Safety Precautions in Schools (1948)

This pamphlet provided some statistics of accidents in schools and advised teachers on the measures to be taken to ensure the safety of pupils.

The complete document is shown in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go to the various sections.

I Introduction (page 3)
II Physical education (6)
III Precautions in the use of electricity (12)
IV Further precautions in the science laboratory (17)
V Housecraft (26)
VI Handicraft (28)
Summary of recommendations (32)


I Statistics of accidents in schools (37)
II First aid (39)
III Other publications (40)

The text of Safety Precautions in Schools was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 14 June 2022.

Safety Precautions in Schools (1948)
Ministry of Education Pamphlet No. 13

London: His Majesty's Stationery Office 1948
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


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Safety Precautions

In Schools




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1. "ACCIDENTS WILL happen", in school as elsewhere. From time to time some one incident takes the public eye, and draws attention to the question of safety precautions in schools. The interest soon fades, and the normal rate of accident in schools is low enough not to be obtrusive. Yet after every such incident parents and teachers and local authorities are left painfully in two minds. No one wants to start panic measures; or to cramp absurdly the activities of schools; or to bring up a generation of children so hemmed in with precautions that they cannot, because they dare not, put a foot wrong. Yet even a minor injury can cause a disproportionate shock and tragic waste of time; and the death or maiming of a child is a disaster.

2. It is not the object of this pamphlet to make parents, teachers and local authorities nervous about the risk of accidents in schools. To live dangerously may well be a better rule of life than safety first. The kind of youngster the schools hope to turn out should be confident, curious and uninhibited. But carelessness is not to be excused and unnecessary risks must not be taken. Whatever care and forethought can do to prevent accidents must be done.

3. An Approach to the Subject. To examine the problem scientifically would call for statistics on a national scale, covering a considerable period of time. Analysis of these might lead to conclusions about the most likely sources of danger. Unfortunately such statistics are not available. Most local education authorities, however, keep records of accidents reported to them. Four such authorities, two for county areas and two for large county boroughs, have allowed their accident files to be examined, and from these have been prepared the Tables which appear at Appendix I.

4. The principles of classification of these Tables, as well as their admitted limitations, are discussed in the Appendix. The Tables may be accepted as a "fair sample", as suggestive and not conclusive. They present a number of most interesting features, which help to justify the kind of measures indicated by common sense and the results of experience.

5. Comments on the Tables. The most striking fact that emerges from Tables 1 and 2 is that 84 per cent of accidents in grammar schools and 90 per cent of accidents in "elementary" schools are accounted

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for by three headings: the playground, organised games and P.T., and general accidents in the school buildings.

In "elementary" schools (as they were called when the Tables were constructed) accidents in the playground form by far the largest individual category. This problem obviously cries out for attention. Questions of size and lay-out, fencing and maintenance of school playgrounds should be investigated, as well as the question of supervision during the times that they are in use. In the case of grammar schools the playground, though still one of the danger spots, is relatively less important. There are probably two reasons for this. One is that the premises are usually better maintained; the other is that the average age of pupils is higher. In the case of technical schools and colleges the playground ceases to be of prime importance. At many such schools playgrounds do not exist at all. In any event most of the students are of such an age that they do not take their recreation in a manner which is likely to lead to injury.

6. The high place occupied by games and physical training in all three Tables requires some comment. In grammar schools this category accounts for over 47 per cent of the total number of accidents. For "elementary" schools the figure is less high, probably because the physical education of the infant and junior children is less exacting and the periods are often shorter.

7. Section II of this pamphlet deals with physical education and the problem is more fully discussed there. It is one of some difficulty, as on this side of the school's activity some risk has undoubtedly to be accepted. Danger cannot be completely eliminated without abolishing our national games, to which the determination and courage of our people owe not a little. But if we are not to go as far as this, it is still possible to take certain precautions, particularly in the gymnasium, which reduce the risk of serious injury without ruling out the possibility of misadventures in movements on which the value of these exercises largely depends.

8. Another category that calls for comment is that headed "On the Road". This does not of course include anything like all the accidents that occur to school children on the road. It is confined to those which happen while the children are the responsibility of the school authorities and to accidents in school buses and on the way to and from school. Even so, such accidents form an important group, not so much from their total number as from the fact that so high a proportion of them are serious. Advice on road safety is not given in this pamphlet which is confined to precautions against those accidents that most commonly occur on school premises. Road safety precautions are fully and clearly described in two pamphlets published by the Royal

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Society for the Prevention of Accidents under the titles "Teddy Tells You" and "Children, This is Your Highway Code".

9. The relatively minor place occupied by domestic subjects, science and handicraft, subjects usually looked upon as possessing some element of danger, is worth noting. This very satisfactory position is due largely to the care and attention given to the question of safety by the teachers in these subjects. In spite of this good record considerable space is given to them in this pamphlet, in the hope that what is said may help to keep up the existing high standard. New and inexperienced teachers in particular may be glad of some guidance. Again, in many schools, workshops and laboratories are new things, and it is possible that some advisable precautions may have been overlooked.

10. Some Omissions. This pamphlet does not attempt to cover the ground completely. Many accidents, for example, occur in the ordinary classroom and in the school buildings, in such places as corridors and stairs. It has already been pointed out that accidents in this group take a high place in the tables. The safety of the children in their movement about the school buildings depends on a wide range of factors, from the design of school buildings, their lighting and fittings, to the general discipline of the school. The subject is too large and complex for treatment in a pamphlet of this size except in purely general terms; and mere generalities are not worth making. The reduction of accidents depends as much on die exercise of ordinary care and common sense as on anything else, and it is very doubtful how far this can be promoted in a written document.

11. Again, other topics have been omitted because they have been fully dealt with in other publications, a short list of which is given in Appendix III. For example, the danger of fire in schools is a very real one, especially in boarding schools. No comprehensive treatment of the subject, however, will be included in this pamphlet, as this ground has already been covered in a separate publication.*

12. For similar reasons no attempt is made to describe in detail the first-aid treatment of the various accidents that may happen in schools. Any adequate account would be far too long for this pamphlet and would only repeat what is already said in the standard manuals. A few notes on the organisation of arrangements for first-aid in schools are given at Appendix II.

*Fire Precautions in Schools, issued by the Home Office. (H.M.S.O., price 1s. 0d.)

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13. EVEN BEFORE the child is old enough to go to school, Nature has already set him a number of problems in movement. He has to master certain basic activities; he must learn to walk and to run. As he grows and his height and weight change, the balance of his body has to be readjusted. The problems of control become more complicated; and in trying to solve these the child often misjudges the situation. He stumbles and falls. But these misadventures are an essential part of the learning process; they are likely to happen whenever an effort is made to acquire new skills or improve old ones, no matter what the age or experience of the performer.

14. The aim of safety precautions should not be to make such mishaps impossible, but only to render them harmless. For children must be trained to move under all sorts of conditions, difficult as well as easy, with skill and confidence and without fear. Grit, determination and courage can be shown only when the body is trained and tested under conditions not wholly free from risk. The child must be given opportunities of proving such qualities if physical education is to contribute fully to the development of his character as well as of his physique. The programme should, therefore, include some activities of a kind not essentially "safe" and others such as obstacle races, which, though "safe" in themselves, are given a spice of adventure by being carried out under compelling or hazardous conditions. The personal risk involved is one reason for the wide appeal of this type of event and of competitive games generally. This is the very spirit physical education should preserve and foster.

15. Yet every precaution must be taken to eliminate the possibility of injury in any of the activities of the school physical education scheme. The scheme may include gymnastics, athletics, games and sports, dancing and swimming; and it is with safety measures in this field that this section of the pamphlet is concerned. Before any specific recommendations are made, something should be said of the teacher. On his skill and knowledge above all else depends the prevention of accidents both in indoor and outdoor activities. If he understands his job he will know likely "danger-spots" and how to guard against them. Good class control is fundamental. If, in spite

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of everything, an accident should happen, he must know exactly what to do. A first-aid box and a supply of clean water should always be available. Unless, however, he is trained in first-aid, he should not attempt to treat the injury, but should send at once for competent help. The accident, however slight, should be reported to the head teacher without delay, in view of the possibility of a subsequent legal dispute.


16. CERTAIN SUBJECTS, e,g., gymnastics (including small team games), dancing and sports such as boxing and wrestling are normally taken in the gymnasium, and, unless otherwise indicated, the safety measures described below apply to them jointly.

17. Accommodation. The accommodation should be suitable in size and design for the activities taken and the number of pupils under instruction. It ought to be possible to show free, active movement without the danger of the children colliding with one another or with the walls or apparatus or other obstacles. Radiators should be recessed and there should be no uncovered or unprotected obstacles jutting out from the walls. There should be a gymnasium store where beam saddles and other portable apparatus should be kept; apparatus of this kind should not be stowed on supports on the wall of the gymnasium itself. When the assembly hall is used as a gymnasium, special care is needed to guard against risk of injury from the presence of furniture, ornaments and other objects. The floor of the gymnasium (or alternative exercise room) should be durable, elastic and resilient and should not be liable to become slippery or to splinter.

18. Apparatus and Kit. Fixed and portable apparatus should be inspected at least once a year by a representative of the manufacturers. It is not satisfactory to leave this examination to local tradesmen, however competent they might be in their own sphere, as they are unlikely to have the specialised knowledge to appreciate the stresses and strains to which gymnastic apparatus is subjected.

19. The pupils should receive careful instruction in the handling of apparatus so as to prevent damage to themselves, the apparatus and the floor. They should also be trained to use their intelligence and powers of observation, and to act promptly on their own initiative where a slight readjustment of the apparatus or a part of it may make all the difference between a safe and an unsafe situation; to note, for example, whether the travelling upright of a beam is securely bolted in position, or whether the telescopic legs of vaulting appliances are firmly fixed in the correct notches.

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20. Before a piece of apparatus is used, the teacher should be satisfied that it is safely set for the purpose. Beams should be securely supported on their pins; vaulting appliances should be firm and stable; mats should be set for landings, whenever the height from which the pupil lands, or the speed with which he lands, calls for their use.

21. Great care is needed in the choice and use of improvised apparatus. When such apparatus (ropes, bars, etc.) is fixed to the walls or other supports, the teacher must make sure that it is safely attached and stable. No portable improvised apparatus which has a projecting limb (a chair, for example) should be used as an obstacle for jumps and vaults.

22. The use of gymnastic kit and plimsoles is an essential safety measure. In certain circumstances, however, as when the floor is suitable, it may be safe and desirable for gymnastics and dancing to be taken in bare feet. In competitive sports such as boxing and wrestling, kit and apparatus should be suitable; boys should be roughly matched for weight and skill, and bouts should not be too long.

23. "Standing-by". Certain types of gymnastic exercises, notably the more advanced vaulting and agility groups, call for a particular safety precaution. The teacher must stand by the apparatus to assist, receive or save the performer if need be. (He may use instead, or be helped by, one or more competent leaders). In "assisting" definite help is given to the performer to enable him to clear the apparatus safely, In "receiving" help is given during the landing. For "saving" the teacher or leader must be in position to catch a pupil who has slipped, overbalanced or stumbled.

24. The proper methods of "standing-by" should be taught to the pupils as part of their training. Once correct practice has been mastered by the pupils, the teacher should enforce it strictly. Then, if his course of training is carefully graded and his instruction skilful, he will have gone a long way towards eliminating the risk of personal injury.

25. The main principles to observe in "standing-by" are:

(a) The helper should be sufficiently close to the apparatus and so poised that he can instantaneously sway forward to catch the performer, should there be a check in the vault, or step back, in order not to hinder the completion of a good vault, and yet be able to check a trip or loss of balance in the landing.

(b) The head of the performer is the part to be saved from contact with the floor or apparatus. Therefore, if help has to be given, the helper should catch the shoulder or arms but never the lower limbs.

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(c) If the vault is one that entails a grip on the bench or pommels, the helper should be ready to catch the upper arm of the performer.
26. In the early trials of a vault it may be necessary to maintain a supporting hold on the performer during part or the whole of the flight and throughout the landing. But the hold should never be so strong as to interfere with the freedom of the flight or to lessen the confidence of the performer by preventing him from learning to control his own. weight. Help of this kind, therefore, should be used sparingly and as a rule should be given only by the teacher. It may, however, be usefully employed in the early practices of certain agility exercises, as, for example, in the backward roll, the backward roll to hand standing, head and hand springs.

27. These are general principles merely. It is not practicable to describe here the correct method of "standing-by" for each of the large number of vaults and agilities which should be included in the school gymnastic scheme. The teacher should not include any such exercise if he is not completely familiar with an effective method of "standing-by" for it.

28. Informal Activities for Young Children. In recent years the physical training of infants and juniors has been widened in scope to include a variety of exercises on portable and improvised apparatus. These involve climbing, scrambling, crawling, balancing and hanging, as well as a large number of simple jumps and agilities. Many of these exercises are a development of movements previously learned in the "jungle gym"; they are devised by the children themselves and carried out by them freely and independently under general supervision and encouragement by the teacher. The children perform the movements quite fearlessly and without help or support, for at this stage of their training they only attempt those things which interest them and which they feel themselves capable of doing unaided. Obviously the teacher must do everything possible to ensure the safety of the conditions under which the children work, but nothing should be said or done to suggest to them that they ought not to be attempting any chosen activity or that there is any element of risk in it. There must be complete confidence in the natural competence of the children to do successfully what they choose to do in the environment in which they are placed. Otherwise they may become timid and inhibited and will fail to make progress.

29. A distinction should therefore be drawn between precautions necessary with classes which carry out directed jumps and vaults (especially the more advanced types), calling for careful "standing-by",

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and the precautions proper to young children during their free, informal work on suitable apparatus.


30. COMPETITIVE GAMES offer a challenge to the physical prowess and daring of children. It is therefore important that any measures taken to prevent accidents in games should not have the effect of curbing the speed, dash and determination of the players. Nevertheless there are certain general principles and practical "tips" which apply to outdoor games and sports.

31. Playgrounds and Playing Fields: Apparatus and Kit. Many existing playgrounds have defects that ask for trouble. They may be too small or awkwardly shaped. Surfaces may be rough and stony or slippery or irregular. There may be excessive slope or sudden variations in slope. Where such faults cannot be immediately remedied, there is need for extra care both in the conduct of organised games and in supervision of free play.

32. Playing fields should be efficiently maintained. Surface conditions need particular attention; there is always risk of injury if games, and especially the national team games, are played on bumpy and uneven pitches. If touch-lines are trenched, the trenches should be filled with sand or with the turves reversed. Sockets for goalposts should not project above ground level. On rugby football pitches posts and flags marking the centre and twenty-five yards lines should be kept well back from the touch-lines to prevent the players colliding with them.

33. The apparatus and materials used (bats, sticks, balls, rackets, etc.) should be suited in size and weight to the age and strength of the players, and they should be kept in good repair. The use of the right sort of boot or shoe for the game will help to avoid risk of injury.

34. Suitability of Games. Football, hockey, cricket and lacrosse should not be introduced as set games until the children are old enough. They should be of an age, that is, to understand the value of co-operative effort and so to take part successfully in team play. Even then the size of pitch and length of time played should be suited to the age, strength and skill of the players. To set beginners and other young players to play on full-sized pitches is to invite the risk of accumulated strain. Whatever the game, familiarity with the rules will help to prevent accidents.

35. Athletics. In athletics, too, immediate or delayed strain must be avoided. A graduated scheme of training should be followed, so that skill and stamina are built up bit by bit to meet the increasing

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demands of the course as they arise. The events in which a pupil may compete should be carefully selected; with particular attention to the length of sprints and the distance of cross-country runs. The number of events for which any one pupil may enter in a school sports programme should be strictly controlled.

36. The safe practice of the field events requires certain conditions. Suitable take-off areas and landing pits for the jumps must be provided. Injuries have been caused by misuse of apparatus such as javelins, shots and hard balls. There must therefore be ample space and competent organisation of the training practices, which would rule out, for example, any risk of a javelin being thrown among a group engaged on some other event. In addition there must be good discipline and good supervision by the teacher and group leaders.

37. Hygiene. The provision of proper facilities for changing and washing can quite fairly be classed as a kind of safety precaution. If the children are suitably clad for exercise and take a shower bath afterwards, there is far less risk of their catching a cold or a chill.


38. The Teacher. The teacher must always be in the best position to see the class as a whole. He should therefore teach from the bathside and not enter the water. He must be quite firmly in control of his class, who must strictly observe "the rules of the whistle". For example, one blast - everybody still and quiet; two blasts - everybody out of the water and line up on the bath-side. His control should also be exercised to make sure the children dry thoroughly and dress quickly after bathing to avoid chills.

39. Aids to Life Saving. Life-saving apparatus should be readily available. One useful piece of apparatus is a long bamboo pole, 12 feet long and 2 inches in diameter. If a in difficulties, one end of the pole is placed in the water in such a position that the child may easily grasp it. If this measure is adopted, one or more poles should be kept in every bath and bathing pool. Ropes or floats may be used instead. For sea and river bathing special precautions are required to suit the varying conditions of depth, current and so on. Patrol boats may be necessary for sea bathing.

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40. A STUDY of the properties of electric currents is now included in the science courses of most schools for older children, and electrical appliances are used in schools for many purposes. That is as it should be and there is no need for any risks to be taken to enable this to be done. Nevertheless electrical supply at mains voltages can cause fatal accidents. Fortunately these are rare even with badly protected circuits; there may be long periods of undeserved immunity, and this very fact produces a false sense of security. A proper understanding of the reason for this should help to eliminate the kind of laxity which may lead to a serious accident. As a first step to such an understanding it is necessary to know something of the nature of electric shock.


41. The Perception and Effect of Shock. In the main the severity of an electric shock is determined by the current passing through the body and by the path it takes. The three most critical regions are the heart, the brain and the spinal column.

42. Voltage is not necessarily a criterion by which to measure the degree of risk, since the risk is determined by current. The current that will flow is itself determined by the voltage applied and by the resistance of the body. This resistance is located mainly in the skin but varies between individuals, much depending on the degree of dryness. Moreover the degree of risk will vary according to the area of contact; thus, a two-hand hold on a portable tool is more likely to be dangerous than a bare touch on a spot of wire where the insulation has been abraded. Again there may be wide variation in the resistance between the person and the earth (e.g. via wood floor, carpet, linoleum). These variations lead people to underestimate the risk. Defects in equipment may remain undetected in a dry room, but may cause a fatal accident if the equipment is used out-of-doors or in a bathroom where there is much earthed metal-work.

43. In cases of unconsciousness from electric shock, artificial respiration must begin at the earliest possible moment. It must then be continued for three hours, unless in the meantime a doctor has

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pronounced life extinct, or the patient has recovered, All teachers concerned should have some knowledge of one or other method of artificial respiration. The treatment is very like that applied to the apparently drowned. Placards of instructions can be obtained from the commercial departments of the technical press; these can be hung up where they can be read by members of the staff and senior pupils.


44. Mains Voltages: Voltages to Earth. The normal voltage of the supply mains in Great Britain is 230 volts AC. The letters mean "alternating current" and imply that the current is continually changing its direction, usually 100 times a second. The number of occasions on which sufficiently good contact is made to cause a fatality is fortunately small. It follows from what has been said that a lower voltage, say 100 volts, is less likely to drive a fatal current through the body than one of 230 volts, and this point is referred to later.

45. It is comparatively unusual for an accident to happen through the direct connexion of the body between live conductors. Much more often the connexion is between one live conductor of the supply and a conducting floor or adjacent metalwork. This is because one conductor of a supply system is, for technical reasons, usually connected solidly to "earth" at the supply station, and thus the body can form a link. The earthed conductor is called the "neutral" and the live conductor in A.C. working a "phase" or "live wire".

46. Earth-Free Rooms. The things that usually make good connexions to earth in a house or school building are water and gas supply pipes and radiators, concrete floors (especially if wet), baths, sinks, etc. In rooms in which none of these are present it is less easy to receive a shock via earth. Conversely, in rooms where such objects occur, e,g. bathrooms, workshops, garages and cellars with damp concrete floors, special care is necessary.

47. Single-Pole Switches. Switches may be arranged to break either one or both main leads. The first, or single-pole, type is satisfactory if connected in the live or phase wire. If, however, the switch is connected in the earthed wire, switching-off would not disconnect the circuit from the phase, although it would interrupt the current. Thus it would still be possible to get a shock from the phase side of the circuit up to the switch.

48. A double-pole switch, however, if properly connected, disconnects both wires and renders the circuit safe. The point is material in a number of ways, e.g. where a screw-cap type of lampholder is used.

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49. Earth Connexions. Except in earth-free rooms the metallic parts of all apparatus connected to the mains should be earthed. If this is done properly, then any fault in the apparatus, such as a breakdown in the insulation of the wiring, will not lead to a charging of the metallic body parts to mains voltage. On the other hand the introduction of an earth-lead into an earth-free room will destroy the earth-free properties of that room. The risk in this is probably greater than that of shock from a metallic part accidentally charged to mains voltage in the absence of earth connexions. In earth-free rooms, therefore, it is better not to earth metallic parts.

50. To make a good earth connexion and keep it good is a matter of some difficulty. Connexion to the lead sheathing of the electricity supply service cable may be satisfactory, but it is often necessary to obtain permission. Water pipes are often used but now that cement asbestos pipes are being laid, water mains may prove ineffective for purposes of earthing. Gas pipes should never be used for this purpose, and the alternative of a constructed earth, say, by driving metal pipes into the ground as for a radio set, may be completely useless as a safety measure. The matter, therefore, is one where competent advice is necessary, especially for the proper construction of an earth electrode or system of electrodes.


51. ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT in schools is of three kinds. First, there are the permanent installations for lighting, heating, cooking, working machinery, etc. At the other extreme are the temporary experimental circuits used for teaching purposes in the science laboratories and elsewhere. Between these two groups may come portable apparatus such as episcopes, cinema projectors and the like.

52. Permanent Installations. These should be designed and approved by a qualified electrical engineer, and they should not be extended or modified without reference. Compliance with the rules of the Institution of Electrical Engineers should be a condition of contract. Such items as stage-lighting sets, floodlighting, projectors, etc., should, be included under this heading. If any apparatus is to be in regular use, it should preferably be fixed; metal parts should be permanently connected to earth, except in earth-free rooms, where, as suggested above in para. 49, it is better not to earth metallic parts. If the apparatus is portable, the earth connexion should be regularly and frequently inspected and, if possible, tested. For such tests an instrument designed for the purpose should be used; a "megger" insulation testing set, for example, is quite unsuitable for measuring the low resistance of properly made earth bond connexions.

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53. Laboratory Apparatus Used for Younger Children. Apparatus which is to be used by children should be supplied at an inherently safe voltage. About 12 to 14 volts is recommended, as this voltage is already in common use for benchwork in schools and is a standard for a wide range of lamps and other equipment. To avoid heavy currents in long leads, it is suggested that each bench might be fitted with a transformer kept in a locked box under the bench. The middle point or one end of the secondary winding of this transformer should be connected to earth. This is essential to guard against the possibility of breakdown of insulation between primary and secondary.

Circuit diagram showing the earth connection to the secondary of a low-voltage transformer used for supplying pupils' benches. The earth connection may be made to any of the points A, B or C.

54. It is recommended that all portable lamps, such as microscope or reading lamps, which are handled by the pupils should be of the 12-volt type supplied in this way. Provided the secondary circuit is properly earthed as described above, these portable lamps may be mounted in improvised metal shades, in which lamps working at mains voltages would be potentially dangerous.

55. These low voltage secondary circuits should be protected against overload by fuses or circuit breakers. The latter were at one time available in small sizes and could be set to trip at convenient values of current. They are less trouble to reset than fuses.

56. It is suggested that for the practical work of pupils up to 16 years of age there is no need to exceed the 12- to 14-volt range. Where A.C. is suitable, the supply may be obtained in the way described above, from a transformer with the secondary properly earthed. Where D.C. is required, it should be obtained from accumulators - either portable accumulators of 12-volt bank wired to the benches.

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57. Apparatus used by the Teacher and Senior Pupils. Demonstrations by the teacher may not always be possible within the limits described above. If mains voltage is necessary for experimental purposes (any temporary circuit should be regarded as experimental), the work should be undertaken only by a competent teacher, who should be responsible for safety.

58. For pupils over the age of 16 years, 12 volts may occasionally be too low. Such a voltage results in an excessive current, with objectionable drop in voltage when the circuit requires more than about 100 V.A.; and it gives trivial currents in condenser circuits. These difficulties may be overcome by providing a supply from a 110-volt transformer, with the central point of the secondary earthed, giving a shock voltage to earth of 55 volts A.C.

59. For certain experiments, such as the production of X-rays or the working of cathode ray tubes, high voltage is necessary. Usually small currents only are required, and the output can be regarded as reasonably safe so long as the output from the power pack can be kept within limits. A series resistance should be connected inside the power pack to limit the short circuit current to less than ten-thousandths of an ampere. Wiring and testing of power packs should be undertaken only by a qualified person, and they should be used by pupils over 16 under direct supervision only. The construction should be such that there is no access to transformers, smoothing condensers or chokes, resistances, etc.; these will usually be at very high voltage and therefore definitely dangerous. The customary protection is an earthed metal box.

60. Portable Apparatus. A good deal of portable apparatus, working from the mains but not of an experimental nature, may be met with in schools. It includes optical projectors of various kinds, electric drills, soldering irons, smoothing irons, kettles, immersion heaters, etc.

61. It is essential that all apparatus of this kind should be connected by means of a three-wire flexible lead, so that the metal parts may be effectively earthed. In earth-free rooms the earth point on the mains socket should be unconnected. The instrument will then be earthed when plugged in in a room in which there are earth connexions, but not in an earth-free room. The earth connexions want frequent inspection and should be tested, if possible, as suggested in para. 52.

62. It is with this class of appliance that accidents, when they occur, are likely to be serious. Often the operator has a good grip on a metal part, as, for instance, in using an electric drill. This means that the area of contact is large, so that, if there were a breakdown of insulation,

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the flow of current through the skin might be enough to cause a serious or even fatal accident.

63. Many optical projectors may be made inherently safe by working with low voltage lamps from 12 volts or 110-volt A.C. circuits as described in paras. 53 to 58. Those which are operated at 110 volts by means of a resistance from, say, a 230-volt supply should be treated as though they worked at 230 volts.

64. When the internal parts have to be exposed to make an adjustment, the apparatus should be completely disconnected from the supply. Projector lamps often differ from domestic ones in that they may be of higher power and the caps and the sockets into which they fit may be "live". If lamps are replaced while the appliance is still connected to the supply, there is risk of shock between the lamp-cap and the earthed metalwork of the projector or other earthed point. It is also possible to receive a shock from the internal connexions of a lamp, the envelope of which has been broken.

65. Connexions. The teacher, even when the circuits are to be used only by him, should exercise care with the connexions both for his own protection and as an example to the class. There must be no long, trailing leads; these inevitably get damaged and sooner or later someone will find the abraded place at the moment when the conductor is live. Twisted joints and unprotected terminals should never be used to connect with the mains. Properly made plugs and sockets should be used; and care must be taken to connect up in such a way that the pins projecting from the plugs do not become live before they have been completely inserted into the sockets. The type of combined switch and socket, with an interlocking feature which prevents the plug being removed when the switch is in the "on" position, is to be preferred.



66. General Precautions. Electricity is not the only possible source of danger in the science laboratory. For instance, there are explosive gases, inflammable fluids and poisonous, caustic and irritant substances. The present section deals mainly with the prevention of particular kinds of accident in the science room - fire, explosion and the like.

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But there are as well certain precautions that can be taken against accident of any kind. These measures are particularly important to the young teacher, who may be a highly qualified scientist and yet have little appreciation of the dangers involved in many of the experiments commonly performed in schools, which may result in minor explosions or outbreaks of fire.

67. First, the room must be large enough - or the class small enough - to avoid overcrowding, which is the prime cause of accidents. The teacher must be alert in supervision. Preparation must be thorough, and this will be greatly helped if the teacher has a trained laboratory assistant. Finally there are a few measures of a practical kind which the teacher is strongly recommended to take:

(a) All doors should be locked when the laboratory is not in use. A duplicate key for the laboratory should be hung in a locked glass-fronted box fixed to the wall outside the laboratory door; the glass should be thin enough to be easily broken in an emergency. When the laboratory is in use, all doors and other recognised ways of exit should be kept unlocked, free from obstruction, and readily available for use in case of emergency. The available means of escape from the laboratory should be surveyed and determined upon, and each should be clearly indicated by the words "EMERGENCY EXIT".

(b) No pupil should be allowed to enter a laboratory, preparation room or store room except under the direct supervision or instruction of the responsible science teacher.

(c) No apparatus or chemicals should be used for purposes not sanctioned by the teacher.

(d) A first-aid outfit should be kept in a box in a prominent position on a wall outside and adjacent to the laboratory door. The teacher and laboratory assistant should be familiar with its contents and their use.

(e) A Triplex or similar glass screen should be used when the teacher is demonstrating experiments in which there is a risk of explosion.

(f) A card of laboratory rules should be hung in the laboratory and brought to the notice of the pupils.


68. Fire-fighting Equipment. The following articles are needed:

(a) A heavy woollen blanket. If a pupil's clothing catches fire, the flames should be smothered with the blanket immediately. It may be necessary to place the pupil on the floor with the burning part uppermost.

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(b) Two buckets of sand with a scoop.

(c) A suitable number of fire extinguishers, preferably of the foam type. The methyl bromide and carbon tetrachloride types should not be used.

69. These fire-fighting appliances should be kept inside the laboratory as near to the door as possible, but away from the part of the room where the risk of fire is greatest. They should be regularly inspected, and it is particularly important to make certain that the extinguisher is always in good working order. The responsibility for ensuring this will rest upon the headmaster or headmistress.

70. Gases. The gas supply to bunsen burners and furnaces should be inspected for leaks. There is also risk of injury in the fact that a bunsen flame is invisible in strong light. Where burners are to be left unattended for some time, it is preferable to use flexible metal tubes from burner to gas-pipe rather than rubber tubing; some form of asbestos shield is advisable to protect the tube from overheating. At night, after making sure that all individual burners have been turned off, particularly in closed spaces like fume cupboards, the teacher should see that the laboratory control gas-tap is turned off. Explosions have occurred where petrol gas, propane-butane mixtures, etc., are used for bunsen burners. Such plant should not be installed without expert advice. Acetylene systems are not recommended, as acetylene and air mixtures have a wide explosive range (roughly from 3 to 80 per cent acetylene).

71. Cylinders of compressed gas such as oxygen or carbon dioxide should be fixed in stands, or wall brackets, in an upright position, and should never be allowed to come into contact with oil or grease.

72. Inflammable Fluids. All volatile inflammable fluids should be kept in a properly constructed store outside the school building, which should be kept locked except when delivery or withdrawal is in progress. Only small quantities should be permitted to be kept in the laboratory and these must not be allowed to come into contact with any source of heat, e.g. hot water pipes, gas or electric fires, or naked lights. The main store or container should be constructed with suitable ventilation and all ventilation apertures should be so protected as to prevent any possibility of ignition of vapour or spirit by any outside agency. It should also be provided with a sill or a sump capable of containing the entire contents of the store to avoid the possibility of any burning liquid running loose and causing a serious outbreak of fire.

73. For distilling inflammable liquids the distillation flask, which should be of heat-resisting glass, should be heated over sand, in a bath of water or alloy metal of low melting point. An open flame should

[page 20]

not be used. If an electric source of heat is used, it is advisable to place a switch in the circuit away from the apparatus. A naked flame must not be permitted anywhere near ether, carbon disulphide, petroleum ether or acetone. Where moderately large quantities of liquid are to be distilled, the apparatus should be placed on a large, flat metal tray filled with sand, so that, if the flask breaks, the liquid will be absorbed and the fire localised.

74. Inflammable and Dangerous Chemicals. Metallic sodium and potassium should be kept in suitable petroleum oil preferably in sealed glass or stoneware jars. White phosphorus should be stored under water in a sealed container and phosphorus pentoxide and sodium peroxide should be kept in tightly closed containers.

75. Strong oxidising agents such as chlorates, perchlorates and perchloric acid, nitric acid and nitrates, permanganates and peroxides need care in storage so that they are not accidentally mixed wIth readily oxidisable materials such as organic matter, charcoal or sulphur. Such mixtures are explosive when dry. These oxidising agents must never be placed on paper or the wooden bench.

76. Careless disposal of phosphorus residues and pieces of hot charcoal has occasionally led to fires. These should be placed in a non-inflammable receptacle and removed to a safe place outside the building. There should be an adequate provision of metal receptacles for laboratory waste materials.


77. FEW EXPERIMENTS can lead to accidental explosions in the hands of an experienced teacher. It is in the common experiments in an elementary course that the greatest dangers arise. Every teacher must take proper precautions when burning a jet of hydrogen or reducing a metallic oxide by heating in hydrogen. A sample of the hydrogen should always be collected in a test tube and tested to see that it is free from air, before the jet is ignited or the reduction tube is heated. A point of practical importance is that the reaction between zinc and dilute sulphuric acid is comparatively slow and some time may elapse before all air has been expelled from the apparatus. A much more rapid stream of hydrogen is obtained when hydrochloric acid is used in place of sulphuric. Reduction experiments are more safely performed by the pupils with coal gas instead of hydrogen, but here again the collecting and testing of the gas should be insisted on as a routine measure. Naked flames a few feet away from a hydrogen generator and the incomplete displacement of air from a Kipp's apparatus, used for preparing hydrogen or hydrogen sulphide, have also caused explosions.

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78. Thorough precautions should also be taken in experiments in which the following substances are used: sodium, potassium, anhydrous aluminium chloride, concentrated acids, red and yellow phosphorus, chlorates and other strong oxidising agents and carbon monoxide. The use of acetone, carbon disulphide and ether as solvents needs particular care. In fact ethylene dichloride is superior to ether as a solvent in most cases and is non-inflammable. The thermal decomposition of ammonium nitrate calls for special care. A small quantity of ammonium nitrate may decompose explosively on heating. Excess of the salt should always be taken and heated gently and the reaction should be stopped well before complete decomposition.

79. Care should be taken in preparing mixtures for analysis to avoid explosive mixtures, e.g. powdered aluminium or magnesium mixed with oxidising agents such as red lead, dichromates and permanganates. Pupils should not be allowed to prepare mixtures for analysis without supervision. Thermit reactions should be performed out of doors.

80. Accidents have occurred through chemicals being returned to the wrong bottles by pupils. Potassium chlorate in a potassium nitrate bottle and charcoal in a manganese dioxide bottle have caused explosions in subsequent experiments. The washing out of a bottle which had contained sodium, the action of water on impure sodium peroxide and of concentrated sulphuric acid on potassium permanganate have been known to cause explosions. It is illegal to mix potassium chlorate with either sulphur or phosphorus. In such experiments as the preparation of oxygen by thermal decomposition of a solid, care should be taken that the tube is not choked up in any way, e.g. by a fragment of cork or particles of the solid.


81. Methods of Storage. Stocks of concentrated acids and alkalis should be kept in a storeroom not accessible to the pupils and the bottles should be on or near the floor level. Carboys and bottles of 2 gallons or larger capacity should be protected in wicker or wooden crates. Winchester bottles of concentrated acid should not be carried by the neck alone. Reagent bottles of concentrated acids in use in the laboratory should be small and should stand in shallow dishes at bench level. Heavy articles should be stored as near the floor as possible. Glass apparatus and glass tubing should be stored so that the ends do not project beyond the shelves, and the shelves should be

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fitted with copings to prevent bottles and apparatus from sliding off. This precaution is very necessary if the store is near a passage or stairs used frequently by the pupils, since vibration causes sliding of bottles and apparatus.

82. Care should be taken to store well apart from one another chemicals which might react together to give off dangerous fumes or cause fire or explosion on accidental breakage.

83. Labelling and Opening of Bottles. All reagent bottles and containers should be plainly labelled and the etching of labels on bottles which contain strong acids is recommended. Paper labels may be protected with transparent wax or tape. If a substance found in an unlabelled bottle cannot be identified easily it should be disposed of safely by the teacher. It is a common practice to label bottles containing scheduled poisons with the word "POISON" in red capital letters. There is the danger, however, that pupils may be led to believe that the contents of bottles not so labelled are non-poisonous. It may be safer to consider most chemicals as poisonous, as indeed they are, and to keep highly toxic substances in bottles of a distinctive colour.

84. Care should be taken in opening stoppered bottles or tubes containing volatile and corrosive substances. Temperature and internal pressure considerations may make it necessary to use a towel to cover the bottle in removing the stopper, e.g. of a bottle of anhydrous aluminium chloride. Bottles containing such chemicals should be inspected frequently to see that the glass stopper has not seized in the neck. It is always desirable, when pouring any liquid from a bottle, to hold the stopper in the hand. In addition to damage caused to bench tops by placing a stopper on the bench, cases are known where the moist stopper has caused a dangerous reaction through corning into contact with another chemical.


85. SERIOUS CUTS may be avoided by instructing the pupils in the correct ways of rounding off glass edges and of inserting glass tubes into corks and rubber bungs. The hole should be large enough to take the tube and the tube and rubber bung should be moistened. Where it is necessary to avoid moisture in an experiment, glycerol may be used if it does not react with the reagents to be used. The cork or bung should be held between the thumb and forefinger (not in the palm of the hand), well clear of the rest of the hand, and placed on the bench to give firm support. The glass tube should be grasped close to the end which is to be fitted into the cork and pushed in with an even pressure. A safe method is to use a hollow borer as a guide. The borer is inserted into the hole and the glass tube run through the borer

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which is then removed leaving the tube in place. It is very dangerous to attempt to push or pull out a tube which has become sealed into a rubber bung. The borer may be used in some cases. It is run outside the tube which is then withdrawn and the borer removed. In other cases it may be preferable to cut away the cork or bung from the tube. Neglect of such precautions may result in serious injury to the hand. An asbestos or slate topped bench should be used for glass blowing.

86. Glass tubing of small bore may be cut by making a mark with a file or glass knife and applying a bending movement with the hands. This should not be attempted with tubing of wide bore which should be cut by cracking with a hot wire or spot of hot glass starting from a file mark.

87. The fitting of rubber tubing to glass apparatus containing bends or joints should be done with care to prevent cuts from accidental fracture of the glass. It is often advisable to wrap the apparatus, or the part to be held in the hand, in a duster or towel.


88. A list of poisons with the appropriate antidotes and treatment should be available in every laboratory.

89. Scheduled Poisons. These substances are those which can only be obtained for a specific purpose and for which a signature in the Poisons Book of the supplier is generally required. All scheduled poisons should be kept in a locked cupboard or store. Substances of this class likely to be found in schools include:

Antimony and arsenic compounds, barium compounds (except sulphate), cyanides, dinitro-cresols, -naphthols and -phenols, lead compounds, nitrophenols and sulphonals. Mixtures for preserving animal skins for purposes of taxidermy, etc., usually contain arsenic. Care is needed in the use of killing-bottles for insects when the bottles contain potassium cyanide.
90. Poisons other than Scheduled Poisons. Many other substances though not scheduled poisons, are internal poisons. The following list is not complete but will serve as a guide:
Mineral acids, caustic alkalis, ammonia, aniline, chloroform, copper compounds (copper sulphate solution is corrosive to clothing), ethers, fluorides, iodine, methanol, nitrobenzene, oxalic acid and oxalates, phenol, phosphorus compounds, permanganates, pyridine, compounds of silver (silver nitrate solution is highly dangerous to the skin), tin and zinc.

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91. Poisonous Gases and Vapours:

(a) Very poisonous:

Arsine, bromine, carbon disulphide, carbon monoxide, chlorine, chloroform, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulphide and phosgene. Mercury vapour (e.g. from a hot broken diffusion pump) may soon cause a dangerous concentration.

(b) Dangerous if inhaled in large quantities:

Ammonia, aniline (which may also cause serious poisoning when spilt on clothing and not removed promptly), benzene, carbon tetrachloride, ether, ethylene dichloride, formaldehyde, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, methanol, methyl "Cellosolve" solvent, nitric acid, nitrobenzene, nitrogen oxides, ozone, phosphine, sulphur dioxide, sulphuric acid fumes and toluene.

92. Skin and Eye Irritants. Some common chemicals may cause irritation to skin or eye unless handled with special care. The following are examples:
Glacial acetic acid, acetic anhydride, all amines, concentrated ammonia, aniline, barium peroxide, chloracetic acid, bromine, some chlorinated solvents, dinitrophenol, ethylene-diamine, formaldehyde (40 per cent.), hydrochloric acid (concentrated), hydrofluoric acid, hydrogen peroxide (in concentrations greater than 3 per cent.), nitric acid, phenol, phenylhydrazine, phosphorus chlorides, caustic alkalis, sodium peroxide and sulphuric acid.

93. Safety Devices. 'I'he teacher should insist on the proper use of fume cupboards and should train the pupils to use them in such a way that they exert their maximum efficiency.

94. Pipettes should be filled with solutions of toxic substances by the use of a suction bottle, a hand bulb or a safety filler. A pipette with a small bulb above the graduation mark is useful, as the rapid rise of liquid is checked and its entry into the bulb can be seen. Greater use could be made of automatic pipettes.


95. NO EXPERIMENT should be performed by the pupils without the fullest consideration by the teacher of the risks involved. Where there is more than a common element of danger, experiments should be demonstrated by the teacher, and then only after all necessary precautions have been taken. Any competent science teacher will always carry out a rehearsal of a new or potentially dangerous experiment in the absence of the pupils.

96. Experiments requiring Special Precautions: (a) Physics. Strong sources of ultra-violet light should not be exposed in front of a class

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unless the pupils' eyes are protected by goggles. Very short exposure will lead to most painful inflammation of the eyes, which is all the more insidious as it may not develop till some time afterwards. Similar care is necessary in using electric arcs and in adjusting lanterns.

97. If it is necessary to raise or lower the air pressure in a glass or other vessel, previous tests should be carried out and a good safety margin allowed.

98. Powerful sources of X-rays or of radioactive materials are not necessary for school purposes. None should be used except under the direct supervision of the teacher.

99. (b) Chemistry. A list of experiments in chemistry that call for more than ordinary care would be too long for this pamphlet. Mention will be made only of the following:

Preparation of oxygen from water and sodium peroxide; the materials must be pure.

Preparation of hydrogen from sodium and water; the skin of sodium peroxide should be cut off the metal before use. Preparation of hydrogen from steam and metals; the use of an iron rather than a glass tube is to be preferred.

Preparation of nitrogen from ammonia solution and chlorine; even in skilled hands serious accidents have occurred and its demonstration is deprecated.

The burning of hydrogen and explosions of hydrogen and oxygen.

100. In organic chemistry care is needed in qualitative tests involving sodium fusions, since some substances explode when heated with sodium. In fact it is always preferable to use Middleton's modification of Lassaigne's method (Allalyst, 1935, 60, 154). This eliminates the risk of explosion and also gives more reliable results.

101. Experiments to be Excluded from the School Course. There is no need in a school course for any of the following experiments:

The action of sulphur or phosphorus with potassium chlorate; these experiments have been forbidden by an Order in Council. Preparation of phosgene, hydrocyanic acid and cyanogen, nitrogen tri-iodide and oxides of chlorine.

Organic combustions and experiments involving the heating of sealed tubes under pressure.

Explosions of hydrogen and chlorine and of oxygen and acetylene.


102. DANGEROUS WASTE chemicals (e.g. phosphorus residues) should be destroyed by the teacher or trained laboratory assistant. Volatile

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liquids should not be poured into sinks, as gas pockets may be formed in the pipes. Waste acids and alkalis and other corrosive liquids should be poured into sinks and the sinks flushed with water while this is being done. Sodium and potassium residues should be destroyed by adding them to alcohol slowly, not to water. Other chemicals, such as sodium peroxide, which react violently with water, should be neutralised before disposal. Solid matter and broken glass should not be emptied into sinks but collected in special refuse containers.



103. Chief Danger Points. Serious accidents in the housecraft room are comparatively rare. A possible reason for this is that in their own homes the girls have already struck up a nodding acquaintance with the same sort of equipment and utensils that they will have to use in the housecraft room. In this the teacher of housecraft is luckier than many of her colleagues. Dangers exist, nonetheless; and the principal causes of accident can be listed briefly as follows:

Badly designed premises;
Slippery floors (of unsuitable material, or highly polished or wet);
Fixed equipment (cookers, clothes-boilers, etc.);
Movable appliances and utensils (kettles, irons, baths, step-ladders, clothes-horses; etc.);
Sharp cutting utensils (knives, tin-openers, etc.);
Boiling liquids;

104. The Room. The first step to safety is to provide well-designed premises and a sensible, efficient lay-out of the housecraft room and its fixed equipment. Wide passage-space is essential to allow the girls to move about easily, and sinks and cookers must be so arranged that a correct sequence of work can be followed.

105. Flooring. The ideal type of flooring has yet to be discovered. Experiments in the use of non-slip materials were being made before the war; it is hoped that these will now be resumed. In the meantime

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boarding, preferably of a kind that can be scrubbed, may be used for the main area of the floor. But floor-boards may easily become slippery with spilt water from the sinks or with grease splashed from the cookers. Therefore the area round the cookers and sinks should be tiled.

106. Fixed Equipment and Appliances. Electrical appliances should have an indicator lamp; irons and water-heaters should, if possible, be thermostatically controlled. Open fires should have adequate guards, especially if they are used for drying or airing clothes. Small gas or electric heaters, too, should have safety, bars; this is to lessen the danger that a girl passing hurriedly may set light to her frock or to anything that she may be carrying - a tea towel, for instance. Points for irons should be easily accessible to the girls; each iron should have its own switch, so that a separate and definite movement of the hand is required to turn the appliance on or off. Gas taps should be set back under the rim of the cooker, so that they cannot accidentally be turned on. Flint-lighters should be provided for use with gas-stoves, to avoid the use of tapers. The ropes of clothes pulleys should be examined periodically.

107. Furniture and Portable Utensils. Tables and chairs should be the right height for the workers. Blocks can be kept handy so that some of the tables can be raised for the older girls. If chairs with folding backs are used, the hinges must not project, or there is a danger that the girls may catch their fingers. Steps and clothes-horses should be well-balanced and kept in good repair. Not more than one girl should work a sewing machine at any one time.

108. Utensils should be graded within a range of size and weight that can be easily managed by the girls. It has to be remembered that the eleven- and twelve-year-olds are often small and slightly-built. For example, irons should not as a rule weigh more than 4 to 5 lbs.; saucepans and kettles should not be too large for one girl to lift when they are full.

109. Poisons. Some very few poisons may be used as cleaning agents or for removing stains in laundry work; salts of lemon is one. These should be very clearly labelled and kept on a high shelf out of the children's reach.


110. For the rest, the children's safety will depend on the teacher, her powers of organisation and the kind of training that she gives. When all specific precautions have been taken, the girls have still to learn to use their common sense and to handle equipment and utensils, of a kind that they may meet with in any home, in a sensible fashion.

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They must be made aware of the danger points and be taught how to safeguard themselves from accidents.

111. One of the teacher's first steps is to arrange the working tables so as to allow freedom of access on all sides; girls may need to pass one another with basins of water or something hot in their hands. The teacher should also see that the girls are provided with a suitable cap and apron for protection. She must train the girls in the right use of fixed and movable equipment and utensils from the beginning; she must teach them, for example, how to light the gas, to carry baths or basins of water, to hold hot irons or to use the mangle. She should plan her own work and teach the girls so to plan theirs that they do not need to move to and fro about the room more than is absolutely necessary. Finally, she should relate her teaching to the work done in the science laboratory; the girls should have at least some grasp of the nature of gas and electricity; they should understand the simple everyday accidents that may occur with such equipment and know how to deal with them.


112. To supplement their training the girls should be taught simple, homely first-aid for minor accidents. The teacher should keep herself familiar with methods of treatment and have an up-to-date first-aid box in the housecraft room.

113. An extinguisher, tested at regular intervals, and a heavy woollen fire blanket should be in every housecraft room, and teachers and pupils should know how to use them. Fire-drill for the housecraft class should be part of the normal school fire-drill. In schools where the housecraft room is not part of the main building, the teacher should make a plan for regular drill and see that every girl understands it.




114. THE PREVENTION of accidents in handicraft and engineering depends to a great extent on a good design and arrangement of the room. This is perhaps more true of these subjects than of any other.

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A workshop that has been laid out for efficient and convenient operation is a place where the first conditions for safe working have been established.

115. This is not the place to describe in detail the ideal lay-out for any particular type of laboratory or workshop. It is, however, possible to point out certain factors affecting safety, which should be considered when new rooms or alterations to existing rooms are being planned.

116. Size. Workshops and laboratories must be big enough. If a room is overcrowded, the pupils are bound to get in each other's way and accidents will happen. It is difficult to resist the temptation to squeeze a few more pupils into a small room. Ample space therefore is essential. Moreover, the benches should be so arranged as to allow enough room at all working places, so that the pupils do not interfere with each other directly or disturb each other with flying chips from the work.

117. Lay-out of Machinery and Apparatus. Machines and apparatus should be so grouped that traffic or congestion near the working places is kept to a minimum. For example, machinery, such as a circular saw, intended for the use of the master in the preparation of material for the class, should not be placed among the pupils' benches. Again, machinery should not be placed so that pupils will frequently be forced to pass near driving belts. The master should be in a position to see easily all that is happening in the room.

118. Gangways. Gangways should be of ample width, and every effort should be made to keep them clear of obstructions. They should on no account be used for storing raw material or work in progress. Plenty of storage space should be provided adjoining the workshop or laboratory.

119. Belts. If the shop is equipped with machines driven by belting from a main shaft, it is not always possible to arrange them so that the belts do not pass over gangways. In that event efficient guards must be provided. Indeed it is a sound rule to provide guards for all belts in school workshops below a height of 8 feet from floor level. This need not involve any great difficulty in belt changing on a cone-driven lathe, for example, and it brings home the need for stopping the machine before belt changing.

120. Heating. Workshops should be well heated. This sounds a platitude. Yet a pupil cannot control his tools and materials properly if his hands are cold. Moreover, if he is cold, he is tempted to keep his jacket on, and this impedes his working.

121. Lighting. It is particularly important to provide good, clear lighting, both natural and artificial. The general lighting should

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satisfy the conditions laid down in the I.E.S. Code (October, 1945),* and the illumination of working surfaces should at least be up to the minimum standards set out in that document. In addition to general lighting it may be necessary to provide special local lighting at certain working places.

122. Where strip lighting of the fluorescent daylight type is used, care must be taken to obviate the stroboscopic effect, which may make fast-running spindles appear to be running very slowly. This may be done by running lamps in more than one phase of a multiphase supply, so that not all lamps are extinguished at the same moment. The necessary wiring is most easily provided when the shop is being built.

123. Floors. There should be no steps or other irregularities. Floors should be of non-slip materials, and should be protected in use from the spilling of materials likely to make them slippery. It is essential that floors should not be cleaned or treated with unsuitable materials; any substance which would render the surface dangerous should be removed at once.

(ii) TOOLS

124. Hand Tools. The prevention of injury from hand tools depends on the careful instruction of the pupils in their use and on the maintenance of a high standard of tidiness in the room and of good discipline in the class. Benches should be the correct height for the pupils, and the use of the right tool for the particular job should be insisted upon.

125. Machine Tools. There are three main causes for accidents in the use of machinery: The danger of some machines and machine parts is obvious enough: unguarded gear-wheels, for example, sharp cutting-edges of tools, belt intakes and all fast-running machinery generally. Sometimes the danger is not so immediately apparent; the accident is caused by the very simplicity of the action involved, by the operator's confidence in his ability or by his very familiarity with the operation. An accident may happen, for example, from the cleaning-away of swarf from a cutter without using a brush, or the carrying-out of belt changing operations on cone pulleys without first stopping the machine. A third source of danger lies in the apparent innocence of very slow-running machine parts. The victim imagines, for instance, that he has ample time to remove his fingers from the slowly moving roller intake.

126. Although the adequate guarding of machinery is of the very greatest importance, it must not be assumed that the provision of guards of any type will result in the elimination of accidents.

*Issued by the Illuminating Engineering Society, 32 Victoria Street, London, S.W.1.

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127. Much of the machinery used in schools has to be driven by belts from shafting, and this need is bound to continue. Wherever possible, however, machine tools should be driven by independent motors. These should be controlled by switches on the machines; a number of master switches, in series with these and each other, should be provided at various points about the room, to enable the master to stop all machines at a moment's notice. When a piece of electrical apparatus which is to be used by the teacher alone is to be put out of action it is not sufficient to remove the fuse. The fuse box should be locked.

128. Some wood-working machinery, such as power saws and planing machines, is particularly dangerous. Except in very special cases, where pupils are being trained specifically for entry into the wood-working trade, the use of such machines by pupils under the age of 16 is strongly deprecated. Where exceptions are made, the work calls for the exercise of special precautionary measures. These machines should not be set up in the ordinary workshop used by young pupils.


129. On leaving school a large proportion of pupils may enter industry. They should receive instruction in the measures taken in industry for the prevention of accidents, in order that the importance of these precautions may be appreciated.

130. Schools and colleges are not, in general, subject to the rules and regulations of the Factories Act, and their workshops are not subject to inspection. Nevertheless their pupils ought to have the benefit of measures that have proved satisfactory in the prevention of accidents in industry. For this reason schools should take every opportunity of seeking the advice of H.M. Inspectors of Factories. The Inspectors welcome this chance of giving help to schools, either through direct advice on the arrangement of the workshops and laboratories or through occasional talks to older pupils.

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(Figures refer to the numbers of paragraphs.)



Safety precautions should not have the effect of sapping the courage and confidence of children. The aim should be not to prevent mishaps but to render them harmless (7, 13 and 14)

Indoor Activities

Accommodation should be suitable in size and design and kept free from obstruction (17)

The teacher should check that apparatus is safely set before use; pupils should be trained to look out for faults and to put them right themselves (18 to 21)

Gym kit is essential; so are plimsoles unless the floor is suitable for bare feet (22)

Boxing and wrestling bouts should be short; opponents should be evenly matched and kit should be suitable (22)

The teacher should not include any exercise unless he is familiar with an effective method of "standing by" for it (23 to 27)

The last recommendation does not apply to the informal activities on portable and improvised apparatus in primary schools. While conditions must be made as safe as possible, nothing must be done to disturb the confidence of young children in any activity they have chosen (28 and 29)

Outdoor Activities

Playgrounds and playing-fields should be large enough and efficiently maintained; the surface should be even and free of obstruction. Where such conditions cannot be provided, extra care is needed (31 and 32)

Kit should be suited to the age and strength of the players (33)

Children should not begin the standard team games too soon, nor should they learn on full-sized pitches (14)

In athletics a graduated scheme of training is necessary to avoid strain, and pupils should not be allowed to take on too much (35)

The safe practice of field events depends on good organisation and control (36)

Children should change for exercise and take a shower afterwards (37)


The teacher should control his class from the bathside. He must be able to obtain instant obedience (38)

Life-saving apparatus should be kept handy. A 12-foot bamboo pole is useful (39)

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Except in earth-free rooms the metallic parts of all apparatus connected to the mains should be earthed (46, 49, 50 and 61)

If single-pole switches are used, they should be connected in the "live" or "phase-wire" (47)

The teacher should exercise the greatest care over connexions; the use of long leads, twisted joints and unprotected terminals should be avoided (65)

Permanent installations should be designed and approved by a qualified electrical engineer; the rules of the Institution of Electrical Engineers should be complied with (52)

Laboratory Apparatus for Younger Children

The supply should be at a safe voltage (say, 12 to 14 volts) (53)

Where A.C. is suitable, there should be a transformer for each bench, with the secondary properly earthed. The secondary circuits should be protected by fuses or circuit breakers (55 and 56)

Where D.C. is required, it should be obtained from accumulators (56)

Apparatus for Older Children and the Teacher

The supply may be provided from a 110-volt transformer, with the central point of the secondary earthed, giving a shock voltage to earth of 55 volts A.C.

Power packs providing current at high voltage should be used only by pupils over 16 and only under supervision. A series resistance should be provided inside the power pack to limit the short-circuit current to less than ten-thousandths of an ampere (59)

Portable Apparatus

Portable apparatus should be connected by means of a three-wire flexible lead so that metal parts may be earthed, where appropriate (52)

Earth connexions should be regularly tested by an instrument adequate to the purpose (52 and 61)

When the internal parts have to be exposed to make an adjustment, the apparatus should be completely disconnected from the supply (64)


The room must be large enough, or the class small enough, to avoid overcrowding (67)

All doors should be kept locked when the laboratory is not in use and kept unlocked when a class is in the laboratory (67)

No pupil should be allowed to enter a laboratory, preparation room or store room except under the supervision or by instruction of the responsible teacher (67)

No science apparatus or chemicals should be used for purposes not sanctioned by the teacher (67)

A Triplex or similar glass screen should be used when the teacher is demonstrating experiments in which there is risk of explosion (67)

A card of laboratory rules should be hung in the laboratory and brought to the pupils' notice (67)

[page 34]

Fire Precautions

Fire fighting apparatus should be kept handy (68 and 69)

Precautions should be taken against gas leaks (70)

Minimum quantities of inflammable fluids required for use should be kept locked; bulk quantities should be kept in a separate fireproof store. In either case the method of storing should be such that spilt liquid cannot escape (72)

Other inflammable substances should be stored in the manner specified here (74 and 75)

For distilling inflammable fluids an open flame should not be used, and the operation should be carried out over a sand tray or similar device (73)

Precautions against Explosion

Before any reduction experiments involving heating in hydrogen or coal gas, a sample of the gas should be collected and tested to make sure it is free from air (77)

Special care is needed in experiments involving certain substances specified here (78 and 79)

Chemicals should always be returned to their correct containers (80)


The storage of inflammables requires the precautions specified above (72, 74 and 75)

The storage of concentrated acids and alkalis, of large glass containers and of glass apparatus requires the precautions specified here (81 and 82)

Reagent bottles and containers of strong acid should be plainly marked in some permanent way. Highly toxic substances should be kept in bottles of a distinctive colour (83)

Glass Working

Pupils should be instructed in correct methods (85)


A list of poisons with appropriate antidotes and treatments should be available in every laboratory (88)

AIl scheduled poisons should be kept locked (89)

Fume cupboards should be properly used (93)

A suction bottle or equivalent device should be used when filling pipettes with toxic solutions (94)

Dangerous Experiments

No experiment should be performed by the pupils without full consideration by the teacher of the risks involved (95)

The pupils' eyes should be protected against electric arcs or any strong source of ultra-violet light (96)

Powerful sources of X-rays should be used, if at all, only under supervision (98)

Certain experiments specified here call for more than ordinary care (97, 99 and 100)

Certain experiments specified here should have no place in the school course (101)

[page 35]


Waste substances should be disposed of effectively (76 and 102)


Premises and Equipment

The room should be well designed and furniture and equipment sensibly laid out (104 and 111)

Furniture and utensils should be the right size for pupils (107 and 108)

Until a satisfactory type of non-slip flooring has been discovered, boarding should be used for the main area of the floor; the area round sinks and stoves should be tiled (105)

Open fires and small gas and electric heaters should have safety bars (106)

Electric appliances should have an indicator lamp (106)

Each electric iron should have its own switch and be thermostatically controlled (106)

Gas taps should be set back under the rim of the cooker (106)

Poisons should be clearly labelled and kept out of reach of the pupils (109)

The Teacher

The teacher should know the principal danger points and should make her pupils alive to them (103 and 110)

She should train the girls in the right use of equipment (110 and 111)

She should relate her teaching to the work done in the science laboratory (111)

The girls should wear suitable protective clothing (111)

Fire-fighting equipment should be kept handy and the girls should be instructed in fire-drill (113)


Premises and Lay-out

Workshops must be big enough; the lay-out should be such as to keep traffic and congestion to a minimum. The teacher should be in a position to see all that goes on (114-117)

Plenty of storage space should be provided, so that gangways can be kept clear (118)

Guards should be provided for all driving belts below 8 feet from floor level (119)

Heating and lighting should be good; the illumination of working surfaces should be up to the minimum standards laid down in the I.E.S. Code (1945) (120 and 121)

Floors should be even and the surface should be "non-slip" (123)


Pupils should be trained in the correct use of hand tools (124)

Machinery should be adequately guarded, though this provision will not of itself eliminate accidents (126)

[page 36]

Where possible, machine tools should be driven by independent motors, controlled by switches on the machines; there should also be master switches at strategic points about the room (127)

Some woodworking machinery is particularly dangerous and should not be set up in the ordinary workshop used by pupils under 16 (128)

Precautions in Industry

Pupils should be instructed in the measures taken in industry to prevent accidents (129)

Schools should seek the advice of H.M. Inspectors of Factories (130)


A proportion of the staff of each school should be qualified in first-aid (App. II)

In particular the teachers of Science and Housecraft should be trained in methods of treatment (67 and 112)

Teachers not trained in first-aid should not attempt to treat an injury but send at once for competent help (15)

But all teachers concerned with electrical equipment should have some knowledge of methods of artificial respiration (43)

Older boys and girls should be taught simple homely first-aid, to equip them to deal with everyday mishaps. They should not be encouraged to deal with injuries beyond their capacity (112 and App. II)

First-aid boxes should be provided and kept up-to-date. Teachers and pupils should know where they are (67, 112 and App. II)

[page 37]




Elementary Schools

MinorSeriousFatalTotalPer cent
Organised Games/P.T.54480162516.4
In School (General)91646-96225.3
Domestic Subjects441-451.2
    Hand tools75--752.0
On Road1112661433.7
Farm Work204-240.6
School Camp3--30.1


Grammar Schools

MinorSeriousFatalTotalPer cent
Organised Games/P.T.19149-24047.6
In School (General)818-8917.6
Domestic Subjects4--40.8
    Hand tools21--44.2
On Road1323183.6
Farm Work1--10.2

[page 38]


Technical Schools and Colleges

MinorSeriousFatalTotalPer cent
Organised Games/P.T.526-5819.1
In School (General)59216220.5
Domestic Subjects2--20.6
    Hand tools116--11638.1
    Machine tools281-299.5
On Road5--51.7


1. These figures are taken from the records of four local education authorities (two for county areas and two for large county boroughs) and refer to a period of four years ending in the summer of 1946. It is appreciated that the number of accidents covered by the tables is too small and the period of time too short for any firm conclusions to be drawn. The tables are treated in the introduction on their merits, that is, as a highly suggestive sample.

2. The accidents have been classified according to:

(a) the degree of severity on a rough three-point scale into minor, serious and fatal;
(b) the activity upon which the injured pupil was engaged at the time;
(c) the type of school.
3. The separation of the schools into three types is necessary because the activities of each type are sufficiently different to affect the result. To measure, for example, the relative risk of science it is necessary to consider separately the accident-figures of schools that give a substantial amount of time to the subject. Unfortunately it has been necessary to retain the now out-of-date term "elementary". The term was relevant during the greater part of the period under review and formed the only basis of classification then available. It has not been practicable to separate secondary modern schools and other groups of older children in the "elementary" schools from junior, infant and nursery schools and classes.

[page 39]



1. The Tables given at Appendix I have been examined in the Introduction to this pamphlet. This examination made it clear that by far the greater number of accidents fall under three headings - in the playground, during organised games and physical training, and general accidents in school buildings. Most of these are minor, such as bruises, sprains and cuts, though more severe accidents such as fractures, dislocations and cuts leading to severe bleeding may occur. In the science laboratories certain special risks are met, such as the risk of burns from corrosive chemicals, cuts from fragments of glass apparatus and poisoning by fumes and chemicals. In all departments of the school, but more particularly in physics laboratories, faulty electrical installations or equipment may be the cause of electric shock. In workshops, where hand or machine tools are used, serious cuts may occur. In the domestic science rooms, burns and scalds probably constitute the chief danger. It would be out of place in this pamphlet to describe the nature of first-aid treatment which should be rendered for these various conditions. The official manuals of the British Red Cross Society and the St. John Ambulance Association give full instructions on how to render first-aid for all these various emergencies and accidents in school or playground. Here it is only necessary to make clear certain general principles which should govern the organisation of arrangements for giving first-aid.

2. It is very desirable that a number of teachers on the staff of every school should have attended a course of training and taken a certificate in first-aid issued by the British Red Cross Society or the St. John Ambulance Association. The names of those so qualified should be made known both to teachers and pupils in order that, in the event of an accident, first-aid may be applied without delay.

3. Fully equipped first-aid boxes should be provided in every school. They should be stocked with dressings, bandages, plaster, antiseptics, simple splints for immobilising fractures, and restoratives. It should be the duty of one of the teachers, preferably one trained in first-aid, to overhaul the equipment periodically and make sure that the necessary stock of material and drugs is maintained. The first-aid boxes should be kept where they can be easily got at and teachers and pupils should know where they are.

4. During the war there was a marked increase in the teaching of the elements of first-aid to children, and it is hoped that such instruction will be continued in order that older boys and girls may be equipped to meet the emergencies which occur in everyday life. The teaching of first-aid to children was dealt with in Memorandum No. 30 of the Schools in Wartime series, dated May 1942. It may be useful to recapitulate some of the general principles laid down in that pamphlet.

The primary aim of the first-aid training of children is to equip them to deal as effectively as possible with such emergencies as they are likely to meet when more expert assistance is not immediately available. It is clearly dangerous for children to be given more advanced training than their age, experience and sense of responsibility warrant. They should be taught how to apply simple dressings and bandage and how to deal with scalds, burns, fainting, sprains and simple grazes and cuts; but they should not be allowed to think they are competent to deal with fractures, apply tourniquets, or treat serious injuries unless they have been selected for their aptitude in first-aid work to have more advanced training; and they should clearly understand the dangers of their trying to move persons who have met with serious accidents or to do anything (except treat for shock and send immediately for skilled help) in cases of obviously serious injury.

[page 40]



As has been said in the Introduction, this pamphlet does not attempt to be complete. The following is a short list of publications on some of the topics which have not been fully dealt with in this pamphlet.

Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Road Safety among School Children: issued by the Board of Education and the Ministry of Transport; H.M.S.O., 1936.

Fire Precautions in Schools: issued by the Home Office; H.M.S.O., 1945.

Manual of Safety Requirements in Theatres and Other Places of Public Entertainment: issued by the Home Office; H.M.S.O., 1934; and Safety in Places of Public Entertainment (leaflet); H.M.S.O.

Regulations prescribing Standards for School Premises, 1945, and Memorandum on the Building Regulations: both issued by the Ministry of Education; H.M.S.O., 1945.

I.E.S. Code: issued by the Illuminating Engineering Society, 32 Victoria Street, London, S.W.1. (This document sets out standards of lighting for workshops.)

The standard manuals of the British Red Cross Society and the St. John Ambulance Association.

[page 41]


No. 1. Out of print.

No. 2. A Guide to the Educational System of England and Wales. (1945.) 1s. (1s. 2d.).

No. 3. Youth's Opportunity - Further Education in County Colleges. (1945.) 1s. (1s. 2d.).

No. 4. Building Crafts (Education for Industry and Commerce.) (1945.) 1s. (1s. 2d.).

No. 5. Special Educational Treatment. (1946.) 9d. (10d.).

No. 6. Art Education. (1946.) 2s. 6d. (2s. 8d.).

No. 7. Entrants to the Mining Industry (Education for Industry and Commerce.) 6d. (7d.).

No. 8. Further Education. 2s. (2s. 3d.).

No. 9. The New Secondary Education. 1s. 6d. (1s. 8d.).

No. 10. Local Studies: Bishop Aukland. 3s. 6d. (3s. 8d).

No. 11. Organised Camping. 1s. (1s. 2d).

No. 12. Unesco and a World Society. 1s. (1s. 2d.).

Prices in brackets include postage