Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Safer Science

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Safer Science

Article excerpt

Safety to the Wind

A group of science teachers was asked to comment on architectural plans to renovate school laboratories. One teacher asked why the supply air coming into the chemical storeroom was being recirculated into an adjoining corridor and other classrooms. The architect said it would lower energy costs. The teacher noted that flammable and other potentially hazardous vapors from the storage room could pose a fire or explosion hazard in the building.

Appropriate laboratory ventilation

The local fire marshal sided with the teacher, noting that air from laboratories or chemical storerooms cannot be recirculated to other parts of the building for safety reasons. He referred to the National Fire Protection Assocation's Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals, or NFPA 45 (see "On the web"). In most school districts, the local fire marshal is the person responsible for enforcing the requirements of NFPA 45. He required the architect to make apporpriate changes in line with the NFPA 45 standard.

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NFPA 45 is critical in helping to ensure a safer working/learning laboratory environment for both school employees and students. There are a number of important fire code requirements dealing with ventilation that high school science teachers should be aware of in their facilities. Examples include:

* Laboratory units and laboratory hoods in which chemicals are present shall be continuously ventilated under normal operating conditions.

* The air pressure in the laboratory work areas shall be negative with respect to corridors and non-laboratory areas of the laboratory.

* Air exhausted from chemical fume hoods and other special local exhaust systems shall not be recirculated.

* Canopy hoods shall not be used in lieu of chemical fume hoods.

* Chemical fume hoods shall not be located adjacent to a single means of access to an exit or to high-traffic areas. …

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