Plant and Machinery

Schools have a responsibility to safely manage plant and machinery. Plant is a general name for machinery, tools, appliances and equipment. It can include equipment as diverse as electric drills, angle grinders, routers, mowers, welders and power tools, workshop equipment, office equipment as well as blenders and coffee grinders.

Plant and machinery commonly found in schools

  • General grounds and maintenance: electric drills, angle grinders, electric saws and power tools, ride on mowers, whipper snippers, quad bikes, chain saws, mowers, lifts, LP Gas BBQ.
  • Technology areas (including wood work and metal work): saws, drills, angle grinders, sanders, welders.
  • Art: potter's wheel, kilns, laminators, guillotines.
  • Food technology: fryers, microwaves, dishwashers, cooking equipment, industrial bread makers, dough mixers, food processors.

Identifying plant and machinery hazards

There are various ways schools can identify the hazards related with plant and machinery, such as:

  • carry out a risk assessment on a piece of plant or machinery OR an entire task / activity (this could incorporate multiple pieces of plant or machinery)
  • conduct formal workplace inspections (including the use of the Plant and Machinery Hazard Identification Checklist)
  • read the manuals and safety information provided with the plant and current safety advice found on relevant websites
  • review reports of injuries / incidents, near misses and workers’ compensation claims.
  • regularly observe the condition of plant and machinery or the behaviour of staff and students using the plant and machinery.

When completing a risk assessment, the following should be considered / assessed:

  • Access / egress
  • Lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Fume / dust extraction
  • Floor surface
  • Signage
  • Storage of equipment / tools
  • Hazardous noise
  • Guarding
  • Space around machines (this includes whether the space has been taped)
  • Housekeeping practices

Suggested Strategies

Some risk controls that can be implemented to reduce risks related to plant and machinery are:

  • Carry out regular inspections of all plant and machinery.
  • Implement engineering controls such as electronic cut-out switches, stop controls, warning devices, exhaust ventilation, screens, guards, etc., where possible.
  • Ensure regular maintenance of plant and machinery is conducted.
  • Maintain all plant and machinery in a safe working condition, ensuring all electrical safety requirements are adhered to.
  • Read the manuals and safety information provided with the plant and machinery.
  • Maintain a list of all the plant and machinery used at the school and record any hazards identified.
  • Review formal and informal reports (verbal, paper or electronic) from staff, students, maintenance staff or school leaders.
  • Review reports of injuries / incidents, near misses, first aid records and workers compensation claims.
  • Maintain documentation relating to safe work practices and their effectiveness.
  • Ensure that teachers have appropriate training and experience with the use of the machinery that students will use in their classes (e.g. Course in Safe use of Machiner for Technology Teaching).
  • Ensure that teachers have appropriately inducted students into the safe use of the plant and machinery before commencing use, with training records maintained.
  • Remove old or damaged machinery from the school.
  • Place machinery in a well ventilated area, if required.
  • Ensure Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs) / Safe Work Procedures (SWPs) are developed and displayed next to all items of static plant and accessible to operators of portable plant. 
  • Ensure appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn at all times when operating plant and machinery.

It is vital that all risk controls are regularly reviewed and monitored for suitability

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