When I deliver IWB training sessions I do get asked quite a bit about the health and safety implications of using a whiteboard and projector, especially after a report appeared in the Times Newspaper a few years back.

There are several guidance documents that are worth referring to. Many schools now have this guidance printed out and stuck on the wall next to the IWB.

Health and Safety Exectutive Guidance
Becta Guidance
Teachernet Guidance
National Whiteboard Network Guidance (word document)

Basically, the guidance can be summarised as follows:

  • Staring directly into the projector beam should be avoided at all times.
  • Standing facing into the beam is minimised. Users, especially pupils and students, should try to keep their backs to the beam as much as possible. In this regard, the use of a stick or laser pointer to avoid the need for the user to enter the beam is recommended.
  • Pupils and students are adequately supervised when they are asked to point out something on the screen.
  • Employers should also try to ensure that projectors are located out of the sight line from the screen to the audience; this ensures that, when presenters look at the audience, they do not also have to stare at the projector lamp. The best way to achieve this is by ceiling-mounting rather than floor or table-mounting the projector.
  • In order to minimise the lamp power needed to project a visible presentation, employers should use room blinds to reduce ambient light levels. The brightness on the projector can then be turned down via its internal settings.

In addition to this advice, I would like to add a few comments

1. Make sure that both sides of the board are free from clutter – so that it is possible to stand either side of the board when addressing the class. This minimises the need to stand directly in the beam.

2. Check the remote control of your projector (or a. Find your projector remote control and b. check it!) and see if it has a button that says Blank or No Show, Mute/Pic or Show/Hide or something like that. This button will dim the output of the projector, basically blanking the screen if you do not want to use it for a while. You can now talk to the class without being dazzled by the beam. Obviously this is only handy if you do not want to refer to the board as well. This is better for the projector bulb than turning it off and on all the time using the power button.

(On a side note – most projector remotes also have a Freeze button which lets you freeze the projector on the current image while you sort out the next piece of work.. maybe put up a problem for the pupils to solve while you then find the next part of the presentation or a web game etc. The other use (and one I obviously do not condone!) allows you to check your emails while the pupils are copying something off the IWB!)

3. As I mentioned before, reduce the glare of the board when giving presentations by using a pastel page background instead of a white one.

If you follow this advice, and employ some common sense you should have no problems using your interactive whiteboard safely.