Nine must-know hazards when using portable electrical appliances in schools

From photocopying lesson resources to lessons in the computer lab, portable electrical appliances are used every day throughout schools nationwide.

They’re all part and parcel with keeping a modern school ticking, but electrical appliances also come with Health & Safety risks. Here’s nine potential hazards worth considering.

1. Electrical faults

Poorly maintained equipment can cause fire, electric shock and, at worst, the risk of electrocution.

To combat this risk, check all tools before use and carry out PAT Testing at regular intervals on all appliances.

2. Light levels

It’s both difficult and unsafe to carry out certain activities in low light, so correct lighting should be maintained.

Measured in lux on the plane surface, specific levels of light are recommended for different areas within the school, including:

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

Linked to mood improvement and enhanced concentration, natural light is encouraged and therefore factored into school design plans.

3. Restricted access

Some equipment will require special training for it to be used safely and correctly. It’s best practice to restrict access to this equipment only to those who know how to use it. This is particularly true of pupils.

To prevent unauthorised use of equipment, you should:

  • Always supervise pupils when using equipment
  • Display your written policy prominently.
  • Embed Health & Safety awareness into your school’s curriculum
  • Appropriately and securely store equipment


4. Residue and debris

Occasionally, some classes may require pupils or employees to use hand-held power tools – during a Design Technology class, for example. This can lead to the production of residue and debris, potentially causing injury on contact and, if inhaled, could cause further health issues.

Anyone undertaking such activities should wear suitable Protective Personal Equipment (PPE), and first aiders should always be on hand.

5. Trapping and entanglement

If handheld electrical appliances are being used, inadequate guarding can cause clothing to become caught.

Avoid wearing loose clothing and reflect this in your school’s uniform policy about clothing when carrying out tasks.

6. Noise

Depending on the appliance and activity in question, there is a danger of exposure to excessive levels of noise. Hearing protection should be available and worn during noisy activities.

7. Excessive vibration

When using hand appliances, users may experience hand, arm or whole-body vibration.

Although this is a relatively low risk, you can identify vibration magnitude from manufacturer’s data or calculate exposure using a Hand-Arm Vibration Calculator.

8. Slips, trips and falls

With poor workplace housekeeping comes the risk of trips and falls from trailing cables, as well as obstructing pathways.

Make sure cables aren’t trailing and always stick to good housekeeping practices.

9. Poor housekeeping

As with the above point, good housekeeping underpins effective Health & Safety management. Some good general pointers to consider are:

  • Make sure where you store electrical appliances isn’t blocking fire doors and exits
  • If spillages aren’t properly cleaned up, they can interfere with appliances and increase the risk of slips and falls
  • Areas not being kept clean and tidy
  • Not clearly displaying warning signs, e.g. making sure dangerous appliances aren’t accessible to everyone

With an extensive suite of services to support you in keeping your school safe, we can help you with everything from compiling risk assessments to carrying out PAT Testing.

Partnered with education specialists EPM Ltd, we have over 20 years’ experience keeping schools safe and compliant, so you can rest assured you’re in safe hands and we understand the unique challenges the education sector face.

If you’re not yet a client and have any questions around your Health & Safety responsibilities, use the form on this page to contact the team.

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