Best practice emanates from teachers who are knowledgeable about relevant aspects of health and safety (H&S) and who subsequently feel confident in managing and maintaining a healthy and safe working environment. Vital to this are well qualified teachers who are empowered to identify hazards and assess risks and who can determine how best to minimise, remove or control such risks within an educational environment.
The Design and Technology Association (DATA) supports schools, academies, colleges, initial teacher training and other educational establishments to enable employers to meet their statutory obligations for H&S training for all colleagues working in the subject of Design and Technology (D&T). This includes teachers and lecturers, technicians and learning support staff who work across the different disciplines of the subject. These disciplines now provide the opportunity for students to work in a wide range of both traditional and modern materials and to use a wide range of specialist tools, equipment and machinery, including computer aided manufacture.
Demonstrating competence In practice today, staff and students use a wider range of equipment than they ever have, and whilst machines like circular saws and centre lathes are still at the heart of the subject, lasers and 3D printers are now commonplace. It is essential therefore that both staff and students are able to demonstrate competence in the use of this equipment and machinery, and to achieve this, H&S training standards were developed in association with the Teacher Training Agency. Since these Training Standards were first established in 2000, well over 23,000 teaching and support staff have been accredited on the Standards.
These Standards effectively provide the benchmark for H&S training in D&T, providing colleagues with the training, competency and accreditation to meet the requirements of the British Standard for the subject, BS4163:2014 Health and safety for design and technology in educational and similar establishments – Code of Practice.
This Code of Practice sets clear expectations about the H&S training required by all colleagues working in D&T and highlights how important it is for schools and colleges to work to these Training Standards. It states: ‘Employees should be competent to undertake the tasks expected of them. All employees and supporting adults should be trained in safe use of equipment, machinery and processes during initial training, or by in-service training.
The Design and Technology Association has published training standards which provide a framework that employers can use to cover all elements of health and safety training for D&T’.
Significantly, in relation to the use of high-risk equipment and machinery, it notes that ‘Learners should only work in a high-risk area when it is fully under the control of a person competent to work in the area (i.e. a person with demonstrated competency through the D&T Association training scheme).’
What are the Standards? For Secondary schools, the H&S training standards are set out at three levels. Firstly, the Secondary Core Level H&S Training Standards. The D&T Association recommends that all Secondary teachers/technicians and support staff working in D&T should work towards achieving accreditation at the Secondary Core H&S Level. During this training, colleagues assemble a D&T H&S portfolio to demonstrate how they manage H&S within their workshop or studio. The portfolio provides evidence of their knowledge of legislation and essential publications, their H&S training records, their risk and COSHH assessments, records of statutory testing required, e.g. PAT and LEV testing, departmental maintenance procedures and importantly, how they teach H&S to students and how that training is recorded. The training on these Standards is particularly effective when departments complete this as a whole team as it ensures and demonstrates a consistent approach to the management of H&S across the D&T department.
Additionally, there is the Secondary Specialist Level H&S Training Standards. In terms of practical hands-on training on the equipment and machinery of the subject, colleagues are recommended to work toward achieving accreditation within the Secondary Specialist Levels appropriate to their work, i.e. in Food Technology, Resistant Materials, Systems and Control and Textile Technology. This training largely covers the safe use of what is considered to be all of the medium risk equipment and machinery of the subject, essentially that used by students on a day to day basis.
Thirdly, the Specialist Extension Level H&S Training Standards. Colleagues working in resistant materials are also recommended to work towards achieving accreditation at the Specialist Extension Levels related to the specific equipment and processes appropriate to their work. These cover working with: wood sawing machines, planer/thicknesser machines and wood-turning lathes, centre lathes and milling machines, the casting of non-ferrous metals, metal arc and oxy-acetylene welding, using portable power tools and using and changing of wheels on grinding machines and the use of sharpening equipment. This training largely covers the safe use of all of the high risk equipment and machinery used in the subject, much of which is only used by staff.
More recently the Specialist Extension Level Training Standards have been extended to include training specifically aimed at site staff and technicians in schools and colleges. The training for site staff enables them to demonstrate competency in the safe and correct use of a wide range of power tools that are typically now being used within schools and colleges as part of their role.
In addition, a new technicians training course has been developed to provide both new and existing workshop technicians with the essential knowledge and understanding of H&S that will help them to provide quality support to teachers and students in schools and colleges. Technicians attending this workshop-based course undertake a variety of activities to develop their knowledge and understanding of topics such as: understanding H&S legislation and documentation, providing support for the D&T curriculum, ensuring a safe working environment for D&T, managing D&T resources and establishing maintenance procedures.
What type of training do colleagues require? When planning and organising training, schools and colleges do need to reflect on whether colleagues need either initial or refresher training. Initial training is definitely a requirement for colleagues with little or no previous experience or certification on specific Training Standards, e.g. on the Core Training Standards or on Standards relating to specific equipment and machinery. Refresher training is of course a statutory requirement, and important for those with previous training and experience on specific equipment and machines to be able to demonstrate that their skills are up to date.
The D&T Association strongly recommends that refresher training should be undertaken on a regular basis, and no later than five years from initial training, and this is reinforced in the British Standard Code of Practice. In practice, refresher training may be dependent upon the frequency of usage of equipment, for example if equipment and machinery is not used on a regular basis, refresher training may well be required every two or three years, or even more frequently.
How long does it take to train? Training on the D&T Association H&S Training Standards is led by the Association’s Registered D&T H&S Consultants (RDTHSCs), who work to a Code of Practice as part of the Association’s Quality Assurance procedures. As part of this, minimum contact times are set for delivery of each of the Training Standards.
For example, training to meet the Core Level Training Standards requires a minimum of between four and six hours, and at the Specialist Levels, colleagues seeking accreditation on the Specialist Level in Food Technology as an example are required to attend a six hour training day to cover the Secondary Food H&S Training Standards and Level 2 Food Safety certification.
At the Specialist Extension Levels covering the high risk activities in resistant materials, again, minimum training times are set to ensure that trainees have sufficient time to cover the Standards, the related knowledge and understanding and to complete a range of set practical exercises. Initial training to meet the Specialist Extension Levels generally requires around 6 hours for each set of Training Standards.
How do colleagues access training? Currently there is a network of some 150 RDTHSCs spread across the UK trained to deliver the D&T Association H&S Training Standards in schools and colleges. RDTHSCs can be found by area on the D&T Association website and can be contacted directly by schools and colleges to plan and organise training, either for their own establishment, or for example in conjunction with a group of local schools. Following training, RDTHSCs are required to log details of their trainees onto the D&T Association website for accreditation by the Association.
Training in schools and colleges now extends much further afield. RDTHSCs have provided H&S training for teachers at two recent International D&T Conferences, held in Singapore and Dubai, and attended by teachers from across the Far and the Middle East. Recently too, DATA has trained a group of RDTHSCs in Hong Kong who have already started to train colleagues in schools across the Hong Kong region.