For many laboratory operations the risk of chemical exposure cannot be totally eliminated through the use of engineering and procedural control measures. For this reason, it is necessary to supplement such measures with the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and apparel. Because PPE functions as a barrier between the laboratory worker and the chemical hazard, rather than by actually reducing or eliminating the hazard, its use must always be in addition to (and never as a substitute for) appropriate engineering and procedural controls.
It is the responsibility of the principal investigator, lab manager, or lab supervisor of the laboratory to ensure that appropriate personal protective equipment is provided to and used by all laboratory personnel. Such equipment must be adequate to ensure personnel are protected from chemical exposure to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.
Appropriate PPE for the eyes is required whenever there is a reasonable probability that the eyes could be exposed to chemicals. Vented safety goggles are the preferred eye protection to be worn when chemicals are handled in the laboratory. These must be worn over prescription glasses. All protective equipment for the eyes must bear the stamp Z87, which indicates that it meets the performance guidelines established by the American National Standards Institute in ANSI Z87.1 “Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection.”
A face shield is required whenever there is a potential for severe chemical exposure from splashes, fumes, or explosions. Because a face shield alone does not adequately protect the eyes, it must be worn over safety goggles. In general, any operation that requires a face shield must be conducted inside a hood with the sash down as an additional barrier.
Because the hands are typically the part of the body in closest contact with chemicals in the laboratory, they are particularly vulnerable to chemical exposures. For this reason it is essential that laboratory personnel select appropriate protective gloves and wear them whenever handling chemicals. Because different glove materials resist different chemicals, no one glove is suited for all chemical exposures. Glove selection guides are available from most glove manufacturers and must be consulted before choosing a glove.
Safety shoes or other specialized foot protection are generally not required for most laboratory operations. However, shoes must cover the entire foot. Open toed shoes and sandals are inappropriate footwear in laboratories. Fabric and athletic shoes offer little or no protection from chemical spills. Leather shoes or equivalent (chemically resistant shoes) with slip-resistant soles are required. Shoes may have to be discarded if contaminated with a hazardous material.
Chemical resistant overshoes, boots, or disposable shoe coverings (“booties”), may be used to avoid possible exposure to corrosive chemicals or large quantities of solvents or water that might penetrate normal footwear (e.g., during spill cleanup).
Although generally not required in most laboratories, composite-toed safety shoes may be necessary when there is a risk of heavy objects falling or rolling onto the feet, such as in bottle-washing operations, animal care facilities, or if large quantities of liquids are stored and moved in drums.
By virtue of its large surface area, the skin is at considerable risk of exposure to chemicals in the laboratory. To lessen this risk, it is essential that laboratory personnel wear clothing, which, to the extent possible, covers all skin surfaces (i.e. shorts are inappropriate attire for the laboratory). In addition, a fully-buttoned lab coat or chemical resistant apron must be worn during chemical manipulations. Clothing and lab coats must be regarded not as means of preventing exposure, but as means of lessening or delaying exposure. The effectiveness of clothing as a protective barrier for the skin depends upon its prompt removal in the event that it becomes contaminated. Do not wear synthetic fabric street clothes or polyester lab coats when working with flammables, reactives, or pyrophorics. Use all cotton or fire-resistant materials.
Proper Dress and PPE Lab Safety Video