Portable electrical appliances in the classroom – nine things you need to know

From pupils using computers to employees photocopying, portable electrical appliances will be used every single day across your school.

Though they do come part and parcel with running a modern school, electrical appliances also come with a number of associated Health & Safety risks. Here are nine potential hazards to consider.

1) Poor lighting

Carrying out activities in low light can be difficult and unsafe, and so correct lighting should be provided and maintained.

Specific levels of light (measured in lux on the plane surface) is recommended for different parts of your school:

  • Laboratories and kitchens – 500 lux
  • Corridors – 100 lux
  • Computer rooms, classrooms, lecture theatres, gymnasiums, sports halls and libraries – 300 lux
  • Foyers and entrance halls – 200 lux

Natural window light is also encouraged (and therefore factored into school design plans), as this has been linked to enhanced mood, energy and concentration.

2) Electrical faults

Electrical faults can lead to fire and electric shock, and there is a risk of electrocution from poorly maintained equipment.

Check all tools before use and carry out PAT Testing on all electrical appliances at regular intervals.

3) Particles from tools

If pupils or employees are using hand-held power tools to cut materials (e.g. during a Design Technology class), residue and debris might be produced. If they come into contact with this, it can cause injury and, if inhaled, further health issues.

This reinforces the importance of first aiders always being available, and anyone involved in undertaking such activities should wear suitable Protective Personal Equipment (PPE).

4) Unauthorised use

Some equipment will require restricted access, particularly from pupils, to make sure it is only accessible by individuals who are safe to use it.

To prevent the use of equipment by an unauthorised person, you should:

  • Ensure that pupils are always properly supervised
  • Embed Health & Safety awareness into your school’s curriculum
  • Make sure that equipment is securely stored
  • Display your written policy

5) Trapping and entanglement

Inadequate guarding on handheld electrical appliances could lead to users getting clothing caught.

To control this, along with other Health & Safety risks, it’s important to avoid loose clothing where possible, and should be reflected in your uniform policies.

6) Excessive vibration

In addition to the above, users may experience both hand arm or whole-body vibration from using hand tools.

Though this is a relatively low risk, you may wish to identify vibration magnitude from manufacturer’s data and calculate exposure using a Hand-Arm Vibration Calculator.

7) Noise

There is a danger of exposure to excessive levels of noise from anyone using portable equipment.

In these circumstances, hearing protection should be available and worn.

8) Tripping and obstruction hazards

Without good workplace housekeeping, there is a risk of trips and falls from trailing cables, as well as the paths of others being obstructed.

You should ensure that cables are not trailing and adhere to good housekeeping practices.

9) Poor housekeeping

Effective Health & Safety management requires good housekeeping. With that in mind, here are some general Health & Safety risks to consider:

  • Storage of electrical appliances could block fire exits and doors
  • If spillages are not properly cleaned up, this could not only increase the risk of slips, trips and falls but interfere with appliances
  • Areas might not be kept clear, clean and tidy
  • Not clearly displaying warning signs, e.g. limiting access to dangerous appliances.

How Citation can help

With an ever-growing list of services to support you keeping your school safe, Citation can help you with everything from pulling together risk assessments to carrying out PAT Testing.

Partnered with us, they have over 20 years’ experience keeping schools safe, so you can be sure you are in safe hands that understand the unique challenges facing the education sector.

If you are not yet a client and have any questions around your Health & Safety responsibilities, contact the Citation team today on 0345 241 5250 or epm@citation.co.uk.

Find out more about how Citation can support your school with Health & Safety.

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