Use of Personal Protective Equipment

Best practice dictates that hazards should be eliminated or minimized through engineering and administrative controls. If further protection is required, implement the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

General Personal Protective Equipment Guidelines
  • Wear a buttoned laboratory coat or comparable alternative covering when working with laboratory materials.

  • If there is a potential for splash generation when working outside of a chemical fume hood or biological safety cabinet, wear safety glasses. EH&S provides safety glasses and/or goggles at no cost for Medical Center personnel.

  • When pouring or mixing large volumes of hazardous chemicals, goggles and/or face shield must be worn in addition to gloves and a lab coat. A face shield provides maximum protection of the chin, neck, and ears as well as the face.

  • Prior to wearing gloves, check for the absence of pinhole leaks by inflating the gloves with air. Always review the Glove Use in Laboratories Section (below) prior to selecting protective gloves in the development of your SOP.

  • Do not wear shoes with open toes. Flip flops and sandals are not permitted in the laboratory work areas.

  • Whenever exposure by inhalation may exceed the threshold limits described in the SDS (or other references available), use the chemical(s) in a fume hood. If it is determined that a respirator may be necessary, contact EH&S at ext. 7-4712. For more information, review the GUMC Respiratory Protection Program.

  • The use of contact lenses within the lab work areas is strongly discouraged (contact lenses may ultimately trap materials within the eye). 

Glove Use in Laboratories

No single glove type can serve as protection from all chemicals. A glove may protect against a specific chemical, but it may not protect the wearer from a chemical with different characteristics. Additionally, if a glove protects the wearer, it will only be for a limited amount of time, as the glove material will eventually deteriorate. Therefore, the following must be considered when choosing which gloves to be worn for protection against chemical exposures.

Glove selection factors:

  • Chemical to be used: Consult glove compatibility charts to ensure that the gloves will provide sufficient protection.
  • Dexterity needed: The thicker the glove, typically the better the chemical protection, as the glove will be more resistant to physical damage, like tears and cracks; but, it will be more difficult to handle and feel the work.
  • Extent of the protection required: Determine if a wrist length glove provides adequate protection, or will a glove that extends further up the arm be required.
  • Type of work to be done: Gloves are specific to the task. Ensure the correct glove is chosen to avoid injuries. Examples: A nylon cryogenic glove will be damaged if a hot item is handled, where as a "hot mitt" will not protect the wearer when liquid nitrogen is used, as it may be too porous.

Rules for glove use:

  • Do NOT wear gloves out of the lab. If gloves are needed to transport materials, wear one glove to handle the transported item. The ungloved hand is then used to touch door knobs, elevator buttons and other common surfaces or items. If you are wearing gloves to "protect your sample from you" and are in the hall, no one else is aware of this, and will be concerned about the surfaces/items you may have "contaminated" with the gloves.
  • Disposable gloves must be inspected prior to use, and be discarded once removed. Do not save for future use.
  • Always establish a schedule for changing out gloves. This will be dependent upon the type of glove and chemical used.
  • Wash hands once gloves have been removed.
  • Dispose of gloves into the proper container. Dispose of biologically-contaminated gloves into an orange or red bag.  Chemically-contaminated gloves need to be disposed as chemical waste. Gloves contaminated with radioactive materials must be disposed as radioactive waste.
  • Reusable/ non-disposable gloves must be washed and dried, as needed, and then inspected for tears and holes prior to reuse.
  • Remove gloves before touching phones, computers, pens, skin, etc. 
  • If glove integrity is compromised and hazardous materials come into contact with skin, consider it an exposure, notify your supervisor, and seek medical attention (if necessary).
  • If you have a minor cut/non-intact skin, be sure to cover with a waterproof bandage and double-glove.
Glove Compatilibility Charts

Glove compatibility or chemical resistance charts are available on various chemical manufacturer's websites. Use these charts to ensure the gloves provide adequate protection. Not all chemicals are listed on these charts. Additionally, gloves supplied by two separate manufacturers may not provide the same level of protection to a specific chemical. Consult the manufacturer's specific compatibility chart for the brand of gloves being used, if available.

Understanding terms used in glove compatibility charts:

Breakthrough Time: Time it takes for the chemical to travel through the glove. This is recorded at the detectable level on the inside surface of the glove.

Permeation Rate: Time it takes for the chemical to pass through the glove once breakthrough has occurred. This involves the absorption of the chemical into the glove, migration of the chemical through the glove, and then deabsorption once it is inside the glove.

Degradation Rating: This is the physical change to the glove as it is affected by the chemical. This includes, but is not limited to swelling, shrinking, hardening, cracking, etc. of the glove.

Compatibility chart rating systems will vary by the manufacturer's design. Many use a color code, where red = bad, yellow = not recommended, green = good, or some variation of this scheme. A letter code may also be used, such as E = excellent, G = good, P = poor, NR = not recommended. Any combination of these schemes may be used, so please understand the chart before making a decision on the glove to be used.