Health, Safety and Awareness in a Shed


What makes a Men’s Shed healthy or safe? If all the members are equally risk-aware and responsive and the Shed organisers have done their part.

If you are an organisation it is the responsibility of the providers of a facility to take all reasonable precautions to ensure a place is both healthy and safe for each member but whatever is done can be easily undone if the members do not share the same awareness of the risks and behave accordingly. These are shared responsibilities.

Those offering a facility need to monitor the health and the safety risks of the premises as a whole, of all the equipment provided, and of each person’s capability to use the equipment and premises. It is their duty to make everyone aware of the risks, train as required, and to supervise to ensure support or guidance is available since members may forget or not apply the knowledge through thoughtlessness, frustration or misunderstanding etc. Supervision is also necessary as circumstances can change at any time.

This duty is the ‘duty of care’ common to any provider of a facility. Unless your Shed has paid staff or is part of an organization that does then it is not subject to the specific requirements of the Health and Safety Executive. It recognizes that a user is not expected to personally check all safety aspects of any facility before using it as they can reasonably expect that to have been checked by the provider. There is a lot of help on the HSE website for those to whom it applies.

Whilst providing a healthy and safe facility is a continuous activity it is helpful to have designated members periodically formally check and record that activity. This is both to remind the safety supervisors of everything it has been agreed to keep aware of (checklists are a helpful prompt) and as evidence if challenged about whether safety has been maintained. It is also advisable if challenged to have each member sign a declaration that they have been trained in the safe use of a facility and to undertake to be responsible for their actions if they do not comply. (See ‘disclaimer’ below).

As awareness of safety and health issues amongst members increases so ‘good practice’ spreads and members will increasingly encourage each other, often in humourous and gentle ways, to work to the common good of all users.

Shed organisers can exercise care by:

Providing and maintaining a suitable space taking into account factors such as building integrity, security, strong fixings, airflow, sufficient light etc.

Equipping with good tools, benches and facilities such as dust extraction equipment, sufficient electrical sockets and emergency cut-off buttons; sufficient and suitable storage (e.g. metal cabinet for storage of inflammables); sufficient room to work in (limiting number of users as needed); plus somewhere to relax over tea etc.

Arranging for all the above to be maintained by suitably experienced persons plus aranging ancillary checks such as fire extinguishers, portable appliances, alarms etc

Training members in how to maintain the group’s health and safety including how use the equipment at induction plus procedures such as fire evacuation, stotage and disposal, repeated as required;

Providing continuous coordination and supervision that assesses members’ competence, capacity (which may change) and compliance with safety procedures including the use of safety equipment for eyesight, breathing and hearing (including limiting noise levels) and protecting feet;

Monitoring incoming items e.g. chemicals or scavenged materials

Excluding people that exceed safety limits (note the number of people who can safely work in a space varies with the activities undertaken), or who pose a threat (e.g. due to alcohol or drug abuse, or behavior).

Undertaking regular safety spot checks.

Notes:                                                                                                                                                                                     1. Spot checks – these assess safety at a given time and are best carried out by two or more people as it involves deciding what actions are best taken to remedy any issue. Spot checks can often identify something overlooked in daily use and are best undertaken on a regular basis so they are not forgotten. They also provide written evidence that the Shed is safety-aware.  Whilst these checks usually concentrate on the facility and its equipment it could also involve observing how equipment is being used.

The people doing the check will record what they see under a set of headings such as the example below. There are several variations in use. The risk level determines the urgency of the actions required.

   Issue     What we currently do     Risk level     Action required     By whom     By when

This should be dated and signed. It can be useful to display this where it can be seen and actions checked.

Spot checkers often use checklists as exampled below. They can be useful prompts but if used rigidly might distract from taking a fresh and overall look at what is before the observers.

The Bench Drill
1 Is the stop switch clearly marked & working properly?
2 Are guards in place, secure and well maintained?
3 Is the chuck in good working order
4 Is the drive properly tensioned, and lubricated & is this checked before every use?

For an expanded example of the above click here.

  1. Shed facility maintenance is best delegated to one person or one person per work area. Those appointed do not need to be qualified but their appointment should be defensible.
  2.  Training in the use of a tool does not need to be by a qualified person but the appointment also should be defensible.
  3.  Dust extraction equipment should include an air filter as it is the fine, unseen dust which is most damaging.

If you are looking for advice specific to your Shed Local FE Colleges have been successfully approached as have retired Local Authority officers.


Safety measures. Here is a sample checklist of ways to prevent Shedders getting hurt:-

Heat: keep fire-escape routes accessible; know what to do if there’s a fire; avoid hot tool parts e. g forstner bits; return inflammables to their storage area (usually a metal cabinet); only expose open flame with supervision.

Crushing: Store heavy items lower down; wear hard-tipped shoes fully covering your feet; check options with supervisor when moving anything heavy.

Trips, slips and falls: no trailing wires; look behind you when moving backwards; keep floors clear of sawdust, liquids or items dropped on the floor like screws, off-cuts; let someone else know before stepping above floor-level.

Inhaling: use dust extraction equipment inc attaching vacuums to machinery, wearing dust masks, if practical cut rather than sand or move sanding operations outside.

Cuts: use tools as instructed esp. keep blades away from your person or clothing; do not store wood that is splintered or has exposed nails; beware bladed tools when stored; turn off machines immediately after use and unplug; use all available lighting; clamp work whenever possible; beware of loose clothing, hair, attachments.

Eye damage: wear safety glasses.

Ingestion: Keep chemicals away from the kitchen sink.

Strains: Learn how to lift and seek help if in doubt.

Underpinning these : have one or more people trained in first aid.


Discussion amongst Shedders can add different perspectives. Here are some quotes from a recent event:-

‘The basis is mutual respect and consideration’.                                                                                                           ‘If you clear up as you go along it makes space and tools available to others – then they won’t try and ‘make do’ with the wrong tools or too little space’.                                                                                                                   ‘If you are feeling frustrated or not quite well its best to take a break’                                                                     ’We should all report accidents or ‘near misses’ as it helps us understand how things can go wrong’.             ‘If something is not working properly tell a supervisor’.                                                                                             ‘If you are not sure how to do something, ask. We all need help sometimes’.                                                ‘Please clean mugs and utensils properly after use’.                                                                                                   “It could be dangerous if you talk to me whilst I’m using machinery’.

Some Sheds have structured and expanded similar thoughts: For Frome Shed’s ‘Code of Conduct’ click here.



In August 2016 the disclaimer used by the Camden Town Shed was reviewed and approved by a partner of a London law firm. It is incorporated into the Shed’s registration form.

Registration and Disclaimer

Camden Town Shed is a volunteer-run facility that enables people to come together around practical projects of their own choice. It is a social facility with a practical bias. It is registered as a charity (no.1145666) with the aim of reducing social isolation particularly among older men. It opened in April 2011.

Safety. There are dangers in using this facility. The safety of everyone using the premises is however a shared responsibility. If you see anything that looks dangerous, whatever it is, we expect you to say or do something immediately. This can include hitting the emergency ‘STOP’ button.

It is the Shed’s responsibility to ensure that equipment is properly maintained; that anyone using equipment is trained in its proper use; that workshop practices are safe; and that safety equipment is provided.

It is Users responsibility to ensure their own safety and maintain the safety of other users by following any safety guidance given to them verbally or in writing and to maintain an awareness of the activities of those around them. The User is expected to follow Health and Safety standards, including those beyond the training provided by the Shed. If unsure, seek the recommendation of the Safety Supervisor and/or professional or specialist advice.

The trustees exercise their safety responsibilities by appointing Safety Supervisors who have full responsibility for the workshop in the absence of a trustee, including who attends and even if the Shed remains open. The Safety Supervisors are named on the notice-board.

In joining the Shed Members also agree to comply with the Code of Conduct posted on the noticeboard.

Registration :

  1. I agree:
  • To be shown how to safely use any equipment and to sign a training record to that effect.
  • To follow any safety instructions provided to me in person or more generally in writing.
  • That if I am not following safety guidance then I will take responsibility for any injury I cause to myself or to others however serious that may be.


  1. I acknowledge and accept that (to fullest extent permitted by law) neither Camden Town Shed nor any of its Trustees shall be liable for any direct or indirect loss, damage or injury (except in instances of death or personal injury caused by negligence of such person) arising from or in connection with participation in the Camden Town Shed programme, and I waive all and any claims in this respect.


  1. I confirm that, to the best of my knowledge, I do not suffer from any medical, psychological or behavioural condition, or use any drugs which might give trustees reasonable cause for safety concerns.

If you do have any history which might increase the safety risk, please speak with a trustee.

Name………………………………………………………[ PLEASE USE CAPITAL LETTERS ]


…………………………………………………………….Post Code……………………………

E-mail : …………………………………………………………Phone No……………………

I confirm that I have read and understood this application form and that the information I have given is true to the best of my knowledge.




3 thoughts on “Health, Safety and Awareness in a Shed

  1. The HSE website seems mostly aimed at small businesses and its taking an age to search this for my needed info on Mens Shed workshops. At Gosport we have heated arguments about lone workers, whilst we have cameras and monitors in the lounge for lone workers. Often there may be only one turn up and on other occasions there are 5 or more working on their projects. Do other Sheds care-for, or ban lone working ? Some here want lone working banned. Others think its great that we can keep an eye on them from the lounge.

  2. We in Romsey have a policy of not doing (or allowing) anything by way of work to happen unless we are in pairs. This is simple & sensible care for ourselves as individuals and the Shed as a whole. All members understand and support this.

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