New safety regulations for electrical laboratory equipment Heating Mantles: Avoiding Momentous Mistakes
Heating mantles are supposed to enable the user to heat liquids safely and quickly – even in cases of (accidental) misapplication. This is now taken into account by a modified EN Standard. And it is of great importance for users to know: a violation may have unexpected consequences
Whether for the purpose of synthesis or within the scope of analytics – the quick and exact heating of liquids is one of the standard applications in the laboratory. And safety is at least just as important in this context. It happens just too quickly that liquids are spilled in the daily hustle and bustle of laboratory work or that a vessel that has been filled too highly will overflow. Water and electricity is known to be a delicate matter sometimes. The equipment technology used should always take this into account.
In October 2013, the Standard EN 61010-1:2001 that had been in effect until then (safety regulations for electrical measuring instruments, control devices and laboratory equipment. General Requirements) was updated and expanded. The new version of the Standard EN 61010-1:2010 (IEC 61010-1:2013) – safety regulations for electrical measuring instruments, control devices and laboratory equipment, General Requirements, came into force. These modifications require a fundamentally new construction concept with regard to devices such as the heating mantle. “A fact that some users may perhaps not be aware of: disregard of the new EU Standard for laboratory equipment may have unexpected consequences. In the event of damage, you may loose your insurance protection and in the course of the REACH Regulation, the end user may loose his or her ISO Certification, if devices that are not standard-compliant are being used in the working process“, the Munich lawyer Dr. Oliver Maaß says.
New EN Standard: What has changed?
First of all, the Standard’s scope of application was expanded from devices for industrial use to the area of private use. Furthermore, the requirements for the insulation of the devices have completely been revised and additional requirements regarding the protection against mechanical hazards were inserted into the texts of the Standard.
Apart from the requirements concerning ergonomic aspects, the requirements with regard to predictable misuse by the user of the devices were also restated. In addition to this, the Standard was extended by a separate section about hazards and environments which have not been covered by the previous Standard.
What does this mean in practice?
All new products which are introduced into the European market have had to comply with the new Standard since the latter came into force. This change also affects all heating mantles because these are part of the important basic laboratory equipment.
How have commercial heating mantles been built until now?
A heating element made from copper wire has been applied in heating mantles until now. Such wire was enveloped with cotton fabrics similar to glass fibres, subsequently brought into hemispherical form and then installed into the heating mantle as heating element. Disadvantage: the glass cotton wool does not protect the heating element against the ingress of liquid with the result that a preliminary dampness treatment is necessary before the mantles can pass the mandatory insulation and voltage test.
Since 2010, it has therefore been prohibited to use hygroscopic materials as insulation of the heating elements in order to minimize the risks in cases when liquids are spilled or if they are overflowing.