Some lab coats should stay in the lab

By: January 29th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

With a crackdown on the spread of infectious diseases, particularly regarding multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO), there has been some media buzz about wearing scrubs outside of the hospital.

Although some healthcare facilities have created policies barring scrubs outside of the premises, there are no regulations or standards prohibiting staff from doing so. Furthermore, scrubs are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE), so technically OSHA has no say in this matter.

However, some lab coats can be classified as PPE, therefore prohibiting them outside of the work area, according to the OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard 1910.1030(d)(3)(vii). Additionally, HIV and HBV research labs fall under OSHA standard 1910.1030(e)(2)(ii)(F), which requires “lab coats, gowns, smocks, uniforms, or other protective clothing shall not be worn outside of the work area…”

From a safety and infection control standpoint, it only makes sense to contain infections and germs as much as possible. Some labs have employees wear one coat for the work area (considered PPE) and another in a different color, which can be worn outside of the lab – mostly for warmth – in places like the cafeteria.

The only employees that should be allowed to wear PPE in both the lab and patient areas are phlebotomists who collect samples from patients and then return them to the lab. Both areas are considered “work areas,” as is the walking distance between the two rooms. The only stipulation is that phlebotomists don’t loiter in public areas while they are transporting specimens.

Obviously anytime a lab coat is contaminated, all bets are off, and that coat should be changed regardless of where you are.

For more on lab coat standards and information, click here. Also, check out the Tools section for a free Bloodborne Pathogens PPE Compliance Checklist.


By Logan Infantas on February 12th, 2009 at 11:53 am

I was reading the testing and evaluation methods which can be used for assessing the resistance of materials used for PPE for medical use. Standars 1910.1030 and CPL 02-02-069 – CPL 2-2.69 – Enforcement Procedures for the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens. OSHA lists three tests ASTM F1819, ASTM F1671, and ASTM F1670 as required for PPE calification. Do lab coats need to pass all three test to be considered PPE?

By Evan Sweeney on February 16th, 2009 at 8:56 am

That is correct, according to Terry Jo Gile. Lab coats need to pass all three tests to be classified as PPE.

By Debbie Love on May 20th, 2009 at 8:13 am

Are there any particular recommendations with respect to wearing lab coats,that relate to non clinical employees who spend time on a clinical unit and who may go in and out of patient rooms to deliver written materials or obtain signatures? Our new dress code requires lab coats for all non-clinical staff if they are working on a clinical unit.

By Mary E Guay on May 29th, 2009 at 11:35 pm

My understanding of the OSHA mandate is that Phlebotomists must wear Lab Coats when collecting blood. Why do I observe so many fascilities that only use Scrubs?

By Kesha Rector on June 19th, 2009 at 8:55 am

Need advise:

I know lab coats are worn for our safety. I’ve worked in the lab for 11 years. I have seen some changes that are questionable. I know at times that employees tend to get hot while working and tend to take their lab coats off. Well I have seen employees wear aprons (plastic). Is this acceptable in the laboratory, especially when processing specimens?

By Ellen Guerin on April 9th, 2010 at 8:25 am

I had a question come up regarding cuffs on lab coats. Any comment on this? Are they acceptable to have or not?

By Belinda Brooks on August 14th, 2010 at 5:31 am

Is there any regualtions regarding expiration date and name on lab coats?


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