Schools Failing Extraction Exam
A lack of knowledge is not something that is commonly associated with education. Yet ignorance is the root cause of a potentially serious health risk that lies within many school, college and university Design and Technology departments and laboratories. Or to be more specific, in those education facilities that currently use a laser for cutting or marking. Extraction is the reason or rather a lack of it.
Over the years, TLM has visited hundreds of educational establishments and, from what we’ve seen, we estimate that 95% of educational facilities equipped with lasers are under-extracting. We’ve been inside school departments that are virtually fume-filled and where a toxic film can be seen around the laser area. In an even worse example, students were asking to leave the classroom dues to headaches and eye irritation created by the laser fumes. In all of these cases there has been some form of extraction – but it has just not been sufficient enough to match the installed laser’s specifications.
Toxic fumes in the classroom puts students’ health at risk (toxic gases can cause inhalation injury, ranging from minor respiratory discomfort to acute lung and airway injury and, in extreme cases, fatality). It also counters COSHH regulations especially with regard to Local Exhaust Ventilation testing (LEV). It also contravenes the educational establishment’s Duty of Care and leaves the school or college liable to costly legal action.
Away from the risk to health, under-extracting is uneconomic, with airborne contaminants reducing the life of the laser’s lens and mirrors with resulting heavy replacement costs. The condensed films inside the laser also build up over time - we visited one school where the extraction system was so blocked, fumes were leaving the extractor before the laser was even switched on! This also creates a fire risk. The disturbing fact to emerge from our visits is that if schools worked to current industry standards, most would not be allowed to use their laser.
A School that Learnt the Lesson
Schools often buy a laser from a laser supplier and rely on the same supplier to provide a suitable and adequate extraction system. In a typical example, TLM visited a school recently where it was clear from the outset that corners had been cut with regard to the extraction. Fumes could be smelt in the classroom and inside the laser casing and contamination was damaging the laser optics. The school had relied on its laser supplier to provide an effective extraction system but what had been installed was simply not powerful enough. Having been informed of the problem by TLM, the school took action virtually immediately and a suitable extraction system was installed – one that matched the laser’s specification.
The DT department is now fume-free and the laser’s optics have not been replaced since the new extractor’s installation. Previously they were replaced twice a year at considerable expense. Which means that the school is not only protecting its students’ health, it is actually protecting its budget too!
If you are concerned about your establishment’s current laser extraction system and whether you are meeting your legal obligations or would like more information on the BOFA range of fume extractors, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org