PPE Maintenance Tips — For a Safe Lab Environment
We all know that enforcing the rule, “Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) in lab,” can be a challenge. Encouraging students to take care of their PPE is not an easy job either. Both wearing and caring for PPE can prevent accidents and make your lab environment safer.
Goggles: Keep them Clear and Comfortable
Dirty, smudged or fogged goggle lenses can obstruct or blur a student’s view, which could lead to an accident. Goggle lens cleaning stations—with lens paper, cleaning solution or towelettes—should be located away from lab work areas, usually near an exit, so students can remove their goggles for cleaning in a safe area. Remind students to remove their gloves before taking off their goggles, to prevent chemicals on their gloves from coming in contact with their face and eyes.
Storing goggles in a safe, adequately-sized space will help prevent the lens from scratching and keep the flange smooth and comfortable. If goggles are shared, they should be wiped clean to remove skin oil and makeup and a goggle sanitizing cabinet should be used.
Make it easy for students to replace goggles, lenses, and straps by making them available through your department or bookstore.
Gloves: Chemical Resistance is Key
When an experiment requires students to wear gloves, picking the right glove material is important—for student protection and glove performance. Nitrile gloves are a good choice when using potentially caustic or irritating chemicals, whereas latex gloves are suitable when there is minimal or no chemical usage. Consult a glove chemical resistance guide for more information.
Store gloves where they will not be contaminated and replace reusable gloves if they are torn or have any holes.
It’s easy for students to forget they are wearing gloves, so remind them not to touch anything outside the experimental setting—and always remove gloves before leaving the lab.
Lab Coats: The “Over Armour” of Lab Wear
As with gloves, selecting the right material for lab coats plays a key role in protection and performance. Consult a reputable lab coat selection guide to choose the material that best meets your requirements for flame resistance, fluid penetration and corrosive protection.
While some students may consider a stained/torn lab coat a sign of experience or a badge of honor, stains indicate contamination and tears can snag on lab equipment. Missing fasteners can create a gap in a coat’s protective barrier. Don’t hesitate to replace worn lab coats, but if a wash is all that’s needed, check to see if your school has a washing machine dedicated to lab wear.
Ideally, lab coats should be stored in an area that avoids contamination while providing easy access.
Whether the topic is labware or lab wear, safety is the primary reason for maintaining everything in your lab. When you consider PPE as your last defense against injury, it pays to keep your goggles, gloves and lab coats ready for the next experiment.