Keeping woodwork safe: From woodwork in the early years expert Pete Woodhouse
Some of the most important health and safety guidelines:
Safety glasses should be worn at all times. With hammering, there is a
very small risk that a nail could rebound toward the eye or an item
being hammered may shatter. Wearing safety glasses eliminates this risk.
If we believe young children are old enough to do woodwork then they
are also old enough to learn about looking after and taking
responsibility for their bodies with appropriate safety protection. Goggles (as opposed to safety glasses) are more problematic as
children find them uncomfortable and they are distracted by constantly
repositioning them and their peripheral vision is also restricted. This
results in children having a diminished experience of woodwork and being
potentially more likely to injure themselves. Small-sized junior safety
glasses are now readily available that fit comfortably on even the
smallest of heads.
Ensure all children are given proper instruction on the correct use
of all tools. Draw attention to sharp edges/points of tools. Keep a
checklist of who has learnt to use which tool to ensure all children get
correct instruction. Remind children woodwork equipment remains in the
A good sturdy workbench with a vice is essential to hold wood securely for sawing and drilling.
When hammering into wood children will be using considerably force.
They should hold the nail with finger and thumb and use gentle taps to
get the nail started- until it is standing up on its own – then
importantly hold the wood well away from the nail before hammering hard
to get the into the wood. Short, thin nails are a lot easier to hammer
Sawing should be monitored 1:1 – This is particularly to ensure no
children are watching from or passing in front of the sawing area. Child
sawing with Japanese saw or pull saw to hold the saw with two hands or
with European cross-cut saw with one hand – the hand not holding the saw
to be well away from the saw and holding the bench. Wood must always be
clamped tightly in a vice when being sawn. Staff to ensure wood is
clamped tight in vice. After use immediately place saw out of reach (but
visible to children).
Check wood for splinters. Avoid very rough splintery wood. Rough
wood can initially be sanded. Sand edges after sawing if rough. Caution:
Splinters can be a source of blood poisoning. First aid guidance varies
so check your local guidelines – common sense would suggest if the
splinter is protruding to remove it. Either way parents should be
informed of splinters so the splinter site can be monitored for possible
Ensure all nails and screws are picked up from the floor afterwards
– a large magnet can work a treat for this – and there will be no
shortage of volunteers to use it!