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Laboratory coats and aprons

Submitted by sat on 27 February 2019

The type of personal protective equipment (PPE) selected, used and maintained in laboratories is done so in accordance with relevant legislation, Australian Standards and Codes of Practice along with the completion of a risk assessment to determine suitability for the nature of the work and any hazards associated with the work.1,2 Note that these are general guidelines for all laboratories and there is nothing specific pertaining to high school science laboratories.

In general, laboratory coats/aprons when used correctly should:

Schools should consider the following.

General guidelines for clothing in laboratories

Regular clothing:

Laboratory coats/gowns/aprons if required should be:

Laboratory coats or aprons should be appropriate to the task being undertaken, both in design and material.

Special consideration should be given to the materials to ensure they are compatible with the hazards at hand. For example, a laboratory coat made of a thicker cotton material offers better protection from work that involves the use of chemicals such as acids, bases and flammable materials1. In general, the more polyester the less protection from absorption of liquids and increased flammability (See information in AS/NZS 2243.1-2005 section 4.2.2, below)

Contact your laboratory coat manufacturer or supplier for specific information regarding protective properties of laboratory coats and aprons.

Some universities have produced documents which discuss Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and include comparisons of different types of protective clothing for the laboratory which are worthwhile reading.1,4,5

What the Standards say:

AS/NZS 2243.1-2005 states “Minimum requirements for PPE in a laboratory shall be laboratory clothing (see Clause 4.2.2), protective eyewear and closed shoes unless lesser requirements can be justified by a risk assessment.”6

AS/NZS 2243.1-2005 states “Laboratory personnel shall use the protective clothing appropriate to the task being undertaken. To reduce the risk of contamination of non-laboratory areas, safety clothing and equipment should be removed on leaving the laboratory.

The use of long-sleeved cotton or cotton/polyester boiler suits, wrap-around gowns or laboratory coats is recommended for general laboratory work. The use of quick release textile fastenings is recommended for wrap-around laboratory gowns. Care should be exercised in the choice of the garment. Nylon is not recommended because it is easily destroyed by heat or acid. Many synthetic fibres offer poor protection against liquids which can pass through the fibres with little or no absorption. Also, in a fire, synthetic textiles tend to melt and cause burns to the body. Consideration should also be given to any static electricity hazard produced by synthetic clothing.

NOTE: Protective clothing should not be laundered domestically.”7

References and further reading:

1 UNSW. 2016. HS659 Personal Protective Equipment Guideline, UNSW website, https://www.gs.unsw.edu.au/policy/documents/HS659.pdf (page 7)

2 ‘Model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks’, Safe Work Australia website, https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/book/model-code-practice-how-manage-work-health-and-safety-risks (25 May 2018).

3 CLEAPSS. 2004. CLEAPSS Laboratory Handbook, Section 03 – Personal Safety.CLEAPSS website, http://science.cleapss.org.uk/Resource-Info/Handbook-Section-3-Personal-... (Member access only)

4 University of Alabama. 2013. Guidelines for Selection, Use and Care of Laboratory Coats, University of Alabama in Huntsville website, https://www.uah.edu/images/OEHS/biologicalsafety/Laboratory_Coat_Guideli...

5 ‘Lab coat selection, use and care at MIT’, Massachusetts Institute of Technology website, https://labcoats.mit.edu/guidance (February 2018)

6 Standards Australia. 2005. AS/NZS 2243.1-2005 Safety in Laboratories – Planning and operational aspects. Section 4.2.1. Sydney: NSW.  Reproduced with permission from SAI Global Ltd under Licence 1407-c117.

7 Standards Australia. 2005. AS/NZS 2243.1-2005 Safety in Laboratories – Planning and operational aspects. Section 4.2.2. Sydney: NSW. Reproduced with permission from SAI Global Ltd under Licence 1407-c117.

 

Queensland Department of Education. 2018. Personal protective equipment, Queensland Department of Education website, https://education.qld.gov.au/initiativesstrategies/Documents/fact-sheet-personal-protective-equipment.pdf

‘Safety in the science classroom, Personal Protective Equipment’, National Science Teachers Association website, https://www.nsta.org/safety/ppe.aspx (September 2017)

Standards Australia. 2008. AS/NZS 4501.1:2008. Occupational protective clothing. Guidelines on the selection, use, care and maintenance of protective clothing. Sydney: NSW.