Australian Standards for window coverings in science labs

Australian Standards for window coverings in science labs: Good morning, We need to replace the window coverings in our labs. Is there an Australian standard that states the requirements for window coverings?

Many Thanks.

Lorrae.

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Publication Date: 16 October 2015
Asked By: Lorrae
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Australian Standards for window coverings in Science Labs

In Brief:

There are no regulations or standards that apply to the window coverings in a laboratory. Having said that, there are certainly many factors that should be considered with any decision on what to use to make the working and learning environment comfortable and functional. Science ASSIST recommends that a site-specific risk assessment be conducted to consider the type of window covering that is suitable, the material that it is made from, and whether the covering should be on the inside of the window, or whether it should be external to the building.

Factors to be considered.

  • The type and location of the window.
  • The types of activities that are carried out in the laboratory. Each laboratory may have different requirements for window coverings.
    • If it is a physics laboratory, where experiments with light are conducted, a good blackout covering is required.
    • Most laboratories require a reasonable blackout capability for the use of data projectors.
    • School science laboratories are generally classified as Physical Containment level 1 (PC1), if they conform to the requirements specified in Section 5 of AS/NZS 2243.3:2010 Safety in Laboratories—Microbiological safety and containment. If conducting any microbiological work in the laboratory, then a requirement is that all surfaces can be readily cleaned and able to be decontaminated. The use of curtains in this situation would not fill this requirement.
  • Ventilation: Are windows required to be open. Can windows be opened easily with the window covering closed.
  • Can the window covering be operated with ease.
  • Location of naked flames or heat sources. The location of practical benches where naked flames or other heat sources may be operating could be a concern if the coverings move and flap around.
  • Aspect of the window which influences the temperature of the laboratory. Heat may be an issue if the windows are large or face the afternoon sun during the summer months.
  • Colour choice—dark colours such as black will heat up a room fairly quickly.
  • The cord used in corded window coverings should be secured to the wall allowing easy access to all staff and to prevent it being a choking hazard.
  • Use of curtains or blinds made from fire retardant materials.
  • Security: The room may house equipment that is expensive, posing a risk of theft, and therefore the contents of the room should not be visible from the street .

Additional Information

Adding a “boxing” arrangement, where a lip is provided on the inside of the frame so that the window covering is boxed in between the window and the timber (or other material) of the boxing. This provides two benefits in that the covering does not easily blow out over the bench and that it reduces the amount light that enters around the edges of the windows.

Below is a table with some of the options and the benefits and disadvantages associated with them.

Window covering

Advantages

Disadvantages

Roller blind (blockout)

Good blackout and good heat insulation

Expensive, cord prone to breakage and tangling and possible choking hazard

Roller blind

Low heat insulation and reasonably good blockout

 

Cord prone to breakage and tangling, possible choking hazard, may not block out enough light.

Curtain (blockout)

Good blockout and good heat insulation

Not suitable where Bunsen burners or any other heat sources are used, as they may move in a breeze. Collect a lot of dust. Require washing periodically.

Vertical blinds

Reasonable light control. Blockout and heat insulation depends on the material it is made from

Not suitable where Bunsen burners or any other heat sources are used as they may move in a breeze. Collect little dust.

Venetian blind

Good light and ventilation control. Heat insulation varies with the material it is made from

Collect a lot of dust, difficult to clean. If made from metal can conduct heat into the lab. Cords may be a choking hazard

Solar window tint

Good sun shielding

Reduce natural light levels in the laboratory

Cost

Light levels may not be sufficient if plants are grown in the area

External awning

Good sun and heat shielding

Cost

External louvres or shutters

Good sun and heat shielding

Cost

Below are two extracts from documents produced by CLEAPSS (a provider similar to ASSIST) and the Association for Science Education in the UK which relate to this topic.

"Curtains may be considered for some laboratories but are unsuitable where Bunsen burners are used around the side bench.

It may be necessary to darken the room (dim-out) when visual aids are used and to reduce glare. Black material is unsuitable as it absorbs too much heat and warms up the room. Grey reflective blinds are suitable. Blinds should not be allowed to flap freely because any wind will cause noise, possibly break the blind or knock over equipment. Full blackout may be required for certain activities during lessons on light in physics and occasionally in biology. Flexibility of use will be severely limited if this is available only in one laboratory.

The means to open windows and/or to operate blinds should be considered when the furniture layout is planned. Too often it is impossible to reach the mechanism safely because tables or benches are in the way. Climbing on bench tops or stools is not acceptable." (CLEAPPS 2009:pg16)

"Some form of sun and daylight control is likely to be needed on most windows, particularly where dim-out is required. Blinds may be vertical, horizontal or roller, although all three types are susceptible to damage. Horizontal blinds are the most controllable but they do gather dirt. Metal slats on south facing rooms can heat up and act like radiant panels. Vertical blinds are cheaper and easier to clean but are more delicate and offer less controllability. Roller blinds provide some lighting control but this cannot be combined with a view out for pupils. Some laboratories may need blackout blinds for certain experiments. The need for black out should be carefully considered however as they require a casing and are expensive.

Fabric blinds fitted above benching containing sinks must be waterproofed. It should not be possible for blinds to blow against lit Bunsen burners when windows are open—a way of containing them should be identified. For safety and to avoid damage, pull cords on all blinds should always be tidied away." (Schools Building and Design Unit 2004:pg47)

References:

CLEAPPS. 2009 G14 Design and Planning Laboratories, May 2009, CLEAPPS (UK) website, http://www.cleapss.org.uk/attachments/article/0/G14.pdf?Secondary/Science/Guides/

SA Department for Education and Child Development. 2105. DECD Design Standards DECD14/5606, July 2015, DECD website, https://www.education.sa.gov.au/sites-and-facilities/facilities-maintenance-and-design/building-design-specifications-sa-government (Accessed October 2015)

Schools Building and Design Unit, Department for Education and Skills (UK). 2004. Science accommodation in secondary schools: A design guide. Building Bulletin 80 (revised 2004), Association for Science Education website, https://web.archive.org/web/20160527190208/http://www.ase.org.uk/documen... (Original web page is no longer accessible. (This copy from 27 May 2016 is provided by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.)

Standards Australia. 2010. AS/NZS 2243. Safety in Laboratories, Part 3: Microbiological safety and containment. Sydney, Australia

The University of Melbourne, Property and Campus Services. 2103. Design Standards, Section 2: Occupational, Health and Safety, February 2013, University of Melbourne website https://unimelb.service-now.com/facilities

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