Protective Clothing and Equipment

Eye protection must be worn at all times in all laboratories where other than purely instrumental studies are being conducted. Ordinary prescription glasses will not provide adequate protection from injury to the eyes. The minimum acceptable protection are hardened glass or plastic safety glasses. Safety goggles or face shields should be utilized where there is a possibility of splashing chemicals, violent reactions or flying particles. This is also the case in the MPRL where brittle materials may fracture. Specific goggles need to be worn for protection against laser hazards, and ultraviolet or other intense light sources. Contact lenses should never be worn in the laboratory!

Skin contact is a potential route of exposure to toxic materials. Dermatitis, erythema, burns and absorption of toxic and/or carcinogenic chemicals are some of the consequences of exposing skin to hazardous liquids. Therefore, proper protective gloves need to be worn when working with toxic or corrosive materials or with materials of unknown toxicity. No one glove is suitable for handling all chemicals. Gloves should be selected on the basis of the material being handled and their suitability for the particular laboratory operation. Glove manufacturer's data (e.g. Fisher catalog) and the MSDS sheets for the chemicals provide useful information in this regard. Chemical resistance is the most common type of glove evaluation. It is a qualitative and subjective rating and refers to the ability of the material to resist decomposition or disintegration. It does not indicate the chemical protection afforded by the glove. Chemical permeation, on the other hand, does. Permeation is the process by which a hazardous liquid may pass through the glove material to the inside. Because the glove material is not physically destroyed, the individual may not be aware that breakthrough has occurred and that he/she is being exposed. The period of adequate protection, i.e., the breakthrough time plus some interval of time during chemical permeation, can only be determined by testing the glove with the chemical to be handled. When selecting gloves, determine which glove materials have the longest breakthrough times and lowest penetration rates.

Solid toed shoes should be worn at all times. Open toed shoes or sandals offer little or no protection against chemical spills or broken glass. Avoid wearing loose (e.g., saris, dangling neckties, and over-large or ragged laboratory coats), skimpy (e.g., shorts and/or halter tops), or torn clothing. If there is a possibility of contamination, personal clothing that will be worn home should be covered by protective apparel.