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Safe use of fume cupboards

This guide provides detailed information on types of fume cupboard and their safe operation.


Fume cupboards are one of the most common and effective controls used in laboratories to minimise exposure to respirable hazardous substances. This guidance provides information so that fume cupboards are used effectively and maintained appropriately to ensure they provide the level of protection needed for users.

This guidance is intended for all employees who may manage, maintain or use fume cupboards and provides information on the safe use, maintenance and testing of fume cupboards in use across the University.

It does not cover capture hoods, downflow benches, snorkels, and other forms of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV).

Types of fume cupboard

Fume cupboards are used widely in laboratories and are designed to capture and remove air-borne hazardous substances generated during laboratory experiments (such as gases, vapours, aerosols and particulates/dust). Work with substances that produce or generate toxic or harmful fumes, vapours, gases, dust or chemical aerosols should be carried out in a fume cupboard to eliminate or reduce the risk of exposure to an acceptable and safe level.

Fume cupboards also serve as physical barriers between reactions and the laboratory, offering a measure of protection against inhalation exposure, chemical spills, run-away reactions and fires.

There are two main types:

  • Ducted Fume Cupboards – most commonly used
  • Recirculating filtered fume cupboards – not suitable for some substances such as highly toxic chemicals

There are also specific types for certain processes:

  • Perchloric acid
  • Radioisotopes
  • Acid Digestion
  • Distillation

Therefore, it must be ensured that the correct type is chosen for the substances being used and the processes being carried out.

Safe operation

The detailed guidance document on Safe Use of Fume Cupboards provides further information on how to use a fume cupboard safely:

  • prior to Starting work including checks to ensure that the fume cupboard is working as required and enough working space is available
  • preparation of Fume Cupboard includes a list of checks to ensure correct set-up so the fume cupboard is working effectively
  • during use including correct sash height and use of equipment
  • after use ensuring the fume cupboard is left in a clean, safe and tidy state
  • what to do if an emergency occurs

Examples of good and poor practice are provided.

Download our checklist for a general summary of the main points which can be posted in laboratories.

The University has also published a safety standard − The Safe Use of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). This standard describes the University's arrangements for compliance with legal requirements under the COSHH Regulations. The Standard also sets out responsibilities for Heads of Department, Line managers, supervisors and workers who are responsible for the maintenance or who are users of this equipment.

Users should also read the detailed guidance on the safe use of fume cupboards.


If you have any questions, please contact us.

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