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Manage Makerspaces on Campus

Heather Salko, Esq.
October 2020
Steps to prevent injury in these increasingly popular innovation labs

The use of “makerspaces” ─ also called innovation labs, fabrication labs, or “hackerspaces” ─ is increasing. These dedicated workshops seek to promote learning, knowledge sharing, and invention through hands-on experience. Whether they house equipment such as digital cameras or 3-D printers, they allow for cross-disciplinary exploration and creativity, often joining elements of art, engineering, and industrial fabrication.

While having a makerspace at your K-12 school, college, or university can foster creativity, it also comes with the risk of injury. To protect students, faculty, staff, and possibly even the community, it’s important to address concerns.

Key Considerations For Makerspaces

As your institution operates or prepares to open its own makerspace, consider:

  • Who will use the makerspace? Determine whether your space is open to anyone on campus and in the community. Track users and visitors through a sign-in sheet or membership card.
  • Who has authority over the makerspace? Specify which department is responsible for keeping the space orderly, clean, and safe. The physical location of the makerspace, such as an engineering building or a library, may determine who has ownership. For example, Davidson College’s Information Technology Services Department runs its Maker & Innovation Space.
  • Are general policies on safety, usage etiquette, and intellectual property available to all users of the space? Some makerspaces require users to sign a form indicating they have read and understand applicable policies.
  • Is there appropriate insurance in place to cover people, including visitors, in the event of an accident?
  • Does the makerspace have proper ventilation and sufficient space for anticipated activities, such as soldering and chemical usage? Who provides training for proper tool usage? Who assesses and monitors safe usage? Case Western Reserve University requires users of the metal and wood shops to earn and display a badge confirming they completed safety training for specific machines.
  • Are safety rules and notices posted centrally and near specific tools? Is appropriate protective gear available? Also, many makerspaces post safety precautions and instructions at each tool area to reinforce safe usage and proper maintenance.
  • Are first aid kits readily available? Are locations and phone numbers for emergency services prominently noted near a centrally located phone?
Additional Resources