Safe use of tools Procedures 

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At Willow Den Scotland we believe learning to safely use appropriate tools is an important part of children’s development. Tool use encourages practical skills, creativity, focus and dexterity, amongst many other positive attributes. By following these procedures, we will ensure the benefits of tool use far outweigh the risks. Refer to the Risk Benefit Assessment for tools for more detail. 

We will slowly introduce tools such as those below, and each child will be shown how to use each safely on a one-to-one basis until they are confident in using them independently. Leaders will demonstrate correct tool use to other staff and will assess each staff members capabilities/confidence before they supervise the tool area. If staff or children do not abide by the safety codes, the tool area will be closed off immediately. The tool area will be within a designated space within each individual ELC setting and marked off using a red rope. If tools are being used elsewhere on the site this will be risk assessed dynamically.

The tools we will use at Willow Den are: 

  • Hammers 
  • Wooden mallets 
  • Screwdriver 
  • Nails, screws, nuts and bolts 
  • Palm drill 
  • Bowsaw 
  • Secateurs 
  • Gardening tools – trowels, spades, rakes
  • Junior hacksaw
  • Vegetable peelers
  • Children’s knives for cutting food
  • Chisels
  • Spirit levels
  • Hacksaws
  • Set squares 

Safe tool use for staff 

At Willow Den we engage in continuous site maintenance and improvement, which involves the use of both hand and power tools, as well as tutoring children in tool use.  In-person training will be provided for staff during their induction process, or when needed. Senior staff will be observant of tool use in other staff and will model, coach and train where necessary. 

Willow Den will provide PPE for tool use, to be used by staff where they deem safe and appropriate. 

General tool use guidelines 

  • Tools should be kept within the tool area. The tool area will be checked before use for any hazards. 
  • A practitioner must always be supervising the tool area when the tools are in use. 
  • Tools will be well maintained and checked for safety before each use. Blades should be sharp. 
  • Tools will be kept in the designated tool storage and brought into the tool area by a practitioner when the experience can be supervised. Trowels, spades and rakes are not included in this rule and will be available for use at all times, subject to risk assessment. 
  • Tools will be counted in and out before and after use.  
  • When a child has finished with a tool, it should be returned to staff (i.e. not left on the ground etc) 
  • Children will be encouraged never to run with tools. Children will be made aware of ‘safe carrying’ i.e. carried down by your side when not in use. 
  • Tools should be used within a ‘safety bubble’. A safety bubble is determined by a child outstretching both arms and moving them in all directions while staying in the same spot – this is their safety bubble. No other child should be able to reach within that space while they are using a tool. If two children are sitting next to each other, neither should be able to touch the other with outstretched hands if they are using the safety bubble rule correctly. 
  • Bow saws and hammers/mallets should be used following the procedures below – other tools do not pose the same level of risk, and can be used according to the general guidelines.  
  • Ratio of children to adults and related risks will be assessed by the practitioner, depending on the competence/maturity of children present, and tools being used. 

Safe tool use for children 

Safety codes for children for the tool area: 

  • The red rope means stop! 
  • You are only allowed in the tool area if a practitioner says it is safe. 
  • Remember to use the safety bubble rule. A ‘safety bubble’ is the space around the child when they outreach their arms. They should be unable to touch anyone either side.
  • Tools must stay in the tool area, carry them down by your side and give them back to the practitioner when you are finished. 

Bow Saw 

The use of bow saws is a 1:1 activity, with the practitioner assessing whether each child has the ability to use one safely. The safety bubble rule must be observed.  Follow these procedures for use: 

  • Adult should kneel beside the child, who will be holding the large handle. 
  • One hand should be holding the saw, and one hand holding the wood steady. The hand holding the wood should be well clear of the blade as the blade can jump out of the wood. If available, use a saw horse to secure the wood, so both hands can hold the saw. 
  • Initially, the practitioner should be sitting in front of the child, guiding the saw by holding it at the front, with the child assisting. The practitioner should never be sitting behind the child. This rule is flexible as the child becomes competent and confident using the tool, and this is assessed by the practitioner. 
  • The saw should be carried down by your side when not in use, with the blade guard in place. 


This is not necessarily a 1:1 activity but use should be closely supervised and children assessed for competence and maturity before use.  

  • Hammering can be taught initially by using something softer than wood – for example a potato or pumpkin. When the child has learnt the technique and is competent, they can practice with wood. 
  • Hammering is easiest when the body is centered around the hammer. The arm should be in a straight line with the hammer handle, with the weight of the person behind it. Children should be encouraged to hold the hammer at the end of the handle – this is harder until muscles develop, but a better technique.  
  • Hammer the nail initially using small taps to stabilise it (moving only the wrist), then use stronger hits, moving the arm at the elbow and keeping the wrist straight. The rest of the arm and body should not need to move for accurate technique. 
  • Fingers should be well clear of the hammer head. 
  • Hammers should be carried down by your side when not in use, and not swung around the body or thrown. 


This is not necessarily a 1:1 activity but use should be closely supervised and children assessed for competence and maturity before use.  

  • Secateurs should be well maintained and the blade kept sharp so they are easy to use.  
  • Children should only cut sticks which are no thicker than their thumb. 
  • Children should be taught how to lock the secateurs closed. They should be kept locked at all times when not in use, and carried down by your side.