Explosion in school science laboratory: Does your lab design mitigate the risk?

Thursday 30 August, 2012

Is your laboratory experiment safe?

On Tuesday 28th August, eleven high school students and their teacher were injured when sodium hydroxide exploded at a school science laboratory.


Good laboratory design and tailored procedure development through the Dangerous Goods Risk Assessment process is vital in mitigating the risks with chemical research and teaching.

When designing a new laboratory, retrofitting an existing laboratory or designing a building housing chemicals and gasses, simply following relevant Australian Standards in the design process doesn’t guarantee risk mitigation.

During the design process it is imperative that a Dangerous Goods Consultant who is independent to the design engineer or architect is engaged. The consultant should also understand reactive chemical risks and lab procedures, such as a qualified chemist.

Throughout the design process, it is crucial to continually discuss the user’s requirements from a chemical perspective, as user procedures and protocols may require alterations or engineered solutions to mitigate the risks of lab processes and chemical usage.

One risk which is often overlooked by the users is hazard zoning. Often laboratories are furnished by users with electrical equipment which hasn’t been designed or manufactured for use in a work environment where explosive atmospheres may be present.  This results in a higher risk likelihood of laboratory fires and explosions.

A Dangerous Goods Consultant needs to be a qualified and experienced chemist who understands:

  • The intent of the Australia Standards
  • The needs of the end users
  • Common laboratory procedures and design pitfalls

Furthermore, the Dangerous Goods Consultant MUST be part of the design team from the very beginning of the design stage to ensure safety throughout the lifetime of the laboratory. 

For more information about CETEC's Laboratory Design Services
CETEC are also able to assess whether your current laboratory practices and procedures comply with Australian Standards.  For more information call us to discuss.