Hazardous substances

Closing doors in laboratory areas and workshops

The University of Twente has a range of laboratory areas (chemical, physical and biological, as well as for mechanical and electrical engineering) and workshops. Students and staff must be able to work there safely. Also, with a view to the environment, the University of Twente wants their activities to be as energy efficient as possible.
The lab areas and workshops are equipped with a range of technical facilities, in compliance with the Working Conditions Act and environmental legislation (Environmental Management Act).

Safety and environmental requirements stipulate that, while these areas are in normal use, any doors opening into them must be kept closed. Open doors disrupt the management system, potentially resulting in situations where the area in question is no longer in compliance with safety requirements. This could be potentially hazardous to any individuals present in that area and/or to the surrounding areas. Under the Working Conditions Act, deliberately leaving doors open is regarded as culpable behaviour, and those involved are held responsible. There is also an increase in energy consumption, as the management system tries to compensate for the disruption of the ventilation system.

With regard to closing the doors of labs and workshops, the following key issues are important.

The above area is subject to a minimum ventilation rate, to guarantee safety. This is due to:

  • The potential release of hazardous substances/gases/dust particles inside the area and, possibly, outside it as well;
  • The need to prevent the spread of hazardous substances/gases/dust particles (e.g. wood dust);
  • The biological aspects of the area (GMO and biological agents);
  • Temperature control in the area;
  • The need to coordinate the fume cupboard’s ventilation system with the room’s ventilation system;
  • ATEX (explosion safety).

In addition, the following factors are/could be involved:

  • Access authorization, in connection with the Working Conditions Act;
  • Overpressure or underpressure, in connection with the area’s classification;
  • Hazardous procedures in the lab (e.g. the use of lasers);
  • The requirements imposed on labs with a specific legal classification (e.g. a lab working with GMOs or radionuclides).

In general terms:

  • Fire safety is important. Closed areas limit the spread of smoke from a fire, which might otherwise be very rapid indeed. In addition, pressure differences within the building also determine how air flows through the structure. This is important in the event of fire, and the spread of smoke. Any disruption of these pressure differences can cause adverse effects.
  • Anyone using a lab or workshop must comply with the regulation that they should avoid doing anything to endanger themselves or others. The direct supervisor must ensure that this is the case. Where necessary, he or she must take additional measures to ensure that people comply with this regulation. The local HSE contacts[1] are also involved in monitoring compliance. Ultimate responsibility for health and safety issues within the unit rests with the Dean.

The above points make it clear that in order to implement this, the area must be closed.

[1] The terms HSEc and HSE contact are explained in the supplementary note concerning the tasks, responsibilities and powers in the field of safety, health and environment (pp. 11 and 12).