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Fume Cupboard Used in Secondary Schools – A Comprehensive Guide

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Last updated on June 3, 2024

Fume cupboard used in secondary schools

Fume Cupboard Used in Secondary Schools: A Comprehensive Guide

Fume cupboards used in secondary schools also known as fume hoods are the unsung heroes in science education in the UK. They allow students to experience practical chemistry and biology safely, fostering a love of discovery while minimising exposure to potentially harmful substances.

In the UK, specific regulations and best practices ensure that these essential pieces of equipment are being used effectively and we will cover these in greater detail later in this article.

So, you can get a feel for our authority on the subject of fume cupboard used in secondary schools, let me quickly outline our company history and achievements.

My name is Sarah, and I am partner at Holliday Technical Services, a fume cupboard specialist testing and maintenance company based in Yorkshire, UK. Holliday Technical Services has been providing fume cupboard testing, maintenance and fume cupboard repairs to schools and universities in the UK for over 18 years. Our sister company Holliday Fielding Hocking Ltd, supply and install new and used/refurbished fume cupboards to schools, colleges and universities and have been providing these services for over 5 generations.

We are the principal service contractor at several top universities in the UK where we routinely look after thousands of pieces of local exhaust ventilated equipment, arranging annual testing and repair and supplying new capital equipment including both ducted fume cupboards and ductless filtered fume cupboards, alongside supplying and maintaining Educational Fume Cupboards, Biosafety Cabinets, Laminar Flow, PCR Cabinets, Vented Chemical Storage solutions, Downflow Workstations, Extraction Arms and much more.

We also contract to hundreds of schools, offering ad-hoc and scheduled service and repair alongside annual fume cupboard testing using our own in-house trained engineers who all hold enhanced DBS. We fully comply with all UK standards relating to fume cupboard testing and can offer support on design, installation, commissioning and procurement of new and used/refurbished equipment.

Enough about us for the moment, we hope that when you need a specialist at your side that you choose to consider our services.

Let's delve into the world of fume cupboard used in secondary schools, covering everything from basic principles to technical specifications.

Section 1: Fume Cupboards Explained

How Fume Cupboards Work

Think of a fume cupboard as a specialised vacuum cleaner for harmful fumes and vapours. It's designed with a simple yet crucial principle: directing airflow away from the user and safely out of the lab. The main components are:

  • Enclosure: The box-like structure that contains the experiment.
  • Sash: The movable window that allows access while maintaining airflow.
  • Exhaust System: Either a fan and ductwork (ducted type) or filters (ductless type) to remove contaminants.

Air is drawn into the cupboard through the open sash, across the work surface, and then out through the exhaust system. This continuous flow prevents hazardous fumes from escaping into the lab environment.

Types of Fume Cupboard Used in Secondary Schools

  • Ducted Fume Cupboards: The most common type, these are connected to ductwork that vents fumes directly outside the building. They offer excellent protection and are suitable for a wide range of chemicals but require proper installation and maintenance.
  • Ductless Filtered Fume Cupboards: These recirculate air through filters that trap harmful substances. They're more flexible in placement since they don't need external ducting, but they're limited to certain chemicals and may require more frequent filter changes.
  • Demonstration Fume Cupboards: Designed with an open front, these are primarily used for teaching purposes. While they offer some protection, they should only be used with less hazardous substances and always under careful supervision.

Section 2: Using Fume Cupboards Safely and Effectively

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Before Use:
    • Visually check that the fume cupboard is in good condition (no damage or spills).
    • Ensure the airflow indicator is functioning correctly.
    • Position the sash at the correct height (marked on the cupboard).
    • Arrange equipment to avoid blocking airflow and keep items at least 6 inches from the back and sides.
  2. During Use:
    • Keep the sash at the designated height and minimise opening and closing. For schools, a recommended maximum working height of 400 mm allows for manipulation of apparatus in the fume cupboard but improves containment and provides some protection to the face of the user. A higher aperture increases user exposure to splashes and can reduce containment effectiveness.
    • Work at least 6 inches inside the cupboard to maximise containment.
    • Avoid rapid movements or actions that create turbulence.
  3. After Use:
    • Leave the fume cupboard running for 5-10 minutes to purge any remaining fumes.
    • Clean up spills immediately and wipe down all surfaces.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Overloading: Don't cram too much equipment inside, as this restricts airflow.
  • Blocking Airflow: Make sure nothing obstructs the vents or baffles.
  • Using for Storage: Store chemicals and equipment elsewhere to maintain proper airflow.
  • Ignoring Alarms: Address any alarms or malfunctions promptly.

Student Safety

  • Supervision: Always ensure students are supervised when using fume cupboards in schools.
  • Clear Instructions: Provide clear, written instructions on safe fume cupboard use.
  • Emergency Procedures: Make sure students know what to do in case of spills, alarms, or other incidents.

Section 3: Maintenance and Care

Regular maintenance is key to ensuring the safe and efficient operation of fume cupboard use in secondary schools.

Regular Checks

  • Visual Inspections: Check for any visible damage, spills, or obstructions.
  • Airflow Monitoring: Monitor the airflow indicator regularly. If it's not functioning correctly, contact a technician.
  • Filter Replacement: If you have a ductless fume cupboard, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for filter replacement.

Professional Servicing

Fume cupboards should be professionally serviced annually. This typically includes a thorough inspection, cleaning, and calibration of the airflow system. It's essential to use qualified technicians who are familiar with the specific model of fume cupboard you have. HTS are specialists in providing a range of support services for fume cupboard used in secondary schools, and comply fully with British Standards, COSHH and HSG258 (Where relevant).

Section 4: Siting Considerations

The location of a fume cupboard used in secondary schools can significantly impact its effectiveness and safety. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Placement:
    • Place fume cupboards away from doors, windows, and areas with high foot traffic.
    • Consider the layout of the room and the types of experiments that will be performed.
  • Utilities:
    • Ensure adequate access to electrical outlets, gas lines (if needed), and water lines (if plumbed).
  • Ventilation:
    • Make sure the room has sufficient ventilation to provide makeup air for the fume cupboard.
    • Avoid placing fume cupboards near sources of drafts, as this can disrupt airflow.
  • Emergency Access:
    • The fume cupboard should not obstruct emergency exits or pathways.

Section 5: Fume Cupboard Specifications

In the UK, fume cupboards must meet specific standards to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

Key Standards

  • BS EN 14175: This is the main European standard for fume cupboard performance. It covers aspects like containment, face velocity, and robustness.
  • BS 7989:2001: This standard applies to mobile fume cupboards and addresses their specific design and safety requirements.


  • COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health): COSHH is a UK regulation that requires employers to control exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace. Fume cupboards play a crucial role in achieving COSHH compliance by containing and removing harmful fumes and vapours. Schools must assess the risks associated with the chemicals used in experiments and ensure that fume cupboards are used appropriately to minimise exposure. You can find more information about COSHH on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website:

Guidance and Support

Technical Terms Simplified

  • Airflow Rate: The amount of air that passes through the fume cupboard per minute (usually measured in cubic meters per hour).
  • Sash Height: The opening height of the sash, which affects containment and airflow.
  • Face Velocity: The average speed of air entering the fume cupboard through the sash opening (usually measured in meters per second). Most schools fume cupboards work from a recommended face velocity of 0.4m/s. High face velocities can be problematic in schools (e.g. Bunsen burner flame outs) and lower face velocity can reduce containment.

The optimal values for these parameters depend on the type of fume cupboard and the substances being used.

Section 6: Services and Additional Features


Fume cupboards used in secondary schools should have adequate lighting for safe work. Consider LED lights, which are energy-efficient and long-lasting.

Electrical Services

Outlets should be located outside the fume cupboard to avoid potential spark hazards. Ensure they are protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs).

Gas Services

If your fume cupboard requires gas, it should be installed and maintained by a qualified professional. Gas lines should be clearly labelled and easily accessible for shut-off in case of emergency.

Water Services

If your fume cupboard is plumbed for water, regular checks for leaks and proper maintenance are essential.

Noise Levels

Fume cupboards can generate noise, which can be disruptive in a learning environment. Consider quieter models and ensure they are properly maintained to minimise noise levels.

Assumed Use

Fume cupboards used in secondary schools are typically used for general chemistry and biology experiments involving relatively low-risk substances. They are not designed for highly hazardous materials or large-scale reactions.


Fume cupboards used in secondary schools are invaluable tools in science education, providing a safe environment for students to explore the wonders of chemistry and biology. By understanding how they work, using them correctly, and maintaining them properly, you can ensure that your fume cupboards continue to serve your school safely and effectively for years to come.

Remember, safety is paramount. Always refer to your school's safety procedures and consult with qualified professionals if you have any questions or concerns.

Holliday Technical Services offer fume cupboard maintenance and testing in the UK. Visit our website for information on testing and maintenance for fume cupboard used in secondary schools and to view a wide selection of testimonials from schools such as yours.

When schools contact us to book fume cupboard servicing we will where possible try to accommodate schools fume cupboard testing in quieter times, such as before or after the learning day or during half term breaks. Our technicians are all time-served experts in fume cupboard servicing, who are used to working safely in educational settings. All engineers hold an Enhanced DBS certificate, they are asbestos trained, and work is carried out in accordance with the relevant British standards.

Visit: Holliday Technical Services to book your school fume cupboard service today.  Holliday Technical Services are members of Reset Compliance Systems Ltd, Alcumus SafeContractor Ltd, Constructionline and BSI Group as well as being registered with the Environment Agency as a certified Upper Tier Waste Carrier and Dealer.  

Fume Cupboards Used In Secondary Schools FAQs

How Often Should Fume Cupboards in Schools Be Tested?

To ensure the continued safety of your students and staff, fume cupboards in schools should be thoroughly tested every 14 months. This is a legal requirement under UK regulations, and it's essential to guarantee that your fume cupboards are effectively capturing and removing hazardous fumes.

Holliday Technical Services specialises in fume cupboard testing for schools. Our experienced technicians will perform a comprehensive assessment, checking airflow rates, face velocity, containment, and overall functionality. We'll provide you with a detailed report outlining the results and any necessary recommendations to keep your fume cupboards in top working order.

Remember, regular testing isn't just about compliance; it's about prioritising the well-being of everyone in your school's science labs. Contact us today to schedule your fume cupboard testing and ensure your lab remains a safe and healthy environment for learning. 


Fume cupboards in UK schools must adhere to the British Standard BS EN 14175. This is the gold standard for ensuring the safe design, construction, and performance of ducted fume cupboards. It covers everything from airflow rates to containment, making sure your fume cupboards effectively protect your students and staff from harmful substances.

At Holliday Technical Services, we have over 18 years of experience testing and maintaining school fume cupboards, and we meticulously follow BS EN 14175 in all our work. We understand the unique needs of school labs, and we're committed to providing you with the highest level of expertise and service to keep your fume cupboards safe and compliant.

Have more questions about fume cupboard standards or your school's specific needs? Don't hesitate to reach out to us – we're always happy to chat!


Before you or your students fire up any experiments in the fume cupboard, let's run through a quick checklist to make sure everything is safe and sound:

  1. Training: Are you and everyone involved confident in how to use the fume cupboard correctly? A quick refresher never hurts!
  2. Chemicals: Do you know the hazards associated with the specific chemicals you'll be working with? Always consult safety data sheets and follow recommended precautions.
  3. Sash Position: Is the sash at the correct operating height, as marked on the fume cupboard? This ensures optimal airflow and containment.
  4. Check Gauges: Give that air pressure gauge a glance. Is it showing the proper airflow? If not, it's time to troubleshoot or call for maintenance.
  5. Fan Function: Double-check that the exhaust fan is humming along nicely. You want those fumes out of there!
  6. No Sparks: Keep any potential spark sources, like electrical equipment or open flames, away from the fume cupboard to prevent any unwanted reactions.

If you ever have any doubts or notice something unusual, don't hesitate to ask for help or consult a qualified technician. Safety always comes first in the lab!

Need a more in-depth fume cupboard inspection or testing? Holliday Technical Services can help ensure your fume cupboard is in tip-top shape, protecting your students and staff every step of the way.


You can think of fume cupboards as high-tech safety shields for your science experiments. They're designed to protect you and your students from breathing in harmful substances that some experiments can create.

These substances might be invisible gases, strong-smelling vapours, or even tiny particles that you can't see. Fume cupboards work by pulling these unwanted guests away from your workspace and safely venting them outside or filtering them to remove the danger.

In the UK, we take safety seriously, and that's where COSHH Regulation 9 comes in. This regulation requires us to be proactive about maintaining all Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) systems, including your trusty fume cupboards. This means keeping them in tip-top shape with regular thorough examinations and tests at least every 14 months. If you work with particularly hazardous substances, you might even need to test them more often.

At Holliday Technical Services (HTS), we're experts at keeping fume cupboards running smoothly. We offer regular testing and maintenance to ensure your fume cupboards are always performing at their best and providing the highest level of protection. So, next time you see a fume cupboard, you'll know it's not just a piece of lab equipment – it's a guardian of safety for everyone in the science lab! Contact us for your schools fume cupboard testing


Absolutely! While fume cupboards are fantastic safety tools, they aren't a substitute for your trusty Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Think of PPE as your lab's fashion statement – and a necessary one at that!

Here's what you should always wear when working in a fume cupboard:

  • Lab Coat: This trusty garment protects your clothes and skin from accidental spills and splashes.
  • Safety Glasses or Goggles: These shield your eyes from unexpected reactions or splashes of chemicals.
  • Gloves: Choose the appropriate type of gloves for the specific chemicals you're handling. Refer to the safety data sheet for the best choice.

One important note: the fume cupboard's sash is designed to contain fumes, not to protect against explosions or shattering glass. If your experiment has the potential for such hazards, always use a separate blast shield for added protection.

Remember, your safety is paramount! Never compromise on proper PPE, even when using a fume cupboard.

If you have questions about fume cupboard safety or need expert testing and maintenance services, Holliday Technical Services (HTS) is here to help. We're a UK-based company specialising in fume cupboard care for schools, colleges, universities, and a wide range of industries. We're dedicated to ensuring your lab stays safe and compliant.

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