly. Do not mix unknown materials. When wiping up spills, take care to use clean rags so that materials are not accidentally mixed during the cleaning process.


Steel is heavy to handle in large quantities. Handle it with gloves because it can be dirty and often has sharp edges and burrs.

Tanalised timber

Where students are designing and manufacturing products to be used by children, they should not use tanalised timber, because it contains poisonous chemicals.


Timber should be racked in secure storage away from work areas, with heavy timbers stored close to the floor.

Take care when shifting long lengths of timber. Watch for handling defects, such as splinters and sharp edges, and cut out loose knots, which are a danger when passing timber through a thicknesser.

Storage of resistant materials

In specialist areas, a major safety concern is the storage of large amounts of bulky materials.

An adequate rack system, away from work areas, needs to be in place to store sheet materials – wood, metal, plastics, and long lengths of timber and steel.

Chemicals should be stored in accordance with the hazardous substances requirements (see Safety and Science: A Guidance Manual for New Zealand Schools, section 4.2).

When large quantities of materials are being shaped or joined, dust or fumes can build up. Adequate ventilation as well as dust extraction is important, and classroom spaces must be set up to accommodate this.

Machine installation and maintenance

Machines must be installed in locations where accidentally ejected material will not injure students.

Because of the danger of flying material, students should not be able to stand in line with work coming off a machine. This applies, in particular, to circular saws, planers, and lathes. Students should also not look directly into the openings of a thicknesser in operation.

Regular maintenance and overhauling of machines is an essential part of safety. Unsafe equipment must be identified, and the head of department or teacher in charge must be notified about it. Unsafe equipment must be taken out of service.

Using machines safely

The main rules for using machines safely are as follows:

  • Never wear loose clothing, including loose sleeves, ties, or scarves, when working with machinery.
  • Tie back and cover long hair.
  • Wear solid footwear, not sandals, jandals, or open-toed shoes.
  • Remove rings and other jewellery.
  • Where processes have a particular hazard,
     use protective clothing, safety glasses, or noise protection as required.
  • Plan and prepare correctly before operating a machine. This includes having a full knowledge of the machine, its hazards, and safe procedures for operating it. Never use any machine until you have been properly trained in how to use it.
  • Use machinery for only the purpose that it was designed for.
  • Check that all guards are in place.
  • Check constantly for any defects. If you find any, isolate the machine and notify the person responsible for maintaining it.
  • Obtain and use correct safety equipment.

Note: All metals, when drilled mechanically or turned, leave waste called swarf. This is dangerous to handle because it has sharp edges. Clean up swarf with a brush and shovel.

Machine hazards

Examples of dangerous parts of machines are:

  • revolving shafts, spindles, mandrels, bars, machine shafts, drilling machine parts, drills, and chucks
  • revolving gears
  • belts and pulleys
  • chains and gears
  • connecting rods, links, and rotating wheels
  • reciprocating fixed parts
  • control handles and fixed parts
  • projections on revolving shafts, keys, set screws, and cotter pins
  • rotating parts and open pulleys
  • revolving cutting tools and saws
  • reciprocating knives and guillotines
  • abrasive wheels
  • endless cutting machines.

Methods of addressing some of these hazards include the following practices. 

Using colour coding

Workshop equipment should be colour coded according to NZS 5807:1980 Code of practice for industrial identification by colour, wording or other coding to identify the dangerous aspects of machines.

Colour name Colour paint reference number Meaning
Safety red BS 5252 Colour number: 04 Stop/danger – to indicate firefighting equipment and its location
Safety yellow 13S 5252 Colour number: 08 Caution – warning of danger
Safety green BS 5252 Colour number: 14 Safety – to identify the location of safety equipment, emergency escape routes, and medical/first-aid equipment
Safety blue (auxiliary blue) BS 5252 Colour number: 18 Mandatory action or information – for example, “Wear safety goggles” or telephone location

Note: Blue is used only as a component of a sign and considered a safety colour only if used in conjunction with a circle.

Using machine guards

NZS 5801:1974 Specification for the construction and fitting of machinery guards states that:

  1. Fixed guards on machines that are occasionally removed only for repairing or maintaining the machine may be painted the same colour as the machine.
  2. Movable guards, such as saw guards and thicknesser guards, which must be adjusted for each particular job, should be painted safety yellow.
  3. However, the inside of all guards, whether fixed or moveable, should be painted safety yellow.

Isolating switches should be fitted to all machines so that they cannot be switched on accidentally. Because the basic principle in guarding machinery is that all moving or dangerous parts need to be covered, adjustable guards should be fitted to all machines. Machines that must be fitted with guards are listed in Appendix 3.

Band saw and scroll saw

Carry out adjustments with the machine turned off. Before students use a band or a scroll saw, teachers must:

  • fit and adjust the blades to the correct tension
  • adjust tool guides and guards to be just clear of work
  • warn students to keep their hands well clear of the cut line and to take care with sharp corners or curves so as not to jam the blade. 

CNC machinery

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines include lathes, routers, laser cutters, and milling machines. Each machine is different, and it is essential that students receive quality instruction before attempting to use any CNC equipment (even though most modern CNC machines are designed so that the cutting tool will not start unless the guard is in position). Many CNC machines automatically lock the guard in position whilst the cutter is shaping material. The guard can only be opened if the cutter has stopped. This means that the student cannot be hurt by flying pieces of material.

Never operate a CNC machine without correct training or without consulting the operator’s manual for that machine and control type.

Never attempt to program a CNC machine without correct training or without consulting the programmer’s manual for that machine and control type.

CNC routers used for shaping materials such as woods and plastics should have built in extraction. Dust can be very dangerous if inhaled and can also cause eye irritation. If a CNC router is fully enclosed, dust cannot escape. If an extraction unit is attached, the dust is removed automatically.

CNC routers often have a single phase electrical supply. A single phase electrical supply can be plugged in to any available electrical supply socket that includes an RCD.

These are the most important considerations when operating CNC machines:

  • Keep the area around CNC machines clear of obstacles.
  • Stack material where you can reach it but where it is clear of the moving parts of the machine.
  • Check that tools are sharp and set correctly.
  • Check that the correct tool data is entered into the CNC program.
  • Make sure that all guards are in position while the machine is in operation.
  • Make sure that all work and fixtures are clamped securely before starting the machine.
  • Make sure the spindle direction is correct for right-hand or left-hand operation.
  • Conduct a dry run to ensure the program is correct.
  • Check that limit switches (micro) are working correctly.

Laser cutters

Always follow manufacturer’s instructions for setting and using laser cutters. Identify any potential hazards, put in place precautions, and teach students safe practices.

Potential hazards include serious eye and skin damage from direct exposure to the beam, from laser reflections, or from secondary emissions from incandescence and plasma. Most industrial lasers are far infrared (IR-C) carbon-dioxide lasers and near infrared (IR-A) neodymium-YAG lasers. The IR-C lasers pose hazards to the cornea of the eye and to the skin, whereas the IR-A lasers pose a potential retinal burn hazard and thermal skin burn hazard. These potential hazards diminish if filtered view-ports are used.

Use of laser cutters that have the following three components enclosed will ensure students cannot gain access to the laser beam. These components are the laser, the pipe that carries the beam, and the enclosure where the beam acts on the work. 

Drilling machine (bench mounted and pedestal)

Wear safety glasses at all times. An additional concern when using drilling machines is the production of swarf. When metals are drilled, swarf comes off as a long curl. Break it by stopping the feed momentarily. Swarf is a waste from the drilling process, and it must never be handled without gloves. Clean it up with a small brush and shovel.

Before students use drilling machines, teachers must remind them to:

  • use safety glasses
  • choose the correct speed for the job
  • keep their hands clear of the revolving chuck or drill bit
  • ensure that only one person at a time is operating the drill
  • remove the chuck key after tightening or removing the drill piece
  • carefully secure work – large pieces of timber having small holes drilled may be safely held by hand, and small work must be held in a vice or be clamped to the table.

Electric arc welding

Electric arc welding equipment may be used by year 10 students and above. Students must take care when welding because a fault in the weld may cause an accident when using the finished product.

Students should wear safety glasses or shields with the correct shade of filter glass (according to AS/NZS 1338.1:2012 Filters for eye protectors – Part 1: Filters for protection against radiation generated in welding and allied operations, AS/NZS 1338.2:2012 Filters for eye protectors – Part 2: Filters for protection against ultraviolet radiation, and AS/NZS 1338.3:2012 Filters for eye protectors – Part 3: Filters for Protection against infra-red radiation) to protect the eyes from infrared and ultraviolet radiation and from high-intensity light. An extra shield needs to be available for the teacher to use when supervising students. All shields must be kept in good condition. Do not use oxyacetylene goggles for electric welding because they are not adequate.

Special welding curtains should be installed around welding bays to protect other students. Do not allow anyone to watch, because when the arc is struck, the flash can damage eyesight.

Keep all equipment in good condition and use suitable safety equipment. Cover hands and forearms because arc welding has a sunburn effect and gives off sparks that can burn. The work and electrodes will also be hot and can cause burns.

Always use safety glasses when chipping slag. Ensure that the area is ventilated to remove fumes.

Electric spot welding

After demonstration, this is a simple and safe operation for students, but they should always use safety glasses or a safety shield.

Gas welding and cutting

Oxyacetylene equipment is not to be used by students under year 10. Acetylene is a highly flammable gas, and under some conditions, it will explode. Take particular care to prevent acetylene gas from escaping because it might create an explosion. Oxygen leaks are as dangerous as acetylene leaks.

Gas equipment can be tested for leaks by:

  • immersing hoses in water and checking for bubbles
  • immersing the tip of the torch in water to test the valves. 

Gas-welding hazards include the following.

  1. Damage to the eyes from radiant energy, spatter, and chipping,
     or from cleaning operations
     (See electric arc welding on page 51 for the correct filters for welding goggles.)
  2. Burns from hot metals and sparks
     (These can be prevented by wearing gloves and suitable clothing.)
  3. Fumes from materials that have been galvanised or similarly treated
  4. Explosions and fire from gases – and explosions caused through using gas welding equipment in confined spaces
     (Ensure that there is adequate ventilation.)
  5. The ignition of flammable materials
     (Remove such material before welding or cutting starts.)
  6. Strains caused by lifting or moving heavy cylinders (Only move cylinders on their trolleys.)

In the event of a fire from a cylinder or pipe outlet, teachers should leave the gas burning, set off the fire alarm, evacuate students, call the fire brigade, and if possible close the cylinder valves, and hose the cylinder and surroundings with water to cool and restrict the fire.


Although grinders are fitted with shields, safety glasses should always be worn. Grinders should not be used for non-ferrous metals such as brass, pewter, or aluminium.

When using the grinder, set the work rest at a distance of 3 millimetres from the wheel to minimise the risk of the work being wedged between the grinding wheel and the rest. Do not use the side of the grinding wheel for grinding. Regularly assess the condition of the grinding wheel. Under certain conditions, flaws can cause the wheel to shatter. The user should check for cracks and ensure that the wheel is balanced. When replacing worn grinding wheels, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Guillotine (sheet metal)

A sheet-metal guillotine is normally fitted with a fixed guard to protect the user’s fingers. Check that a foot-operated guillotine cannot trap the user’s foot. A lock pin should be fitted to the treadle. Do not feed materials into a guillotine from the back.

Horizontal-boring machine

Horizontal-boring machines have similar safety issues to bench-type drills. However, for many of these machines, the work is hand held and fed onto the drill. Keep hands well clear of the drill bit and ensure that the material being drilled is firmly secured.

Internal combustion engine

If the technological activities require students to modify, adapt, and work with internal combustion engines, full supervision is required at all times.

Ventilation is required, and the engine must be exhausted to the open air. Because this equipment uses petrol, full consideration must be given to the availability of fire-safety equipment, including fire extinguishers. 

Lathe (metal)

In operating a lathe, students must:

  • wear safety glasses
  • tie back or net long hair
  • not wear loose clothing
  • remove the chuck key after tightening
  • use “steadies” and/or the tail stock to support work
  • set the correct speed and feed before starting the lathe and not change speeds while the machine is running
  • guard protruding work if it is so long that it protrudes past the end of the machine.

Students should not:

  • handle swarf without gloves
  • touch revolving work
  • apply cloth or cotton waste to rotating work.

Lathe (wood)

Constant supervision of students is required, particularly when they begin a piece of work. Always wear safety glasses or a face shield.

In operating this machine:

  • keep other students 1 metre away
  • use knot- and defect-free timber where possible, and ensure that any glued-up work is well-fitted
  • reduce squared-off timber to an octagonal shape by planing or cutting the corners
  • select a safe cutting speed to suit the bulk of the wood to be turned and the type of timber
  • balance the wood to avoid vibration
  • make sure the work is secure by adjusting the tool rest and turning the work over by hand before starting the machine to ensure all adjustments are set correctly
  • if a brake is fitted, apply it steadily and cautiously
  • keep hands well away from the work
  • ensure that the handles of woodturning tools are firmly fitted
  • do not use tools made of old files
  • remove the tool rest when sanding.

Metal plating (by electroplating and anodising)

If this equipment is installed in the school workshop, a full understanding of the Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995 is required. If only a few projects require metal plating, it is advisable to outsource this work because many plating solutions use cyanide, which is prohibited in schools.

Shaping machine (metal)

Always wear safety glasses. Firmly secure both the work and the cutting tool. Before operating this machine, set the correct speeds and operate the ram by hand for a full forward and backward stroke, making sure that the tool is clear of the work and the head slide is clear of the main housing.

Operate the machine from the side to avoid cuttings that are ejected from the front of the machine. The back of the ram must be enclosed, and there should be a minimum clearance of 500 millimetres between its furthermost backward position and any fixed objects behind it.

PCB etching

When planning to undertake PCB etching, always consider how the fumes from the photo-etch development process will be ventilated and how the splash hazard from chemicals will be managed. Also try to choose a modern alternative for etchant that is not so polluting. Minimum equipment includes a sink, spill protection, emergency eye wash, and fume extraction. Students will need gloves, lab coats, and goggles or glasses.

An alternative approach would be designing the boards at school, then getting them made commercially, which would remove many of the safety hazards and reduce the cost of having a specialist room facility.


When working with plastics, read and follow the supplier’s instructions for all equipment and materials because these will differ between products. Ensure that any materials are safe to use for educational purposes and are the correct type for the operation. Some plastics can emit dangerous fumes or become flammable if incorrectly processed. Reputable suppliers will provide plastics that are safe for educational use and provide training programmes for their products.

Using a hotplate system

As the working surface of a hotplate system can reach very high temperatures, the main hazard is burns. The hotplate must be positioned on a heat-resistant surface at an appropriate height for the students. Ensure that the electrical supply lead cannot be snagged, causing the unit to move unexpectedly.

Injection moulding machine and thermoplastics thermoforming machine

Ensure that the heaters in these machines are turned off when they are not in use, and never use these machines without the heater guards in place. Follow any other instructions supplied with the machines. Ensure that any materials used in these machines are safe to use for educational purposes and that they are of the correct type.

Never use an oven when working with plastic materials.

Polishing machine

Students should always wear safety glasses or a face shield when operating polishing machines. Guards to prevent polishing mops being used above the lower quarter of the mop must be in place. Stop the machine before adjusting it. The piece of work being polished must be securely held in both hands, and gloves must be worn at all times. Do not hold the work in a cloth or apron.

Power hacksaw

Clamp the work firmly, and securely support any long pieces of metal to be cut. Do not manually assist the saw. Adjust the flow of coolant for each job to maximise cooling and minimise spillage.

Hand tools and equipment

When tools and equipment are not in use, place them in the well of the bench or in the centre of a table or store in racks with their sharp edges facing downwards. Do not leave a tool on the floor or in a position where it can roll off a bench.

Careful instruction must be given in the safe use of hand tools, and each tool should be used only for its correct purpose. Safety glasses must be worn when cutting or chipping some materials. 

Tools that are used with wood or metal are safer when they are sharp. Students should know when a hand tool needs to be sharpened and understand the need to inform the teacher. Before year 10, students are not expected to learn how to sharpen tools. However, students who are year 10 and over may be taught how to carry out minor maintenance and how to sharpen some tools. Metalworking tools are often subjected to hard, heavy use and need more frequent attention.

All files, with the exception of needle files, should have handles fitted.


Always use chisels with both hands behind the cutting edge.


Students should use a vice with all handsaws, such as a coping saw, a hacksaw or a wood saw. This holds the work piece firmly and keeps the student’s hands away from the blade. Bench hooks can be used for light cutting of material.

Portable electrically powered tools

Double insulated symbol – a square within a square

Electrically powered hand tools should be of an industrial type, be of robust construction, and be double insulated as indicated by this symbol.

When working with power tools, observe the following safety rules:

  1. Use an isolating transformer or RCD at all times.
  2. Ensure that the lead between the transformer and the power source is as short as possible.
  3. Use only one tool for each transformer or RCD.
  4. Do not use power tools in wet conditions.
  5. Ensure that tools and leads are regularly maintained.
  6. When tools are not in use, turn them off and remove the plug from the socket.
  7. Do not put any power tool down until it has completely stopped.
  8. Make sure there are no trailing leads.
  9. Use safety glasses at all times and, in most cases, earmuffs for noise protection.
  10. Use cordless power tools where possible. 

9.3 Safety in textiles specialist rooms

Classroom requirements

The school’s textiles technology room should be large enough to ensure there is no overcrowding. Table and bench layout should be designed to enable the easy flow of students around the room, with aisles, entries, and exits kept free of obstructions and all benches anchored to the floor.

It is difficult to ensure that benches and machines will be at a suitable height for all students. Some ergonomic consideration needs to be given to varying the heights of benches and machines so that they can be operated safely.

The risk of accidents increases in a room that has poor heating and ventilation. Students should be able to work in a comfortable temperature without having to wear extra clothing. Ventilation must distribute fresh air without creating draughts.

Floors should have non-slip surfaces, be maintained in good condition and be free of tripping hazards.

Machine hazards

Examples of dangerous parts of machines are:

  • needles on sewing machines
  • bobbins spinning.


A range of textiles can be used; these should all be clean and hygienic. Teachers should ensure students do not have allergies to any textiles they will use.

Bolts of textiles can be bulky and should be stored in racks away from work areas.


General iron use and safety:

  1. Always disconnect the iron from the electrical outlet when filling or emptying water.
  2. To avoid risk of electric shock, do not operate an iron with a damaged cord or if the iron has been dropped or damaged in any way.
  3. Burns can occur from touching hot metal parts, hot water, or steam. Hot water may leak from the iron. Use caution when filling or turning the steam iron upside down.
  4. Never leave the iron’s electrical cord hanging over a trafficked area.
  5. To protect against burns or injury, do not direct steam toward the body when ironing.
  6. The iron must be used on a stable surface. When placing the iron on its stand, ensure that the surface is stable.
  7. Minimise risk by ensuring one student at a time is using an iron. 

When an iron is not in use:

  • turn it off and unplug it from the outlet
  • never tug the cord to unplug the iron – instead, grasp the plug
  • empty any remaining water – do not store the iron with water in it as it may allow sediment and minerals to settle, possibly clogging the steam nozzles
  • once it’s completely cool, store the iron vertically in a safe place – set it on the heel rest to protect the soleplate from scratches, corrosion, or stains.


Overlockers are fitted with a cutting blade, so take care when using this device. If using industrial machines with a mechanically driven cutting blade, ensure that this blade is guarded. Students need to be competent to use an industrial machine.

Blades should be regularly sharpened, and any pins in material should be removed prior to using an overlocker.

Sewing machine – domestic/industrial/CNC

Before students replace a needle or fit a bobbin, the sewing machine should be turned off. If students are to maintain and oil the machine, it should also be turned off.

The electrical cord needs to be checked regularly for wear, and students should be instructed on how to unplug the machine without putting stress on the cord.

If students are to use the sewing machine for an extended period, an ergonomically designed workstation should be provided, with the seating position and desk height adjusted for each student.

For advice on the safe use of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) sewing machines, see CNC machinery.

Constant supervision is required when students use pins and needles. No students should hold pins in their mouths. A pincushion or other holding device can minimise the risk of pins being dropped and causing harm. Needles should also be secured in a piece of fabric or a pincushion when not in use.

If a pin or needle is dropped, it should be found immediately – a magnet is effective for this. Students should wear covered footwear in a textiles-based workspace. 

Return to top ^