The primary methods for protecting employees and students in a laboratory against hazards such as chemical, biological, radiological, physical, and mechanical hazards in the work environment are elimination, engineering, and administrative controls. Where these control methods are not appropriate or sufficient to control the hazard, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required. PPE is also required in conjunction with other controls to mitigate the impact should an incident occur.  For more information on general PPE guidelines please refer to the Personal Protection Equipment PPE webpage.


Minimum PPE

Visitors to a lab:  protective eyewear is the minimum PPE required for a “no touch” visit to a laboratory or other areas where chemical, biological, radiological, or mechanical hazards are present. For labs where chemical, biological, radiological hazards may present a risk to the visitor, a lab coat shall also be provided.

Staff/Students/Volunteers working in a lab:  a lab coat, protective eyewear, long pants and closed toe shoes are the minimum PPE for work in a laboratory where chemical, biological, radiological, or mechanical hazards are present. This clothing shall be supplemented, as necessary, with the appropriate gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for the tasks to be performed.


Hazard Assessment

  • A work area and process/task assessment is required to determine the potential hazards and to select the appropriate PPE for protection.
  • Utilize your Safety Plan process section for defining and documenting tasks and activities, associated hazards, and PPE required for protection and mitigation. Ensure all employees and students working in the lab/space have access and read the Safety Plan processes before performing any tasks.  Use of the Safety Plan for documentation avoids the need for additional documentation otherwise required by OSHA.
  • PI/supervisor shall enforce the use of required PPE.

Training

PPE training shall consist of the following:

  • Reviewing the Safety Plan along with completing the CHP training
  • The PI or lab supervisor shall provide employees with training on the proper PPE used for their job, when it must be worn, how to wear, adjust, maintain and discard it, as well as the limitations associated with it. The PI or lab supervisor shall document all such training.

PPE Selection/ Requirements

Below is a list of the most common PPE needed in a research laboratory setting. For additional PPE considerations that may be required such as steel-toed shoes for protection against falling or rolling heavy objects or cut resistant gloves when working with sharp objects, please refer to the Personal Protection Equipment PPE webpage.

  • Body protection
    • Refer to the following links for lab coat requirements / selection, cleaning, and disposal:
    • Based on the hazard and risk assessment, other body protection including chemical resistant sleeves and chemical resistant aprons may be required.
  • Eye and Face protection
    • Safety glasses
      • Safety glasses are the minimum requirement for working with or around hazardous material in labs or protection from impacts by flying particles and other objects. Side-shields are required. Safety glasses do not provide adequate protection against a chemical splash hazard.
      • Eye or face protection products are required to be marked with a “Z87”, generally on the temple, signifying adherence to ANSI Z87.1.
      • For use of eye protection around lasers please refer to the Laser Eye Protection Selection Guide
      • A full (face, body, and eye) PPE assessment should be performed when using Ultraviolet and Infrared light.
      • Prescription Safety Glasses Guidance
    • Goggles
      • Required for protection against liquid splashes, and chemical vapors.
      • Face Shields
        • Face shields should be worn in addition to safety glasses or goggles whenever a splash hazard is present, for example, when dispensing cryogenics, preparing a corrosive bath, working with molten metals or pouring large volumes of liquids.  Safety glasses or goggles must always be worn beneath a face shield.
        • Additional resources: OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection eTool 
  • Hand protection
    • Disposable nitrile gloves are the minimum protective gloves for laboratories and provide limited protection for incidental exposure only. They shall be removed immediately after contact with chemicals. Users then need to wash hands before replacing disposable gloves. Using double (a second pair of gloves atop the first) nitrile gloves or wearing Silver Shield gloves under disposable nitrile gloves may be necessary where hazard/risk assessment indicates the need for additional hand protection.
      • Heavy duty gloves provide longer protection and can be reused as long as they are washed and air dried after each use. Inspect reusable chemical protective gloves before each use.
      • Certain chemicals pose a skin absorption risk and require additional attention for glove selection:
      • Gloves have limited protection based on the exposure time and chemical’s concentration. Please consult the glove manufacturer’s compatibility/selection chart to ensure the glove provides the protection you need.
        • Examples include:
        • Avoid latex gloves.  Latex gloves provide poor protection against chemicals and can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.  For more information, see Latex Allergies | NIOSH
        • Gloves need to be properly selected for non-chemical lab hazards Examples include:
          • Excess heat. Use properly selected, insulated gloves
          • Cold: specially rated gloves for activities such as working with cryogenics, dry ice, and working with minus 80 freezers.
          • Cuts and abrasions: cut-resistance gloves
        • Use the PPE section of your Safety Plan processes to identify and document additional required PPE for each process/task
  • Hearing protection
  • Respiratory Protection
    • Used to prevent overexposure to an inhalation hazard or irritant where the hazard is not controlled adequately using preferred means of engineering controls (fume hood, enclosure, etc.).
    • Contact EH&S -Occupational Health (env-health-occ-health@ncsu.edu) for a workplace assessment, training, and fit test if you believe a respirator is needed for a job or task, or if you have further questions.
    • Medical monitoring may be required.
    • Form more information visit:

Other considerations

If your work duties are not limited to standard/customary lab work and the associated PPE requirements listed above, please refer to the Occupational Safety PPE webpage. Examples include steel-toed shoes for protection against falling or rolling heavy objects or cut resistant gloves when working with sharp objects

Additional reference materials