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Environmental Safety
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Laboratory Safety: Personal Protective Equipment

Protection: Eye | Ear | Hand | Clothing | Foot

Eye Protection

Eye protection used in the laboratory must meet ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Z87.1 specifications. The ANSI approval stamp can be found on the eyewear's lens or eyepiece.

Eye protection:

  • Should be splash-proof
  • Should fit snugly over eyes and around the face
  • Should be capable of being cleaned and disinfected
  • Should not interfere with movement

Eye protection should be worn when using caustics, corrosives, irritants, flammables, explosives, UV light, lasers, radioactive materials, biohazardous materials, glassware under vacuum or pressure, or cryogenic materials.

Laboratory workers who wear corrective lenses should use prescription lens safety splash goggles, or splash-proof safety goggles that can be worn over corrective lenses.

  • Contact lenses generally should not be worn in the laboratory. They provide no chemical or physical protection for the eyes, and also present potential hazards.
  • Contact lenses may be impossible to remove from the eyes after contact with some types of chemicals.
  • Contact lenses will reduce the effectiveness of emergency flushing procedures.
  • Contact lenses may trap contaminants in the eyes.

Laboratory workers who must wear contact lenses for medical reasons should be especially careful to choose eye protection that fits snugly over the eyes and around the face.


Ear Protection

A work area with a noise level of 85 decibels (dBA) or greater is considered a noise hazard. Under these conditions, ear protection should be worn. Noise reduction ratings (NRR) for hearing protection devices must be listed on its packaging.

Ear plugs and ear muffs provide sufficient protection against noise. Keep these devices clean and always wash hands before inserting ear plugs into ears. Cotton inserts are not adequate noise suppressors and should not be used.


Hand Protection

Protective gloves should be worn when handling hazardous chemicals, sharp-edged objects, very hot or cold materials, or substances of unknown toxicity. When selecting and using protective gloves, laboratory workers should take precaution.

Protective gloves should be selected on the basis of the hazards involved.

  • Polyvinyl gloves protect against mild corrosives and irritants.
  • Latex gloves have some protection against irritants and infectious agents.
  • Rubber gloves protect against mild corrosive material and electric shock.
  • Neoprene gloves protect against solvents, oils, and mild corrosive material.
  • Cotton gloves have limited protection against fire, and absorb perspiration.

It is important to wear gloves that are resistant to the material being used. In an accident, the wrong type of glove can be more hazardous than no gloves at all, keeping hazardous chemicals in prolonged contact with the hands.

Make sure gloves are in good condition and free from holes and tears before use. This becomes especially important when working with extremely corrosive material.

When removing gloves, keep the working surface of the glove away from hands and skin. The glove should be removed starting from the wrist and then pulled toward the fingers. Gloves that are contaminated with radioactive or biohazardous waste should be disposed of in appropriate waste containers. Wash hands as soon as possible after removing gloves.

Remove gloves before handling common objects such as pens, doorknobs, elevator buttons, etc.


Clothing Protection

Clothing and skin may be protected from chemicals by wearing a lab coat. The lab coat should always be properly fitted and is best if it is knee length. Different types of lab coats offer different types of protection.

  • Cotton lab coats protect against flying objects and sharp edges, and are usually fire retardant.
  • Wool lab coats protect against small quantities of acid and small flames.
  • Synthetic fiber lab coats are not recommended since they are flammable and can adhere to the skin upon contact with fire, causing painful skin burns.

Lab coats should be able to be removed easily in the event of an emergency.


Foot Protection

Proper footwear provides protection from corrosives, heavy objects and electric shock. In the laboratory, shoes should completely cover the feet.

Certain types of shoes offer added protection.

  • Steel-toed shoes protect against crushing injuries and chemical contamination.
  • Rubber boots protect against corrosive chemicals and provide traction.
  • Insulated shoes protect against electric shock.

Fabric shoes, such as tennis shoes, can absorb liquids. If hazardous chemicals are spilled on fabric shoes they should be removed immediately.

Sandals, open-toed shoes and high heels should not be worn in the laboratory.

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