Hazards and risks


​​​​Schools are involved in many activities that present a range of hazards. These hazards and associated risks must be managed to ensure the safety of staff, students and others. Information about managing common hazards is included in this section.

Each of the following topics include departmental procedures and guidelines, resources, legislation and related links. Click on the subject area for more information.

Built environment

It is important to manage and maintain the built environment to prevent it from impacting on health, safety and wellbeing. The annual assessment process can assist in the identification and management of a number of built environment issues.

Departmental procedures and guidelines


Legislation and other links

Chemicals and hazardous substances

The safe use of substances (e.g. chemicals) forms an important part of health and safety management at your workplace. Risks are to be managed for all substances used, stored or disposed of at a workplace, however, if products fall into the category of hazardous chemicals, hazardous substances and/or dangerous goods then there are specific processes to be implemented to meet legislative requirements. Information to assist you meet these requirements are provided in the following documents.

Departmental procedures and guidelines



Legislation and other links

Curriculum activities

Teachers and leaders responsible for health and safety of students while on school premises and participating in official school activities must follow an appropriate planning process to identify, minimise and mitigate the inherent risks.

It is important to note that the actual risk level will vary according to the specific circumstances of the activity and these must be considered when planning curriculum activities.

Find more information in the procedure, Managing risks in school curriculum activities.

Templates and guidelines can be found on the CARA webpage.

Disaster and emergency planning

The department's Emergency and Security Management Unit (ESMU) is responsible for developing state-wide emergency management policy, providing emergency advice and assistance to state schools and departmental workplaces.

Find detailed information at the Disaster and emergency management web page.

Fire Safety information has been developed by the department’s infrastructure services branch and is available to department workplaces through the OnePortal page 'FireSafety'.

Departmental procedures and guidelines


Driver and vehicle safety

Driver and vehicle safety is something that most of us manage every day. Many departmental staff are also required to drive as part of their role. Below you will find information about why driver and vehicle safety is valued by the department, as well as some easy ways you can improve your safety and the safety of others when driving and managing vehicles.

Departmental procedures and guidelines

Transport of Chemicals—For information regarding the transport of chemicals, please refer to section 2.3.8 of the chemical management guideline (PDF, 5.9MB) (DoE employees only).


Legislation and other links


There are many different types of dust formed from wood, metal, synthetic fibres (e.g. fibreglass), ceramic art materials and textiles. Dust is usually created by mechanical processes such as sanding, grinding and sawing.

Workplaces have a duty to effectively manage all known risks to students and staff associated with dust exposure. Control measures must ensure dust levels in the air do not exceed national exposure standards/limits.

Departmental procedures and guidelines


Legislation and other links


The safety of students, employees and others using electrical equipment is of paramount importance and there are legislative requirements that must be followed to ensure electrical safety. All electrical equipment must be appropriate for the activity and conform to Australian Standard specifications.

Departmental procedures and guidelines


Legislation and other links

Equipment and machinery

Equipment and Machinery (plant) also includes tools, implements, pressure vessels, appliances, individual parts or components and anything fitted or connected to any of these things. Workplaces need to consider all areas where equipment and machinery is utilised including general maintenance and curriculum activities.

More Equipment and Machinery information is in the Industrial Technology and Design (Manual Arts) section of the hazards menu.

Departmental procedures and guidelines


Legislation and other links

First Aid

Appropriate facilities and trained personnel are required to ensure that effective first aid can be rendered in a timely manner during all workplace activities including:

  • routine activities (e.g. normal work day, classrooms, office, play and recreation)
  • sporting activities on campus and at other locations
  • off-site activities (e.g. excursions and camps)
  • other activities hosted at the workplace (e.g. expos, concerts, fetes, dances).

Departmental procedures and guidelines


Legislation and other links

Frequently asked question: Can workplaces have products such as savlon and stingose in first aid kits?

Advice from St John Ambulance, the Red Cross and the Queensland Ambulance Service:

  • First aid organisations recommend that liquid rather than cream-based antiseptic solutions (diluted 1:10) be used, but only for very superficial injures. The liquid form is recommended because of the potential for cream-based products to become contaminated.
  • First aid organisations recommend the application of ice (compress/ice pack) for minor bites and stings.
  • The First aid in the workplace Code of Practice 2014 (PDF, 785KB) allows for additional items to be included in first aid kits based on the assessed needs of the particular workplace.
  • In certain circumstances where it may not be possible to keep ice or an ice pack, such as on excursions or in locations where there is an assessed need, items such as stingose may be included in first aid kits. Remember that ice substitute products such as sprays and packs are available from pharmacies and first aid suppliers.
  • In all circumstances, reference must be made to school records of student medical details, known allergies and parental/caregiver permission for the use of such products on individual students. Students should be monitored and caregivers (parent/guardian) contacted as required.
Industrial technology and design (manual arts)

Industrial Technology and Design (ITD) relates to secondary curriculum delivered across Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary subjects offered in Queensland state schools. Commonly, these subjects incorporate theoretical knowledge with practical application in learning environments that include: computer applications; workshops and practical workspaces; a variety of equipment (both fixed and portable); and a range of materials—typically associated with wood, metal, plastics and their related products and accessories.

Departmental procedures and guidelines


Legislation and other links

What is the ITD Discussion List?

The Managing Industrial Technology and Design activities in secondary schools—Discussion List has been established to provide a forum to discuss ITD issues. It can be used to share ideas, raise problems, debate issues and seek advice on ITD activities via direct emails to subscribed members.

The ITD Discussion List is administered by the Organisational Safety and Wellbeing Unit within the department.

Discussion on the List is informal in its 'tone' however; communication must remain appropriate, respectful and supportive.

Advertising on the list is not appropriate. Companies who have 'mistakenly' joined the List with the intention of broadcasting advertisements will have their subscription terminated.

How to join the ITD Discussion List?

Join the ITD discussion list by entering your name and email details, selecting the ITD—Managing Industrial Technology & Design activities in secondary schools list, selecting your preferred subscription type and selecting Subscribe.

You will receive an email to acknowledge your subscription and information regarding protocols for the use of the List.

*Please note that you can unsubscribe from this Discussion List at any time. Just use the same link above to unsubscribe.

Access archive messages from the ITD Discussion List

All information posted to the discussion list is archived which allows subscribers to view past messages and responses. As many commonly asked questions have already been discussed please use the 'Search Archives' menu option to see if your question has already been answered.

Infection control

Schools and other departmental workplaces are common sites for the transmission of infections and diseases. Departmental workplaces therefore have an important role in ensuring awareness of infection control processes and implementing infection control programs.

The development of a workplace Infection Control Program, including the application of standard precautions is an effective way to prevent or minimise the spread of infection, illness and disease. 'Standard precautions' describes the assumption that all blood and bodily substances are potentially infectious and are to be treated accordingly. Standard precautions include good hygiene and hand washing, use of personal protective equipment, appropriate waste disposal, vaccination, cleaning and sanitisation.

Departmental procedures and guidelines

Important Information for all Employees


Legislation and other links

Manual tasks and ergonomics

Manual tasks can contribute to a range of musculoskeletal disorders (injuries) including:

  • sprains and strains of muscles
  • injuries to muscles, ligaments, discs and other structures of the back
  • injuries to soft tissues such as nerves, tendons, ligaments in the wrists, arms and shoulders.

These types of injuries are often cumulative with damage occurring over a period of time before pain or injury is apparent.

Some work activities may present additional hazards that can also overload the body and lead to injury. These tasks are known as hazardous manual tasks and require specific management strategies. A hazardous manual task involves one or more of the following factors:

  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • repetitive movement
  • sustained or awkward posture
  • exposure to vibration.

Encourage staff to report problems with manual tasks and signs of discomfort immediately so that risks can be managed before an injury occurs.

Risk management resources specific to manual tasks are available on this page.

Hazardous manual task resources

Hazardous Manual Tasks (HMT) Safety Operating Procedures

The following generic Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs) provide information on how to address risks related to identified hazardous manual tasks in department work environments. Ensure you modify the content to reflect any local circumstances related to your task and equipment before you implement them.


Grounds and facilities

Teaching support


The health and wellbeing of students is a priority for the department. Carrying heavy school bags is a concern for some students and families. This document discusses what students may experience and what we can do to reduce the risks.

Student moving and handling task resources

Office and computer workstation resources

Slips, trips and falls resources

Legislation and other links


Excessive noise is unwanted sound that may damage a person's hearing. Damage to hearing generally occurs gradually over a number of years and may remain unnoticed until it is too late.

Exposure to excessive noise is cumulative. If you have already been exposed to excessive noise at work and then expose yourself to more noise during gardening, hobby or leisure activities (including listening to music/audio through headphones at high volume), your chances of sustaining noise-induced hearing loss are substantially increased.

Noise-induced hearing loss is slow and painless and it is permanent. There is no cure but it can be prevented.

The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels. Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by a one-time exposure to very loud sound or by repeated exposure to sounds at various volume levels over an extended period of time. Examples of decibel levels include: normal conversation is approximately 60 decibels, the humming of a refrigerator is 40 decibels, heavy city traffic noise can be 85 decibels, a lawn mower is on average 90 decibels and a leaf blower approximately 110 decibels.

Schools need to identify activities that generate excessive noise levels and implement and maintain measures to prevent noise induced hearing loss. Management of noise should include:

  • Researching and determining noise levels of equipment prior to their purchase and trying to 'buy quiet'.
  • Redesigning tasks so that staff are not exposed to loud noise over extended periods.
  • Repairing and maintaining equipment and machinery to reduce their noise levels.
  • Provision of personal hearing protection and training for relevant staff in the correct use and storage of the hearing protection.

Information to support students who are deaf or hard of hearing can be found on the deaf and hard of hearing page.  


Legislation and other links

Playgrounds and outdoors

It is important that systems are in place to minimise the risk of injuries associated with playground equipment, sporting equipment and the surrounding physical environment. For example:

  • The safety aspects of all playground and sporting equipment are considered when purchasing new equipment.
  • Design and construction of recreation areas meet recommended standards and include appropriate shade areas.
  • Equipment is installed and maintained in accordance with manufacturer's instructions and guidelines.
  • Systems are implemented to action the results of inspections, e.g. checklists completed, repair items actioned, regular reports to management.
  • Safety rules are established and monitored to reinforce safe play and acceptable use of equipment. This may include student instruction on acceptable use of equipment, numbers of students on a piece of equipment or times equipment or areas can be used.
  • No smoking—The use of cigarettes, other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes within five metres of school land was banned on 1 January 2015. This ban reflects Queensland's tobacco laws and applies before, during and after school hours, and on school holidays and weekends. The ban doesn't extend over neighbouring residences or businesses. On 1 September 2016 the 5 metre smoking restriction was placed on early childhood education and care services, kindergartens and after school hour care facilities. School resources are available to support smoke free schools.
    No smoking is permitted at outdoor public places such as children’s playground equipment, major sports stadiums or patrolled beaches.
    Electronic cigarettes are not to be used in all no-smoking areas.

    Read more information on the Tobacco laws in Queensland.

Departmental procedures and guidelines


Playground equipment should be thoroughly checked at least twice per year with regular visual checks being undertaken throughout the year.

Legislation and other links

Working at heights

Strong regulatory requirements apply to all fall hazards from one level to another, regardless of the distance from the ground. This includes the use of low level platforms and ladders.

Falling objects can also cause serious injuries. Ensure that objects do not fall onto people who may be under or next to a work area.

Schools are advised that there is a prohibition on departmental employees, students and volunteers being on, or working on roofs* at departmental facilities.

*this prohibition includes all roofs on buildings, structures and covered walkways (e.g. single and multistorey constructions, breezeway roofs, awnings, shed roofs, detached or demountable building roofs, sun shade structures etc.)

Departmental procedures and guidelines

The working at heights Guideline describes the processes required to safely manage work at heights.

Workplaces are to identify tasks that place staff, students or others at risk of a fall from heights and:

  • Determine if the task can be performed another way e.g. design changes, using long-handled tools, use skilled contractors.
  • If heights must be accessed, the activity must have controls or systems in place to prevent falls.
  • Follow the 5 level hierarchy of fall control (WHS Regulation 2011, s79).

The department requires its employees to document their risk management practices in the following ways for all activities which have the potential for falls from height:

Work at heights task Required actions
Any activity that involves being on, or working on any roof at any state school facility. Stop. Do not proceed. Being on, or working on any roof at any state school facility is prohibited for all school staff, students and visitors.
Activities where you already know the risks and know how to control them. Review and adhere to the risk assessment/Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)/Safe Operating Procedure (SOP).
The task involves a fall hazard of less than 2 metres and is:
A new activity or a significant change to an existing activity.
Complete and adhere to a risk assessment (DOCX, 368KB).
Apply the hierarchy of control starting at level 1 (elimination).
If ladders are used, you must state why you are not using a higher level control.
Tasks that involve fall hazards of 2 metres or more above the ground (measured from the feet)
Tasks that involve fall hazards of 1.5 metres below ground level (measured from the feet).

Warning. Complete a SWMS (DOCX, 460KB).

Develop and adhere to any SOPs relevant to the safe completion of the task (e.g. for plant and equipment, pre-start procedures).


Many falls take place when people are working from ladders. Ladders may only be selected when it is not reasonably practicable to use higher order control measures. Other options (e.g. an elevating work platform or scaffolding) are to be assessed to determine if they would be safer or more efficient or more suited to the task.

  • The use of ladders is to be subject to risk assessment, safe work procedures and training.
  • Ladders should only be used as a work platform for light work of short duration after key hazards such as work position, over reach and set-up have been considered.
  • All ladders in departmental workplaces are to have a load rating of at least 120 kg and be manufactured for industrial use.


Information to assist your workplace identify, review and manage fall hazards:


Templates to assist users to assess and control the risks associated with fall hazards.

Safe operating procedures

Safe operating procedures (SOPs) provide detailed information on how to address issues related to the safe use of equipment. A range of generic SOPs are provided below. Ensure you modify the content to reflect any local circumstances related to your task and equipment before you implement them.

Legislation and other links

Last updated 14 June 2022