Scientific lab research is an imperfect process; things often go wrong with chemicals, instruments and equipment, and these malfunctions may be hazardous to your health. Lab workers are advised, and often required, to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves while working under potentially harmful conditions. The amount of PPE that must be worn and used varies depending on the hazards present and the wearer's exposure to them.
Eye and Face Protection
Wearing safety glasses or goggles is the easiest way to protect eyes from chemicals and dust particles in the lab. Safety glasses have strong and resistant frames, and are generally worn when liquids are not being used; glasses are not splash-resistant because they are not sealed, so when dangerous liquids are around, goggles that can withstand splashing are much safer for the eyes. In certain cases, especially when large volumes of hazardous liquids are being used, even goggles will not suffice, so a face mask or shield should be worn to provide maximum protection.
To protect your skin, hair and clothing from exposure to laboratory hazards, wear a lab apron or knee-length lab coat, closed-toed shoes, long pants and gloves. Lab aprons and coats are made from special material that protects the skin from corrosives and other dangerous chemicals. The more hazardous the chemicals, the more skin should be covered. Gloves are also very important, especially when working with biohazards that can cause bodily harm or even genetic mutations. Skin irritation is a common lab injury and can be easily avoided with proper PPE. Closed-toed shoes and long pants protect the skin from broken glass or spills.
Lung and Respiratory Protection
Generally, fume hoods and other ventilated areas are provided in a lab to protect the lungs from damage from breathing chemical fumes, but these precautions should not be the only line of defense against these dangers. It is recommended that lab workers who are exposed often to toxic fumes wear a fitted respirator or cloth dust mask while working.
Things Not to Wear
Avoid dangling jewelry, loose-fitting clothing and long, unbound hair that could easily get caught in machinery or catch on fire. Tight jewelry, such as rings, should also be avoided, as in the event of a spill a chemical can get caught between the jewelry and skin, adding to the irritation or burn. Contact lenses are often discouraged because the plastic material can interact with some lab chemicals, and if the contacts get irritated it can lead to blurred vision and loss of sight.
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