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The Use of Fume Cupboards in Schools – What You Need to Know

Fume cupboards are used extensively in many different types of laboratories, none more so than in schools. A fundamental part of a science subject classroom, teachers and lab technicians operate fume cupboards to help ensure those who are handling hazardous materials remain safe from airborne substances produced from the experiments.

Keeping the Classroom Safe

While it is important in any setting where hazardous materials are used, in a school classroom setting, it remains particularly important because of the impact it could have on staff and pupils.

The aim is to deliver airflow away from the individual and when it is used correctly, they will prevent users from becoming exposed to toxic gases, explosions and spills, minimising the risk of exposure and bringing safety to an acceptable level.

Providing essential ventilation

We’re all aware of the problems that can arise from inhaling harmful chemicals. Vapours can cause dizziness, but long-term exposure can also lead to liver damage. So, your school fume cupboard needs to ensure that an adequate barrier is put in place between operators and the toxic fumes. As the air is filtered, it ensures that the user remains safe.

There are two types of fume cupboards schools can choose to install, ducted and ductless cabinets (the latter often being referred to as recirculating).

In the case of ducted fume cupboards, the air is removed and dispersed into the outside atmosphere. Many ducted fume cabinets will use constant air volume systems, but there are also variable air volume systems available that help to reduce energy costs. These help to reduce the volume of air that is exhausted as the fume cupboard sash remains closed.

Recirculating fume cupboards work exactly how they sound, by recirculating the air that is filtered correctly before being redistributed again. The materials being used will determine the filters that are required and so, these should only be used when the material is known and never changes.

For more information on the differences between ducted and ductless cabinets, read our guide.

What Type of Fume Cabinet Does Your School Need?

The first thing you need to establish is what is it going to be used for. Do you want your teachers to be able to perform demonstrations to their pupils? Is your fume cupboard going to be in a fixed position or do you need it to be more mobile? And, as we’ve already touched upon earlier, how is the air going to be extracted?

Schools that tend to install ducted fume hoods do so due to the types of experiments conducted, especially in sixth form / college labs. However, ductless cabinets can be set up in schools where external extraction systems can’t be fitted, would be very difficult to fit, or the amount they will be used is low.

Nowadays, science classrooms want flexibility, which is why ISG offer a fully bespoke design, manufacture and installation service, meaning a new fume cupboard can placed almost anywhere, including wheeled benchtop specifications if necessary.

Here’s a quick and simple checklist what you need to consider:

  • What type of applications will it be used for?
  • Specification of the work area within the cupboard.
  • Do you need it to be portable?
  • How often you’re going to be using it.

Read our resource on the 5 things you need to consider before commissioning a new fume cupboard that can often be forgotten.

Do we need to maintain the cupboards?

Like all essential industrial machinery, to ensure your school’s fume cupboards operate effectively and reliably, you need to make sure they are maintained on a regular basis. Not only that, but it’s a legal requirement that the unit’s performance is measured at least once every year.

Usually, the task of maintaining the cupboards falls on the school’s lab technician, as they’ll need to keep a record of any inspections, maintenance and certificates provided by the company you contract to service them.

And just like an MOT for your car, if any fume cupboard fails its inspection, they need to be repaired or replaced as soon as possible to ensure safety.

So, there you have it. Everything you need to know for the use of fume cupboards in schools

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