Answer reviewed 20 February 2023
You are correct! It is best practice for a laboratory technician’s office to be located separate from but located near the preparation laboratory. Configuring the workspaces and floor plans is an important aspect of designing a secondary school science area.
ASSIST has developed GUIDELINES for the design and planning of secondary school science facilities in Australian schools 1 In particular see 3.2 Staff office areas on page 16.
“Laboratory technicians should have an office area with access to a telephone, computer and peripherals for administration tasks that is separate from, but connected to, the preparation laboratory. Similarly, science teachers may also need to have their office space in the science precinct so that they will be close to the science technical resources and staff.
Staff rooms for meals and informal meeting spaces may also be provided but food or drink preparation, storage or washing up must not be carried out in the preparation laboratory or teaching laboratories.”
The aspect of having an office space separate from chemicals is very clearly stated in AS 2243.1:2021 Safety in laboratories. Part 1: Planning and operational aspects. Section 2. Planning the laboratory for safety.2
“2.2.6. Write-up areas
Precautions should be taken to ensure that reading and writing materials do not become contaminated or damaged.
Write-up areas shall be separated from areas where hazardous materials are used or harmful processes are undertaken (refer to AS/NZS 2982)
NOTE Write up areas in laboratories should only be used on a temporary basis and should not be used as a substitute for office areas/activities.”
Education Queensland Organisational Health Unit has produced a very useful fact sheet which outlines science laboratory and preparation area safety.3 It quotes the Australian Standard (AS2243:1:2021) for planning and operations in laboratories and refers to this clause stating that hazardous material storage and usage areas, as well as harmful processes, must be separated from write-up areas. I draw your attention to the second point of the ‘Key points to remember’ section.
1 Science ASSIST. 2017. GUIDELINES for the design and planning of secondary school science facilities in Australian schools. Retrieved from the Science ASSIST website: https://assist.asta.edu.au/resource/4175/guidelines-design-and-planning-secondary-school-science-facilities-australian-schools
2 Standards Australia. 2021. AS 2243.1: 2021 Safety in Laboratories, Part 1: 2021 Planning and Operational Aspects. Sydney, Australia. This extract from AS 2243.1:2021 Safety in laboratories Planning and operational aspects is Reproduced by ASTA with the permission of Standards Australia Limited under licence CLF1222asta. Copyright in AS 2243.1:2021 vests in Standards Australia. Users must not copy or reuse this work without the permission of Standards Australia or the copyright owner.
3 Department of Education Queensland, (2022, June) Science laboratory and preparation area safety Factsheet, Retrieved from the Department of Education Queensland website: https://education.qld.gov.au/initiatives-and-strategies/health-and-wellbeing/workplaces/safety/resources (scroll down to find the factsheet)