How To Prevent Misuse and Vandalism in a Science Lab04-12-2015
Following our recent article on “How to Prevent Misuse and Waste In A School Washroom”, we decided to apply this concept to other areas of a school. This article outlines ways to prevent vandalism and waste in a science laboratory.
One way to help prevent pupils from misusing the science lab furniture and equipment is the choice of worktop material. A Trespa worktop in Black Craquele deters vandalism as it is very dark with a slight pattern, so any scratches and marks appear as part of the pattern, and ink and black ballpoint doesn’t show up. This makes students less likely to try and damage the surface. Velstone is another good worktop choice as it can be repaired if damage is done. The surface can be re-sanded if scratches are made to make the worktop look as good as new. If there are any deep gouges, they can be filled and re-sanded also.
One danger point that should be protected and as vandal-proof as possible are the gas taps. If they are loosened from the worktop, a lit match could set the gas supply alight, potentially causing serious damage. The taps we supply have a location pin fixed through the worktop which means that the taps cannot be unscrewed or loosened. Gas taps can also cause damage when they get blocked up by small objects such as pieces of paper. Pinnacle supplies gas taps that deter pupils from trying to do this, as the valve opening is smaller than on standard sized gas taps. Firstly this makes it harder for students to get anything up there as the hole is so small, and secondly, the higher pressure which results from a smaller opening means that objects blocking the gas are likely to be pushed out when the gas is turned on. A smaller valve also makes it easier to fit a rubber tube when using a Bunsen burner. Our taps have a separate turret base and valve body, so if the valve does get irreparably blocked or damaged, a wrench can be used to remove the valve body and a new one fitted. Therefore, only the blocked valve has to be replaced, not the whole tap, which saves both time and money.
Water taps are also used as a tool of vandalism in science labs, as they can be used to cause serious destruction and damage. We supply water taps that have a location pin meaning that the tap cannot be unscrewed, which could potentially cause water leakage and damage. As standard, we always specify fixed stem taps, which means that the tap cannot be swung around to pour water onto the worktop. A fixed stem tap prevents the students from being tempted to spray water everywhere, thus reducing the chances of water damage from vandalism. In regard to sinks, epoxy resin is our standard specification because hot crucibles and other science equipment will not damage it, whereas a ceramic sink will tarnish and this will entice students to do it again.
Every science lab should have emergency shut-off valves for electricity, water and gas, and these should be easily accessible for the teacher but not for the pupils. It is also mandatory for a laboratory to have a gas isolating valve. We fit cupboards with a service void behind which means that children cannot access the water, electricity and gas pipes, and water pipes under the sinks can be hidden by a blank cupboard panel with no handle which means they cannot be tampered with. The cupboard backs are also fixed so they cannot be removed without the correct tools.
All equipment in a science lab should be behind lockable cupboard doors to prevent students from getting hold of potentially harmful substances and equipment. If you have tray storage in your lab, such as our Gratnell trays, they should also have lockable cupboard doors because even if they do not contain anything dangerous or harmful, students can still cause mischief if equipment is easily accessible. For the convenience of the teacher, we specify the same lock for all the cupboards which means that the teacher can just have one master key to access all the equipment in the classroom. In science labs, every safety measure possible must be taken to ensure accidents don’t happen. This is why we always specify “D” shaped handles – to prevent students and teachers catching their clothes on the door handle and tripping. This is especially important in the case of an experiment involving flames or acids where there could be a serious accident if someone fell or knocked equipment over. The hinges on cupboard doors tend to come under a lot of strain from pupils leaning and swinging on them. This is partly helped by being able to lock the cupboards, but we also put some anti-vandal measures in place. Firstly, we install capacity storage cupboards with 170° hinges on the doors, which means the doors swing very far back when you open them, and this prevents students swinging on the doors and breaking them off by pushing them too far back. We also fit the hinges with anti-vandal hinge plates, which strengthen the hinge by adding an extra four screws, meaning the door is held in place by six screws on each hinge. This makes it a lot harder to rip the screws out of the capacity storage unit. The anti-vandal hinge plates also prevent students from breaking the doors by pushing them down or leaning on the top.
In regard to loose furniture, skid base stools are best as stools with four legs tend to lose the rubber bungs at the bottom of each leg and then the metal pierces the vinyl floor. Skid base stools are also harder to rock and this therefore reduces the risk of a child having an accident by rocking on their chair. Tables without modesty panels are best for students as it means the teacher can see if pupils are passing equipment under the desk. Fixed islands with gas taps and sinks with loose tables and chairs arranged round are becoming more popular in science laboratory design, and this design achieves easy monitoring for the teacher.
To conclude, there are many precautions a school can take when considering science laboratory design in order not only to prevent vandalism, but also to just make it a safer place to teach, especially when working with dangerous resources and equipment. We hope this post has helped you consider how to design your lab to be safe and to act as a deterrent to vandalism.
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