Sharp knives and tools are needed for a variety of art, craft and design work. Pupils should always receive instruction in the correct use of sharp and potentially harmful tools, with clear guidelines on correct safe use and where possible a demonstration. Risk assessments should detail how this will be planned and covered in the lesson to ensure pupils work safely, reducing risk to the minimum.
Knives and chisels
For carving wood and other resistant materials, it is important to use effective holding devices, such as a cramp, clamp, bench vice or carvers' bench screw. For cutting or engraving wood, linoleum or hardboard for printmaking, the use of bench keys, bench hooks or G-clamps for large blocks, will provide a more stable working surface. Tools that are properly sharp present less of a hazard, as bluntness causes the user to exert excessive pressure.
When cutting paper, card and thin plastic sheet, a single-sided or two-sided cutting mat of a suitable size (i.e. larger than the area to be cut) should be used. The self-healing green type prevent slippage and are suitably hard wearing. The use of straightedge safety cutting rulers should be considered in the risk assessment. For freehand cutting of curved shapes, perforated cuts and wiggle-cuts in paper and card. it is possible to use freehand rotary safety cutters, with a range of circular cutting blades. These can be used with a safety ruler or freehand. Risk assessments should consider age and ability of pupils and the complexity of cutting tasks.
The hand holding the paper/card must always be positioned behind the cutting blade and direction of cut.
lino cutting tools
Traditional printing lino and the modern vinyl and polymer equivalents (Easy Cut lino) require cutting tools to be sharp and well maintained, for both safety and quality outcomes. Teachers should instruct pupils in the techniques for lino cutting making clear any rules or guidance for safety.
For cutting lino or engraving a wood block for printing, the use of bench keys, bench hooks or G-clamps for large blocks, will provide a safe and stable working surface. Pupils should always direct the cut away from themselves or carve away from their hands.
Where tools are used by a number of teachers, one person should have the main responsibility for their maintenance and safe storage. Care should be taken when lending tools to other people or staff, that they understand the potential hazards and return the tools promptly.
Care of Tools
Sharp knives and cutting tools create a potential for accident and injury if they are removed from the classroom by pupils. Hence, teachers should carefully oversee the distribution and collection of such tools to ensure all are accounted for and no tools or blades are removed from the classroom. It should be emphasised to pupils that the proper care and use of tools is an important part of their education.
Guillotines, Shears and Rotary Paper Cutters
Guillotines for heavy duty cutting of paper and card must be properly guarded at all times and locked for use only by staff. Rotary type paper trimmers can be used by pupils under supervision. Bench shears for cutting flexible plastic sheets or metal should be locked when not in use.