A Guide to Safe Practice in Art & Design

3.1   Safety Education

Teachers may understandably become anxious when confronted with the apparent complexities of health and safety legislation, and consequently may feel that they must limit the range of activities they undertake with children. Normal classroom practice in art and design need not be unduly restricted because of fears about health and safety. Normal practices are safe, within the acceptable bounds of risk-taking.

Pupils should be aware that controlling health and safety risks is an essential art of everyday life. Although the primary responsibility for the school's health and safety policy rests with the employer, it is just as important that managers and all employees clearly recognise their roles and legal responsibilities. Pupils and visitors also have a duty under the HSWA not intentionally or recklessly to interfere with or misuse anything required by law to protect the health, safety or welfare of others. The HSC guide, Managing Health and Safety in Schools, contains further detailed advice on these aspects.

A working environment in which all concerned co-operate to create good conditions will normally be a safer and happier place than one where they do not. Pupils should be encouraged to develop confidence and a sense of responsibility for themselves and others. They must learn to understand that their actions directly affect other people's safety, and be encouraged to look for, and react to, potential hazards. Pupils should be trained to work sensibly and safely, and to acquire positive attitudes towards safe practice. Teachers must give a clear lead by their own planning, precepts and personal example.

Heads of departments in secondary schools will often have certain safety functions that are delegated in connection with the legal requirements referred to in section 2. They and their staff should demonstrate a continuous commitment to health and safety requirements and set a good example for pupils to follow. It is important for pupils to recognise that everyone is involved and all share the responsibilities. By frequent reference to safety requirements and art department rules, a high standard of safety awareness can be attained and a working environment in which all concerned co-operate to create safe and harmonious conditions conducive to learning.

Safe working practices are dependent upon:

  • commitment and a sound health and safety policy
  • common sense, good management and organisation
  • general awareness of requirements and shared responsibility
  • properly planned and maintained accommodation
  • appropriate techniques, use of tools and materials
  • the use of adequate safety devices
  • a knowledge and awareness of potential hazards.

Teachers who are in any doubt about the extent of their responsibility may wish to consult the Department for Education and Skills publication Health & Safety: Responsibilities and Powers which was sent to all schools and local education authorities in December 2001.