Elimination, engineering, and administrative controls are the main strategies for safeguarding workers and students in a lab against risks including those posed by chemical, biological, radiological, physical, and mechanical hazards in the working environment.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is necessary when these control techniques are ineffective or insufficient to eliminate the risk. PPE is also required in addition to other safeguards to lessen the effects should an incident happen.
The most typical PPE required in a research laboratory setting is listed as follows:
- Body protection
- Protection for the face and eyes
- Barrier protection for hands
- Protection for ears
- Respiratory protection
Additional gear could be necessary, such as steel-toed shoes for foot protection against falling or rolling heavy objects or cut-resistant gloves for dealing with sharp materials.
A quality-made lab coat for strong barrier protection guards the torso and arms of the wearer from hazards. Employees should take off their lab coats whenever they leave production areas in order to reduce the risk of cross-contamination into other work areas.
Other body protection, such as chemical-resistant sleeves and aprons, may also be necessary depending on the risk and hazard assessment results. There are three different varieties of lab coats you can shop from based on your needs:
- Standard lab coat. Style: Notched lapel collar with front fasteners on a one-piece made of a poly/cotton blend.
- Protective coat. Knit cuffs were used in the design to guard against contact with potentially infectious substances and bloodborne pathogens.
- Flame-resistant coat. Created for optimal protection, you can find it in Nomex which is a meta-aramid synthetic fibre great for use with pyrophoric liquids, and treated cotton which is somewhat less protective than the synthetic alternative.
Eye and Face Protection
For protection from impacts from flying particles and other items, safety glasses are a minimum necessity when working with or around hazardous materials in laboratories. There must be side shields. The risk of chemical splash is insufficiently mitigated by safety eyewear. Products that provide eye or face protection must include the “Z87” mark, typically on the temple, to indicate compliance with certification ANSI Z87.1.
When working around ultraviolet and infrared light, a complete PPE assessment should be made (facial, body, and eyes). Goggles are also necessary for defence against chemical fumes and liquid splashes. When a splash hazard occurs, such as when dispensing cryogenics, preparing a corrosive bath, working with molten metals, or pouring large amounts of liquids, face shields should be used in addition to safety glasses or goggles. Under a face shield, safety glasses or goggles are required to be worn at all times.
The least protective gloves for laboratories are disposable nitrile ones, which only provide minimal protection against accidental exposure. After coming into touch with chemicals, they must be removed promptly.
Then, users must wash their hands before putting on fresh pairs. Where hazard/risk analysis reveals the need for further hand protection, it may be required to use double (the second pair of gloves on top of the first) nitrile gloves or to wear Silver Shield gloves underneath disposable nitrile gloves.
Heavy-duty gloves can be reused if they are cleaned and allowed to air dry after each usage and offer extended protection. Before each usage, check the reusable chemical protection gloves. Glove selection must pay extra attention to certain compounds that present a danger to skin absorption.
Based on the length of exposure and chemical concentration, gloves offer only modest protection. To be sure the glove offers the protection you require, please refer to the compatibility/selection chart provided by the glove manufacturer. And remember to never use latex gloves in an active lab setting. Latex gloves offer inadequate defence against chemicals and, in some people, can trigger allergic responses.
Hearing and Ear Canal Protection
Hearing protection must be worn when an employee’s noise exposure cannot be decreased to safe levels. Ear plugs, ear muffs, and hearing bands, commonly referred to as canal caps, are a few solutions for hearing protection that is readily accessible. Each one’s ability to reduce noise as well as its comfort and fit should be carefully studied.
Pre-moulded ear plugs come in a variety of sizes and shapes to accommodate various ear canal diameters. It could be difficult to achieve a good seal with the ear canal because they can’t expand or shrink.
Formable or foam ear plug will expand to fill the ear canal and seal against the walls when properly inserted. Due to their expansion, foam earplugs can accommodate ear canals of various sizes.
Ear muffs are worn against the head and completely cover the external ear. Acoustic foam lines the interior of the muff cup to minimize noise. The tightness of the seal between the foam cushion and the head determines how effective they are.
Hearing bands or canal cap enclose the entrance of the ear canal. They usually aren’t advised because they don’t offer that good of an ear canal seal and generally offer less protection than ear muffs or plugs.
For the majority of laboratory tasks, engineering control devices like fume hoods, glove boxes, snorkel hoods, and biosafety cabinets are sufficient to handle processes producing dangerous aerosols, gases, or vapours. However, some procedures, such as those carried out as part of field research or animal studies, may not be amenable to the application of engineering controls. Respiratory protection may be required to reduce exposure to volatile hazardous compounds, aerosols, or potential allergens.
Protection for Lab Visitors
Protective eyewear is the bare minimum PPE needed for “no contact” visits to laboratories and other locations with mechanical, chemical, biological, radiological, or biological dangers. A lab coat must also be provided for labs where the visitor may be at risk from chemical, biological, or radioactive threats.
To identify the potential risks and choose the best PPE for protection, a work environment, process, and task assessment is necessary. Use the process portion of your safety plan to specify and record tasks, activities, associated risks, and PPE needed for defence and mitigation.
Before beginning any tasks, make sure all staff members and students using the lab or space have access to and have reviewed the Safety Plan procedures. Employees must receive training on the appropriate PPE used for their job, when it must be worn, how to put it on, adjust it, maintain it, and discard it, as well as any restrictions attached to it, from the PI or lab supervisor.