Fume Cupboards - New Zealand Regulations

A Brief Guide to New Zealand Fume Cupboard Regulations

In New Zealand, fume cupboards are quoted in The Building Act 2004 as an example of specified equipment which must be listed on the compliance schedule, maintained and tested for the Building Warrant of Fitness. The owner of the building is responsible for compliance. The nature and frequency of testing is specified in a compliance schedule which is unique to each building and prescribed by the local Territorial Authority (town council).

In general, fume cupboards must be audited to the Standard in effect at the time of installation. "AS/NZS 2243.8 Safety in laboratories Part 8: Fume cupboards" is the current standard, replacing NZS 7203. The Building Act allows that the compliance schedule may specify an alternative Standard (eg DIN or BS) for testing of individual fume cupboards, but this is rare. Exceptions must be agreed by the Territorial Authority, and specified on the compliance schedule.

To keep it simple, fume cupboards are designated by The Building Act as equipment which must tested and certified annually to comply with the default Standard AS/NZS2243.8:2014

All testing for Building Warrant of Fitness must be carried out by a person having the status of Independent Qualified Person (IQP), but IQP status is not required for commissioning a new installation, nor for fume cupboard maintenance.

The Building Act is not retrospective. In effect, only fume cupboards installed after 1991 (the date of the first Act) must comply with the standard in force at the time of installation. But if you relocate an old fume cupboard, or refurbish other parts of the laboratory, the fume cupboard is considered to be a new installation, and must comply with the standard. Many older cupboards even refurbished, will not fully meet the Standard.

Even if your fume cupboard is older than 1991, you must still have an annual IQP audit, for the building warrant of fitness. The audit should record all aspects of non-compliance, and note any exemption for age. Audits must be in the form of a check-list.

Especially in the case of very old fume cupboards, the audit can seem like trivial bureaucracy, but the annual inspection has another vital role in respect of the Health & Safety in Employment Act. You are bound by statute to "identify, isolate or eliminate hazards". In the case of fume cupboards, AS/NZS 2243.8 is the reference for determining safe performance. The audit will determine the limit of fume containment by velocity and smoke tests, and will identify hazards arising from materials of construction, or location of electrical controls, for example.

Thus the audit report can help you to write instructions for operating the cupboard more safely, or recommend minor changes to reduce a hazard, without necessitating an immediate upgrade to complete compliance. (However, we suggest that most non-compliant fume cupboards are now over-due for replacement.)

Please note that the Standard requires the use of fume cupboards to be actively managed by the laboratory supervisor who is responsible to conduct and review hazard analyses for the chemicals and processes employed in the fume cupboard.
The laboratory supervisor is also responsible for maintenance. The standard specifies that the fume cupboard and exhaust system must be maintained at least annually. The IQP auditor should inspect your maintenance records. Both the maintenance and audit reports can be filed together with internal records of cleaning, hazard analyses, etc. This log book provides a history which is particularly useful for new staff. If you do have an accident, the log book will demonstrate that your duty of care has been observed.