Health and safety is a top priority in STEM subjects, and this includes design technology (DT) workshops. Alongside safety training, a key factor for ensuring workshops are safe is the maintenance of all workshop machinery. To help you, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to DT machinery maintenance.
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Why is maintaining machinery important?
Maintenance can cover a wide area when it comes to machinery. From checking the condition to testing and making adjustments, machinery needs regular maintenance to minimise risk and improve the working order.
There are several reasons why it is important to carry out maintenance on all your DT machinery. These include:
- Checking the machinery is in sound working order,
- To help prolong the working life,
- By ensuring the health and safety for both students and staff,
- Help minimise expenditure in the event of a major breakdown,
- Keep machines working at their maximum efficiency,
- Ensure usage of the machines adheres to relevant regulations.
Usually, it is required to carry out proper testing and servicing on all machinery to adhere to relevant health and safety laws. Any situation where a person’s safety may be at risk will require sufficient testing to adhere to regulations and guidelines.
Additionally, risk assessments will be affected by the quality and maintenance of DT equipment. Any inspection feedback can be implemented into the department’s risk assessments. The frequency of machine maintenance may also be determined from a risk assessment.
Machines in a school environment that will see regular usage of machinery will require more frequent inspections. Manufacturers may also provide guidance on machinery servicing.
The different areas of machine maintenance
Preventive maintenance – the regular scheduled maintenance of machinery that helps to identify any problems so necessary repairs can be made. Preventive maintenance seeks to address any problems before failure occurs and can either be time-based or usage-based.
Condition-based maintenance – where maintenance occurs when evidence of decreased performance arises. Condition-based maintenance requires monitoring of the machinery’s condition. Inspections, tests, and performance can indicate decreased machine performance.
Predictive maintenance – machinery performance can be tracked in real-time using artificial intelligence and tracking systems. Predictive maintenance indicates what work needs to be carried out and when.
Reactive maintenance – carrying out repairs and machinery maintenance after a piece of equipment has failed. Reactive maintenance is unexpected and unplanned, resulting in emergency repairs.
Routine maintenance – the basic maintenance tasks required for machinery. Routine maintenance involves testing, lubricating parts and joints, or changing damaged and worn parts.
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Conditions affecting DT machinery maintenance
All equipment within a design technology workshop will require regular maintenance. From hand tools to larger automated pieces of equipment, maintenance is vital to ensure the good working order and the safety of the operators.
There are a few conditions that can affect the maintenance of DT machinery:
The condition of the learning environment is important in DT equipment maintenance. All spaces should be kept clean and tidy, using proper cleaning precautions to remove any waste from the machinery and its surroundings.
Emergency stop buttons should not be obstructed and fire extinguishers should be to hand in the event of an emergency. Eye protective equipment should be cleaned regularly and stored in a suitable container (preferably next to the machinery it will be used for).
Hand tools and equipment
Any tools operated by hand (whether to accompany automated machines) should be kept in good condition. Cutting tools should be honed according to usage and materials being cut. Proper storage can also help maintain the conditions of hand tools and equipment.
The type and frequency of machine maintenance will vary according to the type of machine and usage. Older machines made from cast iron will be much more robust compared to newer pressed steel machines. This will also affect machinery maintenance.
Lubrication of machines will also be necessary to keep equipment in good working condition. Various cleaning and maintenance tasks of machinery will vary according to daily, weekly, and termly checks and usage.
The cleaning requirements will depend on the type of machinery, usage frequency, and the materials being used. For example, wood-cutting equipment will require the removal of sawdust after use.
All machines should be checked to ensure dust-extraction and ventilation systems are operating effectively and efficiently. This includes checking filters, with proper cleaning carried out as required. Ventilation and extraction systems should also be checked to ensure nothing is obstructing the machines.
Electric and gas
Relevant checks should be carried out regularly to ensure all appliances and machinery are in safe working order. Machines using electricity and gas should be inspected to ensure the safety of those operating the equipment.
Important considerations for DT workshop & machine maintenance
Alongside the points already covered, there are other important considerations for DT workshop maintenance.
- A log should be kept detailing the service and inspection history of machinery, including the date, what work was carried out, and the name and signature of the person carrying out any work.
- Using the correct cutting speeds on machinery helps prolong the efficiency and reduce the risk of accidents.
- Machine maintenance should only be carried out by trained and qualified professionals, especially electrical and gas maintenance. In some cases, a manufacturer or specialist contractor may be best to undertake any maintenance on complex or high-risk equipment.
- Both technology workshop technicians and teaching staff should be trained to safely operate any machinery.
- All records of machinery maintenance and monitoring should be stored safely.
- Any information relating to health and safety, machinery maintenance/conditions, and any instructions or restrictions should be communicated to staff.
- Safety guards should not be removed and used at all times when operating a machine.
- Proper reports should be compiled after an inspection or maintenance work.
Health and Safety
- A health and safety policy should outline how the school will manage the health and safety of both staff and students in a DT workshop. This will also outline how to deal with any accidents should they occur.
- Signs indicating a machine is out of use should be placed in a prominent position.
- Students should not be allowed to enter a workshop without the supervision of staff.
- An area should be dedicated next to a classroom entrance for storing bags and coats.
- Sufficient PPE should be readily available when needed.
- Before maintenance, a risk assessment should cover the potential hazards, alongside the risk both assessed and controlled. Necessary precautions should be taken to minimise risks during the inspection.
- Any machinery or tools not suitable for student use should be kept away from teaching areas and operated only by experienced/qualified persons.
- A health and safety audit should be carried out to identify whether departments are compliant with regulations and codes of practice.
- Using proper safety signage should be clearly visible to both staff and students.
The proper maintenance of DT workshop machinery is the duty and responsibility of the school. To ensure the safety of both staff and students, regular maintenance should be carried out. Also, relevant risk assessments and health and safety audits will also help to ensure safety while operating machinery. That way, machines can continue operating effectively and efficiently to support DT learning.
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