Laboratory PPE

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn to minimize injuries and limit exposure to hazards in the workplace. It is important to understand the different types of PPE available and to select the appropriate equipment for each circumstance. We work diligently to assure a safe and healthful environment for all employees, students, and visitors.

Closed-toed shoes should be worn at all times in laboratories or areas where chemicals are used or stored and areas where mechanical work is being done. 

Safety shoes are used to protect the feet against injuries from heavy falling objects, against crushing by rolling objects, or against lacerations from sharp edges. Safety shoes are required for employees whose job duties frequently require the lifting, carrying, or moving, of objects weighing more than fifteen pounds, which if dropped would likely result in a foot or toe injury. The State personal protective equipment policy as of February 1, 1985, stipulates that employees who are required to wear safety shoes will be reimbursed up to a certain amount for one pair of shoes. For further information concerning eligible types of shoe protection, purchasing, and reimbursement procedures contact the Safety and Risk Management Office.

Use of Gloves

Proper protective gloves should be worn when handling hazardous materials, materials of unknown hazard, sharp edged objects, and very hot or very cold materials. Gloves should be selected on the basis of the material being handled, the particular hazard involved, and the suitability for the operation being conducted. Glove materials are eventually permeated by chemicals; however, they can be used safely for limited time periods if specific use and glove characteristics (thickness and permeation rate and time) are known. Common glove materials include neoprene, polyvinyl chloride, nitrile, and butyl or natural rubber. These materials differ in their resistance to various substances. Double gloving is recommended when handling highly toxic or carcinogenic materials. Before each use, gloves should be inspected for discoloration, punctures, and tears. Before removal, gloves should be washed, if the material is impermeable to water.

Leather gloves may be used for handling broken glass or for inserting glass tubes into rubber stoppers, and for similar operations where protection from chemicals is not needed. Insulated gloves should be used when working at temperature extremes. Various synthetic materials such as Nomex and Kevlar can be used briefly up to 1000 degrees F. Gloves made with these materials or in combination with other materials such as leather are available. Do not use gloves made either entirely or partly of asbestos, which is regulated as an OSHA carcinogen. Contact the Safety and Risk Management Office if you have asbestos gloves so that they can be picked up for disposal.

It is the responsibility of the laboratory supervisor to determine whether specialized hand protection is needed for any operation and to ensure that the necessary protection is available.  

Laboratory Clothing and Protective Apparel

The clothing worn by laboratory workers is important to their safety. Personnel should not wear loose (e.g., saris, dangling neckties, and overlarge or ragged laboratory coats), skimpy (e.g., shorts and/or halter-tops), or torn clothing. It is also important to tie back long hair or excessive facial hair. Loose or torn clothing and unrestrained long hair can easily catch fire, dip into chemicals, or become ensnared in apparatus and moving machinery! Skimpy clothing offers little protection to the skin in the event of chemical splash. If the possibility of chemical contamination exists, personal clothing that will be worn home should be covered by protective apparel. Finger rings can react with chemicals and also should be avoided around equipment that has exposed moving parts or electrical hazards.

Appropriate protective apparel is advisable for most laboratory work and may be required for some. Such apparel can include laboratory coats and aprons, jump suits, special types of boots, shoe covers, and gauntlets. It can be either washable or disposable in nature. Garments are commercially available that can help protect the laboratory worker against chemical splashes or spills, heat, cold, moisture, and radiation.

Laboratory coats are intended to prevent contact with dirt and minor chemical splashes or spills, but also provide a protective covering over personal clothing that may itself present a hazard (e.g. combustible cotton and synthetic materials).
Laboratory coats do not significantly resist penetration by organic liquids and, if significantly contaminated by them, should be removed immediately.

Plastic or rubber aprons provide better protection from corrosive or irritating liquids but can complicate injuries in the event of fire. Furthermore, a plastic apron can accumulate a considerable charge of static electricity and should be avoided in areas where flammable solvents or other materials could be ignited by a static discharge.

Disposable outer garments (e.g. Tyvek) may, in some cases, be preferable to reusable ones. One such case is that of handling appreciable quantities of known carcinogenic materials, for which long sleeves and the use of gloves are also recommended. Disposable full length jump suits are strongly recommended for high risk situations, which may also require the use of head and shoe covers. Many disposable garments, however, offer only limited protection from vapor penetration and considerable judgement is needed when using them. Impervious suits fully enclosing the body may be necessary in emergency situations.

Laboratory workers should know the appropriate techniques for removing protective apparel, especially any that has become contaminated. Chemical spills on leather clothing or accessories (watchbands, shoes, belts) can be especially hazardous because many chemicals can be absorbed in the leather and then held close to the skin for long periods. Such items must be removed promptly and decontaminated or discarded to prevent the possibility of chemical burn.

Protective eye and face equipment shall be required where there is a reasonable probability of injury that can be prevented by such equipment. In such cases, employers shall make conveniently available a type of protector suitable for the work to be performed, and employees shall use such protectors. No unprotected person shall knowingly be subjected to a hazardous environmental condition. Suitable eye protectors shall be provided where machines or operations present the hazards of flying objects, glare, liquids, injurious radiation, or a combination of these hazards.

Required for Students: University policy on eye and face protection for students is derived from legislation enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly entitled "Policy for Eye and Face Protection," and passed in 1969. This Act requires that eye protective devices be worn by students in shops, laboratories, or other areas where work involves:

  • Hot solids, liquids, or, molten metals; or
  • Milling, sawing, turning, shaping, cutting, or stamping of any solid materials; or
  • Heat treatment, tempering, or kiln firing of any metal or other materials; or
  • Gas or electric arc welding; or
  • Repair or servicing of any vehicle; or
  • Caustic or explosive chemicals or materials.

Eye protective devices are to be worn at all times while participating in any of the above programs.

Required for Visitors: This act also provides that visitors to such areas be furnished with and required to wear eye safety devices while such programs are in progress.

Required for Employees: University policy on eye and face protection for employees is derived from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina (OSHA NC). The North Carolina legislation and OSHA NC specifies that eye and face protective devices, which include spectacles, goggles, and face shields, shall comply with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 1979 and later revisions thereof. All eye and face protective devices currently on State Contract meet ANSI standards.

Selection of Appropriate Devices Based on Hazard: The type of device required will depend on the nature of the hazard and the frequency with which it is encountered. There are three basic types of eye protection, which will meet the majority of University maintenance, shop, and laboratory requirements. These are: safety spectacles (with or without side shields), dust goggles, and chemical goggles. Each of these meets the basic eye protection standards for frontal exposure to flying particles.

Side Shields: Safety Glasses with side shields, or goggles, are required where flying particles are likely to enter at an angle, and are usually required where two or more people are working in close proximity. Safety glasses with permanently attached side shields, or impact goggles, will provide this protection. Clip on side shields do not meet ANSI standards.

Chemical Goggles: Safety chemical goggles are required to provide protection against corrosive or hot liquids or fine particles capable of penetrating the ventilation holes in dust goggles.

Special Eye Protection: Detailed information on eye protection requirements is available from the Safety Officer for the following hazards:

  • Welding and brazing operations
  • Lasers
  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Ionizing particulate radiation

Selection Based on Frequency of Use

  • Dust goggles are the least expensive approved eye protection devices available, fit most head size and facial shapes, and may be worn over ordinary glasses. They are recommended for visitors, employees, and students who require eye protection periodically for short duration (less than two hours per day).
  • Adjustable safety glasses and prescription safety glasses are generally more comfortable than goggles and are therefore recommended for employees who require eye protection frequently or for long duration (more than 2 hours).
  • Photogray Lenses: Photogray lenses will not be approved unless a medical need is certified by an eye professional. Photogray lenses will only be provided for employees needing eye protection whose job assignments are largely out of doors.

Contact Lenses: Contact lenses are not recommended for use where eye hazards exist because they do not protect the portion of the cornea they cover; furthermore, dissolved vapors, liquids, and dust particles tend to creep behind the lens.

Face Shields: Face Shields do not meet eye protection standards and are only for face protection. Appropriate eye protection devices must be worn under the face shield.

Cost, Care, and Reclamation:

Providing Protection: The University is committed to a policy of providing eye and face protective device without cost to employees. Each department is responsible for funding of its employee eye and face protection program. Departments may also furnish eye protective devices to students or may require students to purchase devices at the University Book Store. Visitors should be furnished with temporary eye protection without cost.

Eye Examinations and Prescription Frames: Scheduling and payment for eye examinations to obtain prescriptions and professional fittings for safety glasses are the responsibility of the employee and/or student.

Frames and lenses for prescription and non prescription safety glasses will be paid for by the University from a selection currently on a statewide contract. Only those items listed on the state contract will be furnished by the University.

Return of Protective Devices: Non prescription eye protective devices issued to employees, students, and visitors remain the property of the University and are to be returned when the use of the devices is no longer necessary. For students this will normally be at the end of each semester and for employees it will be on termination of employment or change in duties where eye protection is no longer required.

Replacement of Damaged Devices: Glasses damaged during normal wear and use may be replaced without charge to the employee or student at the discretion of the department head or designated administrative officer.

Replacing Lost Devices: Replacement of lost or stolen devices will be the responsibility of the employee or student to whom they were issued.

Cleaning Material: Eye protective devices are personal items and should be issued for the exclusive use of each individual. Materials for cleaning eye and face protective devices are to be made available to employees and students by each department.

Disinfection Before Re-issuance: Eye protective devices must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before being issued to another person. Information on procedures for disinfection is available from the Safety Officer.

Eye Contamination: Eye Wash Facilities - Every laboratory or work place using caustic and/or corrosive chemicals shall be equipped with emergency eye wash facilities.

First Aid Chemical Burns: When the eye has received chemical irritation, the preferred first aid is to flood the eye with water immediately for at least 15 minutes and seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Neutralizers or other medication should be used only on the advice, or under the direction, of a physician.

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