Firstly, schools should comply with the policies developed by their own school Risk Management Systems.
In the absence of any clear guidance for the testing of emergency stops in science laboratories, Science ASSIST recommends that:
- Testing of emergency stops in science laboratories should be done on a minimum of an annual basis. However, it is important to conduct a site-specific risk assessment to determine if this should be done more frequently.
It could be scheduled with other electrical testing such as the Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) or the testing of Residual Current Device (RCD) installations schedules.
Note: There are very specific requirements for the PAT and RCD testing. Check with the regulator in your state/territory for the qualifications and the testing schedules required for your jurisdiction.
- Testing of emergency stops in science laboratories should be conducted by a competent person, who, by nature of their training and/or experience, would be considered competent for the task. This could be an appropriate staff member determined by the school.
- Records of testing should be kept.
This is based upon the following information:
General Guidance: control measures
Guidance on the testing of control measures such as emergency stops is very general as it is written for all workplaces and is dependent upon several different variables such as the work environment, the types of machinery that it controls, the function of the emergency stop and what it actuates.
Most of Australia has adopted the Model Work Health and Safety Regulations, which make general statements about maintenance and review of control measures. Some relevant legislation from this states:
Regulation 37 Maintenance of control measures
A duty holder who implements a control measure to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety must ensure that the control measure is, and is maintained so that it remains, effective, including by ensuring that the control measure is and remains:
(a) fit for purpose;
(b) suitable for the nature and duration of the work; and
(c) installed, set up and used correctly.
Regulation 38 Review of control measures
(1) A duty holder must review, and as necessary, revise control measures implemented under these Regulations so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health or safety.
Regulation 213 Maintenance and inspection of plant
(1) The person with management or control of plant at a workplace must ensure that the maintenance, inspection and, if necessary, testing of the plant is carried out by a competent person.
In the case of an individual—$3 600.
In the case of a body corporate—$18 000.
(2) The maintenance, inspection and testing must be carried out:
(a) in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, if any; or
(b) if there are no manufacturer's recommendations, in accordance with the recommendations of a competent person; or
(c) in relation to inspection, if it is not reasonably practicable to comply with paragraph (a) or (b), annually.[i]
The Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 have similar intent in Regulation 3.5.6 Operational stop controls and emergency stop devices. See http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/LTObject_Store/L...$FILE/07-54sr001.pdf
The WA Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996, in Regulation 4.29 Means of reducing risks in relation to plant, section (m) also has similar intent. See http://www.slp.wa.gov.au/legislation/statutes.nsf/main_mrtitle_1853_home...
Emergency Stops in the School Science Setting:
School science laboratories should be built according to AS/NZS 2982:2010: Laboratory design and construction, and therefore have the following:
10.2 RETICULATED SERVICES
10.2.1 Gas isolating valves
Outlets shall be provided with a lockable isolating valve located on or adjacent to the teacher’s bench.
10.2.2 Controls labelling
All controls for laboratory services shall be provided with a legible and durable label indicating the service.
10.3 ELECTRICAL SERVICES
All power to general purpose outlets for student use shall be supplied through an emergency/master control circuit operated by a suitably labelled push-button, with key operated manual reset, located near the teacher's bench adjacent to the main gas isolating valves.[ii]
Regarding testing the gas isolation valve. The function of the gas isolation valve is to cut off the supply of gas to all the gas outlets. This can be tested by:
- connecting a Bunsen burner to an outlet and lighting it using the yellow safety flame,
- switch off the gas using the isolation valve and if the Bunsen goes out, you can determine that the gas isolation valve is functioning.
Regarding testing the electrical shut-off. The function of the electrical emergency stop is to cut off the supply of power to all general purpose outlets (GPOs) for student use. This can be tested by:
- Connecting an electrical item such as a light globe to the relevant GPOs;
- Press the electrical shut-off and the light globe should go off.
Note: Some schools may exclude certain GPOs in a classroom from the general supply for GPOs for student use: such as those dedicated for the use of the Data projector, interactive whiteboard, gas heater and aquariums.
In some jurisdictions, the testing of emergency safety shut-offs in schools is carried out by contractors on a ½ yearly basis and a site-specific risk assessment, in conjunction with an electrical safety checklist, is completed at the end of each term by the laboratory technician. These records are kept in the science department and with the school administration.
The location and operation of gas and electrical shut-off valves should be part of the induction training of new staff to the science laboratories’ safety procedures.
Rawlings, Paul. 2015. Personal communication, Safety Services & Training Manager—Australia & New Zealand. Pilz Australia
Safe Work Australia. 2014. Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011
Standards Australia. 2010. AS/NZS 2982:2010: Laboratory design and construction
[ii] This extract is from AS/NZS 2982:2010: Laboratory design and construction reproduced with permission from SAI Global Ltd under Licence 1407-c117