6.3 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn as a necessary part of research safety in addition to engineering controls and good work practices. Supervisors and employees must work together to ensure that appropriate PPE is selected and used to minimize exposure.

General rules regarding PPE:

  • The employer is responsible for providing required PPE at no cost to workers
  • Each supervisor is responsible for training their workers on the proper use of PPE
  • PPE must be selected to provide protection for anticipated hazards
  • PPE must be readily available
  • PPE must be appropriately sized for the user
  • PPE must be inspected prior to each use. If found to be defective, PPE must be repaired or discarded
  • PPE should be removed whenever workers are leaving a work area
  • PPE must be appropriately cleaned, maintained, and stored according to manufacturer guidelines
  • Potentially contaminated PPE that is no longer wanted or suitable for re-use should be disposed following waste guidelines

Selection

Consult the Hazard-Specific PPE Selection Guide for assistance in selecting the appropriate PPE based on anticipated hazards. This guide is illustrative and does not address all situations. Consult with your supervisor and University Health and Safety Representative for assistance in selecting the appropriate PPE for the hazards in your work area. 

Size and Fit

PPE and personal attire should be selected by size and fit so that it provides a protective barrier to the user against anticipated hazards in the workplace. PPE should fit well so it does not become an additional hazard to the user. The PPE and personal attire should not be so tight that it is at risk of tearing under normal use nor likely to trap contaminants close to the user. The PPE and personal attire should not be so loose as to allow gaps in the area of coverage, fall off during use, or become an entrapment risk.

Personal Attire

An individual’s personal attire is their first layer of protection[1]. It should cover all skin likely to be exposed during a spill. Personal attire should fit snugly or be secured to avoid accidental contact or entrapment in anticipated hazards. It should be of a tight weave or impermeable to liquids and fit loosely enough that if liquids were absorbed the contaminated clothing would stay away from individual’s skin. In general:

  • Long hair must be pulled back and secured.
  • Loose clothing (sleeves, bulky pants) should be avoided to prevent accidental contact with chemicals or open flames.
  • Shoes with closed toe and heel coverings must be worn by all individuals while in laboratory areas.
  • Full-length pants or skirts are required to cover all skin that could be exposed during a spill. 
  • Cotton (or other non-synthetic material) clothing is recommended when conducting procedures with an elevated fire risk, such as procedures using pyrophorics or large amounts of flammable chemicals or work on or near exposed live circuitry.

Inspection

Prior to each use, the user should inspect their PPE, checking for signs of contamination and verify the structural integrity (perforations, tears, discoloration, changes in stiffness and expiration date (if applicable)). PPE if found to be defective, must be marked out of service and not used until repaired. If no repair is possible it should be discarded. 

Donning

Users must properly don (put on) required PPE before entering an area with a potential hazard. Workers must be instructed on how to properly don PPE by their supervisors. Direction should be provided for how each item of PPE should fit in relation to other items of PPE and personal attire. 

Use

During use if contamination or damage is suspected the PPE should be replaced and the area underneath the PPE checked for signs of exposure. PPE may also need to be changed if it has a short life-span for protection. This can happen under certain use conditions for gloves and respirator cartridges.

Doffing

Prior to doffing (removal of PPE), PPE should be inspected for signs of damage or contamination (tears, swelling, and discoloration). If signs of damage are present, the wearer should also check for signs of exposure. If the PPE is re-usable, gross contamination should be cleaned off before removal. Workers should not remove (doff) required PPE before leaving the area of required use, if the risk of exposure remains.

PPE should be removed before leaving the lab or work area and before contacting commonly used objects that should be kept free of contamination (doorknobs, phones, pens, keyboards, etc.) unless these have been specifically designated for use while wearing potentially contaminated PPE.

The proper doffing technique must be shown by the supervisor. Supervisor should explain which items of PPE should come off first (dirtiest) and how to remove each item of PPE in a manner (slowly) that avoids cross contamination, and minimizes and contains any particles. If PPE is not removed in the correct order or manner there is a risk of exposure during removal. After removal of PPE, areas on the user’s body that were covered by PPE should be checked for damage from the PPE or contaminant and cleaned.

Clearning, Storage, and Disposal

PPE must be appropriately cleaned, maintained, and stored according to manufacturer guidelines. PPE should be protected from damage and contamination during storage by keeping it in a clean designated area away from chemicals, temperature extremes, and other stresses (hanging by strap or exposed to UV light). Potentially contaminated PPE that is no longer wanted or suitable for re-use should be disposed of according to applicable waste guidelines.

Specific PPE Guidelines

Body Protection

For hazard-specific PPE requirements, see the PPE selection guide.

Lab Coats

Required:

  • Lab coats are required when working with radioactive materials, hazardous chemicals, or biological agents.
  • Lab coats must not be taken home for laundering.

Recommended Practices:

  • Lab coat sleeves should be of a sufficient length to prevent skin exposure while wearing gloves.
  • Lab coats should be large enough to fit without gapping at the buttons or sides, but not baggy so as to hinder movement or get caught in equipment.
  • If the lab coat has a V-neck, a shirt should be worn that covers exposed skin.
  • Lab coats with snaps or cloth buttons are easier to remove rapidly in the case of an emergency.
  • If the lab coat has large holes or tear, it should be removed from service and replaced.
  • Flame-resistant lab coats are recommended when working with pyrophoric materials or large amounts (greater than four (4) liters) of flammable liquids.

Flame-Resistant Lab Coat Choices

  • Nomex – highly fire-resistant. The fabric thickens, carbonizes, and remains intact under fire conditions. Can be laundered without losing fire-resistant properties.
  • Fire-resistant cotton - treated with a fire-resistant material. May wash out after repeated laundering.
  • 100% Cotton – Cotton is superior to synthetic blends for fire-resistance, but inferior to Nomex and fire-resistant cotton.
  • Synthetic/Cotton Blends - 100% polyester coats or cotton/polyester blends are not considered appropriate for working with flammables because they will melt onto your skin.

Aprons

Where large volume (>5 gallons) of hazardous materials are being used or there is a risk of splashing (e.g., manual transfers) a chemical apron can help reduce potential exposure.

Gowns

The use of gowns may be required in some areas (e.g., animal handling or procedure areas of Research Animal Resources (RAR)). Rooms that require gowns or other special PPE are posted with signage stating these requirements. Contact the area supervisor if you have questions.

Gloves

For hazard-specific PPE requirements, see the PPE selection guide.

Glove Selection

No single glove material can protect against all chemical, physical (e.g., cuts, abrasions, burns temperature extremes), or biological hazards. It is critical to select the correct glove for the hazard.

Gloves made of appropriate material are required to protect the hands and arms from thermal burns, cuts, and biological or chemical exposures that may result in absorption through the skin or reaction on the surface of the skin. Individuals working with liquid or easily dispersible solid radioactive materials should wear two layers of disposable gloves to prevent the spread of contamination to themselves and areas outside of their designated work station. Gloves should be selected for their resistance to the chemicals or agents used in the protocol.

To select the appropriate gloves:

  1. For physical hazards, such as heat, cold, or sharp objects, consult the PPE Selection Guide.
  2. Consult Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), chemical labels, and other sources for general recommendations.
  3. Check chemical resistance data from glove manufacturers
  4. When guidance on glove selection for a particular chemical is lacking, double glove using two different materials, or purchase a multilayered laminated glove such as a New Pig's 4H Glove (link from New Pig).
  5. Consider allergies. For example, latex gloves, especially thin, disposable exam gloves, are widely used in labs. However, many workers have developed allergies to the proteins in the gloves and their use should be reevaluated. To reduce the chance of reactions to latex in the workplace:
    1. Use powder-free, reduced-protein latex gloves, since sensitized workers may react to inhalation of airborne powders.
    2. Wash hands with a mild soap and dry thoroughly after removing gloves.
    3. Frequently clean areas and equipment contaminated with latex-containing dust.
    4. For more information on latex allergies, see the CDCs NIOSH 6/97 alert.

Glove Use

Disposable Gloves

Inspection:

  1. Inspect visually for tears or rips.
  2. Torn or damaged gloves should be replaced immediately.

Use:

  1. Replace when chemical contact occurs or when damage is suspected.
  2. Remove gloves before you leave the lab or handle objects such as doorknobs, telephones, or computer keyboards. Use designated pens when wearing gloves.
  3. Use proper doffing techniques when you remove your gloves.
  4. Wash hands after removing gloves (even when double gloving).

Storage:
Store glove supplies in clean area away from chemicals, temperature extremes, and other hazards.

Disposal:

  1. Gloves contaminated with radioactive materials, BSL-2 and higher biological materials, stench chemicals, highly-toxic chemicals, and mercury should be disposed of in appropriate hazardous waste containers. 
  2. Most other contaminated gloves can be disposed of in the regular trash.
Reusable Gloves

Inspection:

  1. Inspect gloves visually for tears and rips before and after each use.
  2. Check for perforations in reusable gloves by inflating gloves with air.
  3. Discoloration or stiffness may indicate chemical degradation.
  4. Torn or damaged gloves should be removed from service and disposed of immediately.

Use:

  1. Wear a clean pair of disposable of gloves under reusable gloves.
  2. Remove and replace when damage is suspected.
  3. Remove gloves before you leave the lab or handle objects such as doorknobs, telephones, or computer keyboards. Use designated pens when wearing gloves.
  4. Use proper doffing techniques when you remove your gloves.
  5. Wash hands after removing gloves (even when double gloving).

Cleaning and Storage:

  1. Wash gloves before removal and air dry in lab.
  2. Store gloves in clean area away from chemicals, temperature extremes, and other hazards.

Disposal:

  1. Dispose of reusable gloves that cannot be sufficiently decontaminated or repaired in the proper hazardous waste container.
  2. Gloves contaminated with radioactive materials, BSL-2 and higher biological materials, stench chemicals, highly-toxic chemicals, and mercury should be disposed of in appropriate hazardous waste containers. 
  3. Most other contaminated gloves can be disposed of in the regular trash.

 

Eye and Face Protection

For hazard-specific PPE requirements, see the PPE selection guide.

Eyewear must be worn whenever there is a potential for eye exposure to hazards. For eye and face protection to be effective, it must be fit properly, be well maintained, and be appropriate for the tasks performed and the hazards encountered.

All protective eyewear must bear the “Z87.1” marking indicating it has been certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

When a face shield is worn, safety glasses or goggles must also be worn in conjunction.

Size and Fit

When selecting safety glasses, one size does not fit all. Safety glasses designed for smaller faces include: Small size goggles from Flinn Scientific designed for kids; Verona Safety; Sperian W200 Series; AO Safety Refine 101; Body Glove’s V-Line; Crews’s Blackjack elite.

Corrective Lenses

Corrective lenses users may either wear their contacts or glasses under the eye protection provided by their employer or purchase safety glasses with a Z87.1 rating, that have the corrective lenses built in.

Cleaning, Sanitizing and Storage

Cleaning your eye protection after use is a good lab practice. Wipe gently to avoid scratches or damage to the lens coatings. Possible cleaning techniques include rinsing debris then allow to dry naturally or using: a wipe or moistened towelette; an eyewear sanitizing cabinet with germicidal bulb; or a cleaner. Note- disinfectants and sanitizers are generally more hazardous. After cleaning and re-applying anti-fog coatings, protective eyewear should be stored in a location away from possible contaminants, i.e., resting in a box or drawer. Do not store eyewear by its strap.

Preventing Fogging

Techniques to reduce fogging include: select goggles with an anti-fog coating; Apply a fog-free solution (i.e., Defog It or Rain-x); Wash the inside with detergent and buff off with soft cloth; Apply uncolored beeswax to the inside of the lenses. Buff until clear; Spit on the inside lenses (gross but anecdotally, most effective); Clean with non-gel toothpaste and remove with soft cloth to the inside of the lenses.

For more information on eye and face protection see OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection Guide.

Respiratory Protection

Where work can be performed with ventilation (e.g., fume hood, biological safety cabinet, or other local exhaust) respiratory protection is usually unnecessary. Respirators only provide protection to the individuals that wear them. If a respiratory hazard is present in a room everyone potentially exposed should have protection. Respirators are only appropriate for hazards that do not still present a respiratory exposure risk after work is stopped.  If you believe the work area ventilation is inadequate and are in need of respiratory protection, contact UHS at (612) 626-6002 for an exposure assessment and respirator guidance. It is very important to select the respirator type appropriate for the type of hazards being encountered, as not all respirators will protect against all hazards. Respirators will only provide protection if they fit properly and are used appropriately. Use of a respirator can also potentially trigger medical conditions in some individuals. If respirator use is required, users must receive a medical evaluation, and be fitted and trained for respirator use prior to using respiratory protection. See Voluntary use of N-95 repirators Fact Sheet to learn more.  

Hearing Protection

Hearing protection is rarely required in the laboratory. If researchers have to raise their voices to be heard during a laboratory operation (e.g. sonication), contact UHSat 612-626-6002 for an assessment. Noise monitoring will be conducted whenever there is a credible reason to believe that one or more employees may be exposed to noise at or above 85 dBA, measured as an eight hour time weighted average. Hearing protectors such as earmuffs or earplugs may be necessary to minimize noise exposures. You may also be enrolled in the Hearing Conservation Program based on the results of noise monitoring. 

Physical Hazards

Temperature to protect against burns wear:

  • Heat resistant gloves (permeable to liquids) when handling hot surfaces (e.g. removing items from an oven or an autoclave).
  • Cryogenic gloves (impermeable to liquids) when handling cold surfaces (e.g. items from -80°C freezer or materials which were in contact with cryogenic liquids). 

Pressure: (Note: Large changes in temperature also present a risk of pressurization)
Safety glasses and a face shield are also required when handling potentially pressurized materials (e.g. closed containers that were in cryogens until they reach room temperature). Does not apply to containers designed for pressurized applications (e.g. compressed gas cylinders or autoclaves).

Sharps: When cutting glass or twisting glass joints, the use of safety glasses is required and the use of thick cut-resistant gloves is strongly recommended.

Work-Specific Hazards

Specialized PPE may be required depending on your work environment and conditions. Always consult with your supervisor and University Health and Safety Representative for assistance in selecting the appropriate PPE for the hazards in your work area.

 

[1] Personal Protective Equipment must be supplied by the employer. Employers are not required to purchase personal attire.

1. Individual Chemical Hygiene Responsibilities

1. Individual Chemical Hygiene Responsibilities

2. Laboratory Management

3. Laboratory Design and Commissioning

4. Training

5. Experiment Planning and SOPs

6. Safety Equipment

7. Chemical Management

8. Emergency Procedures

9. Medical Surveillance and Injury Reporting

10. Appendices