How standards play their part in ergonomics and safety in schools

How standards play their part in ergonomics and safety in schools

On September 1 begins the new school year. For several years there has been greater focus on ergonomics and safety in the school environment, more specifically with regard to school buildings, furniture and equipment used in the classrooms. Standards also play their part in this respect.

The European standard NBN EN 14434 ‘Writing boards for educational institutions’ specifies ergonomic, technical and safety requirements for  wall mounted and free-standing writing boards for use in classrooms and lecture theatres for schools and universities.  For example height-adjustable writing boards with multiple writing surfaces, which ensure correct ergonomic height for both the teacher and the pupils. The standard contains provisions which prevent misuse as well as accidents through normal functional use.

Another example is the NBN EN 12503 ‘Sports mats’ (7 parts). This standard specifies requirements for eight types of sports mats. They deal with shock absorption, slip resistance of the top and friction properties of the underside of mats. Thus, the pupils can safely engage in gymnastics and sports!
The standard NBN EN 1729 'Furniture - Chairs and tables for educational institutions (2 parts), deals with ergonomic school furniture. The standard defines eight product categories of chairs with distinct color-codes based on the lower leg length of the pupil. Ideally, chairs and tables in a classroom should have different heights to match the differences in body length of each individual pupil.

In practice, this is obviously unfeasible, but the standard gives a good indication of the appropriate size for a group of pupils of the same age. For the table the rule of thumb is that the blade height is adjusted to the elbow height of the pupil.

There are also Belgian national standards related to school buildings. The standard NBN S 01-400-2 'Acoustic criteria for school buildings’ specifies values for sound insulation between different rooms (e.g. indoor playground, classroom, study room ...). It also contains requirements on the reverberation time in rooms, which can greatly affect speech intelligibility. Finally, the NBN S 21-204 ‘Fire protection of buildings - School buildings - General requirements and reaction to fire ', deals with fire safety and resistance to fire of school buildings.

These standards provide comfort and safety for the pupils at school. Thanks to the focus on ergonomics and safety, they remain free from physical discomfort (back pain, bad body posture) and injuries that can have an impact on their future lives.