Health and safety considerations for design technology workshops

Design technology is a highly practical subject that allows students to learn through practical exercises. However, many health and safety risks must be considered to ensure that staff and students are safe. Here are some DT workshop health and safety considerations for school workshops:

General workshop safety considerations

A modern school DT workshop

Before students have even begun to use any tools, equipment, or machinery, there are some general workshop rules you should adhere to. This helps minimise the risk of hazards and injury while ensuring a safe workshop environment.

To begin with, no student should be allowed to enter a workshop or be left unattended in a workshop at any time. A staff member should always be aware of who is present in a workshop in the event of an emergency, such as a fire.

Students should leave their bags and coats in a designated place to minimise the risk of trip and fall hazards during practical exercises. These are typically cupboards underneath the tables. No food or drink should be permitted in the workshop.


All workshops should be sufficiently lit using bright LED lighting. There should be no areas of the workshop that are not adequately lit. The guidelines state that a workshop with machinery should be lit to 500 lux for general work and 1000 lux for finer machine work.

  • Lights should be bright enough to see for practical work but not too bright it causes glare or eye strain.
  • Natural lighting is always preferable to artificial lighting. Artificial lighting should be used to support natural lighting.
  • Flickering lights should be fixed straight away.
  • Machine lights must have a low voltage of no more than 12 volts.

Environmental safety considerations

Additional school DT workshop design considerations you need to consider include:

  • The layout and design conform to guidelines, with at least 1m free space around each machine.
  • All workshops should have a minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celsius.
  • Sufficient ventilation and extraction systems should be in place to ensure healthy air quality.
  • Excessive high noise should be prevented.


Another DT workshop health and safety consideration is that suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) should also be readily available for students in the workshop. This should include aprons, goggles, face masks, gloves, workshop coats, etc. Loose clothing should also be tucked away before operating any machinery.

Students should also remove any lost jewellery and tie back hair to avoid the risk of injury while operating machinery or using tools. Any learning equipment not needed for a practical exercise should be put away to help maintain a safe and clear workshop environment.

Risk assessment

Every school should also undertake a thorough DT workshop health and safety risk assessment. This should identify all possible hazards inside the DT workshop and the appropriate control or measures to implement that reduce or prevent such risks.

This should be appropriately recorded in a table as follows:

HazardRisk levelControl measures
What is the possible hazard that can occur during practical exercises?Does the hazard pose a low, medium, or high-level risk?What measures will you implement to reduce, minimise, or prevent the risk?

DT workshop Health and safety training

Training course in DT workshop health and safety

Relevant DT workshop health and safety training should be given to staff where necessary. All staff should be familiar with health and safety procedures. This training should consider the age range in the school as the health and safety requirements may differ.

The training given to staff should meet the requirements and standards of relevant guidelines, regulations, and codes of practice. For example, health and safety training in the UK should adhere to the BS 4163:2021+A1:2022 code of practice.

This code of practice provides a benchmark for health and safety training in school DT workshops. Sufficient training will ensure all relevant staff are competent in adhering to the code of practice requirements. To ensure this, training should be undertaken every five years.

This ensures staff can identify potential hazards during practical exercises and determine the risk to students. Sufficiently trained staff will then be able to identify the best way to reduce, prevent, or minimise such risks in the school DT workshop environment.

Depending on the experience of staff will determine the training they require. Staff with little or no experience will require initial training. Refresher training should be carried out by those who have previous DT health and safety training but require their skills updating or whose accredited certificate has expired.

Book an approved D&TA health and safety training course with us

PPE considerations

PPE is a vital element of any school’s DT workshop environment. These should be readily available for every student in the class and worn where appropriate. Such equipment is essential to protect certain parts, such as the eyes, from injury.

During practical exercises, staff and students must wear relevant PPE, such as projective clothing. Conducting a thorough risk assessment will determine whether PPE is necessary. When it comes to PPE, there are several considerations a school needs to consider:

  • Try to control the risk before resorting to the use of PPE. For example, avoid using earmuffs or plugs for noisy machinery if the noise can be reduced.
  • The PPE used should be suitable for the risk intended to be reduced. B-rated PPE should be used for machinery while F-rated PPE is suitable for all other workshop processes.
  • The PPE should fit appropriately, meaning different sizes may be required for smaller students.
  • Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) should conform to FFP3 or P3 standards.
  • All PPE must be kept in a suitable condition, including regularly cleaned and stored. Any worn PPE should be replaced as soon as possible.
  • Staff should instruct students on the appropriate use of PPE. Training should be provided where necessary.

FFP3 standards for RPE should ensure that respirator masks provide protection from breathing harmful airborne substances, such as smoke or dust. Additionally, P3 standards for RPE require a 95.5% filtration efficiency.

DT workshop Tools and equipment considerations

Workshop equipment, including a drill and wood plane

During practical exercises, students will require different workshop tools and equipment. Tools like saws and lathes can be very sharp and cause serious injury if not used properly. Tools like glue guns and soldiering irons can cause severe burns.

All tools and equipment require suitable storage to help maintain a safe and clean workshop environment. Any tools should be stored appropriately or put back after use. This ensures no tools can cause an accident, such as tools protruding from the side of workbenches.

There should also be a suitable place to stack stools away during practical exercises to minimise the risk of accidents. This should typically be on the edge of a workshop, away from any practical working areas, such as machinery or workbenches.

Staff should first demonstrate how to safely use any tools and equipment required for a practical exercise. This includes instructing how to properly clamp work to the workbench to prevent it from moving or slipping.

There should also be suitable cleaning equipment for students to properly clean their practical working environment at the end of each lesson. It is recommended to use an M-rated workshop vacuum to clean small dust particles. Large chippings or shavings can be removed using a dustpan and brush.

All tools and equipment should also be used vertically to minimise the risk of accidents in the event of a slip. Clamps should be used to secure any practical work to the workbench properly. When carrying tools around, they should be held pointing downwards.

Training should be provided to staff so they can safely and properly instruct students on the safe usage of tools and equipment. No student should be allowed to use tools and equipment until a staff member properly instructs them.

Machinery usage and maintenance considerations

Various pieces of machinery inside a school DT workshop

Alongside the safe usage and storage of tools, all DT workshops will require safe machinery usage and maintenance. Every school is responsible for ensuring all machinery is in safe working condition through proper inspection and regular maintenance.

All students should be properly supervised by a trained and experienced staff member when using machinery. While operating machinery, students should be entirely focused on safe operation to minimise the risk of injury.

It is essential that staff properly instruct students how to operate the machinery safely and allow them to ask questions if they are unsure. A suitable demonstration should be given before any student works the machinery.

A record of any student training should be recorded and kept in the school system. When logging the training record, the date, instructor, and what the training was should all be recorded.

Staff should know where the emergency stop buttons are located in an emergency, and appropriate signage should be followed. Before operating any machinery, it is imperative to check that it is set up correctly and any guards are appropriately placed.

Machinery in a school DT workshop with a visible emergency stop button on the front

Another safety recommendation is to use an appropriately marked area around the machinery using yellow floor marking. Only one person should be within the marked area when operating machinery to prevent distractions or overcrowding. There should also be a safe distance between the operator and the machine.

After use, the machinery should be switched off. Any clutter, such as wood cuttings, should also be safely removed before the next person uses the machinery to prevent the risk of any injury. This also applies to workbenches too.

DT Workshop Machinery training and testing

Electrical equipment should be regularly tested to ensure it is safe for usage. A testing certificate should be displayed in a prominent place to show the equipment is safe. Equipment that has failed its safety test should not be used.

Staff should also receive appropriate training on safe machine usage and health and safety procedures. Staff should be confident and familiar with all equipment to ensure safe supervision and usage.

To adhere to guidelines and regulations, all DT workshops must ensure machinery is regularly tested and maintained. This helps to keep the machinery in safe working order and minimises the risk of injury.

How often machinery is tested will depend on usage, risk assessment factors, age, and manufacturer guidelines. DT machinery maintenance can cover many aspects, from checking the machine’s condition to making necessary adjustments.

Request a machine maintenance visit for your DT workshop

Every school must adhere to the health and safety considerations set out in guidelines, legislation, and codes of practice. Whether you are looking to upgrade your design technology classrooms or change an existing workshop, following the health and safety considerations above is vital for all DT workshops in schools.