Wearing Lab Coats, Smocks, and Coveralls for Personal Protection is Good Practice
Clothing such as a lab coat, smock or coveralls may be used to provide protection from chemical hazards that may damage the skin or personal clothing. In addition, clothing can be used to protect an employee’s personal clothing from contamination or dirt that can be carried home or to other areas. Selection of clothing. Identify the hazards using the PPE hazard assessment form, and then use this information with the information above and below to select appropriate clothing.
- A lab coat can be used to protect an employee’s personal clothing from incidental chemical contact or contamination from radioactive or biological agents. The lab coat is to be worn in the lab and removed when the employee leaves the laboratory space. There are many types of lab coats. More guidance on lab coat use and selection can be found below. For questions regarding lab coat supply and laundry services available, see the Lab Coat FAQs under attachments below.
- A rubber apron or chemical resistant suit may be needed for work with corrosive chemicals, depending on the specific task to be done.
- Coveralls can be used to protect a maintenance employee’s skin and clothing from contamination in dirty areas or from high levels of dust generated during some jobs.
- Smocks can be used for protection of skin and clothing during cleaning or other activities.
Wearing a Lab Coat is MIT Policy
In 2017, the MIT Committee on Toxic Chemicals expanded the policy requiring lab coats at MIT to state:
“A laboratory coat or equivalent protection is required when working with or when working nearby to hazardous chemicals,
unsealed radioactive materials, and biological agents at BL2 or greater. A flame resistant lab coat is required when
handling pyrophoric substances outside of a glove box. It is recommended that a flame resistant lab coat be worn when
working with all flammable chemicals. Laboratory supervisors shall carry out a hazard assessment to identify situations (a
task, experiment, or area) where alternative or more protective apparel must be worn.”
This policy means that most people working in a lab must wear a lab coat or equivalent, for some, if not all the work they
do. In some cases, your department, lab , or center may have more restrictive rules regarding appropriate use of lab coats.
Protective Clothing May Require Maintenance
Disposable clothing should be thrown away after use.
For reusable PPE such as reusable lab coats, or coveralls, arrangements should be made to assure PPE is cleaned at work or by a service. Employees should not take home such equipment for cleaning. For laundry service for lab coats, refer to: Lab Coat Guidance below
MIT also has a website dedicated to lab coats http://labcoats.mit.edu/
For additional assistance with selection of personal protective clothing, contact EHS.