Be mindful of your lab coat

By: September 16th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

The following is an excerpt from the Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety, Third Edition, by Terry Jo Gile. To purchase this book, click here.

Your lab must provide protective clothing, face and eye protection, and respirators for staff, equipping them with protective items appropriate for the risks inherent in all tasks they perform.

Store clean laboratory coats separately from soiled items or coats that are still in use. If possible, hang in-use lab coats on hooks provided for that purpose. Place the hooks away from radiators, heating instruments, and open flames. Make sure that staff changes protective clothing whenever it becomes contaminated with a hazardous material.

Remove contaminated lab coats and other reusable items as soon as possible after leaving the work area, and place them in appropriate laundry bags that prevent leakage. Whether lab coats and other washable items are laundered on-site or by an outside service, make sure the water temperature for the wash cycle is at least 160°F and that the water temperature for the rinse cycle is at least 120°F.

The decision as to which type is appropriate depends on the laboratory’s application and access to a suitable laundry vendor. Lab coats must be closed (i.e. snapped) to protect clothing. Impervious aprons can be worn in addition to the lab coat when the coat cannot provide adequate protection. Instruct staff to wear lab coats only in the work area. They should not wear them during meal or rest breaks on in any public areas, such as the cafeteria, lobby, or gift shop. The lab should provide coats at no cost to the employee.


By How Kue Bien on September 16th, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Lab coats should be changed daily. What are your views?

By Kara Elam, MPH on September 17th, 2010 at 7:58 am

Everything Terry has stated about “being mindful of your lab coat” is true and very important for the safety of all workers in the laboratory environment. Along with these very important safety guidelines for your lab coats are new smart textile technologies that use nanotechnology to help reduce the risk of occupational exposure in the laboratory environment.

It is well known that textiles worn in the laboratory, such as lab coats, are vectors in the spread of pathogens. This is especially true in labs that focus on clinical and translational research where exposure to pathogenic microorganisms is a constant. Data suggests that there is a casual relationship between microbes on laboratory workers uniforms and associated occupational exposure to infectious agents such as blood and body fluids.

Realizing this causal relationship, new textile technologies for Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE), such as a lab coat, must include fluid barriers to help reduce exposures by means of chemical or biological substances, broad spectrum antimicrobials to help control microorganisms, and the lab coat must be comfortable and also breathable. A breathable and comfortable lab coat will ensure that it is worn correctly and therefore effectively, because you can use all the latest textile technology in your lab coat; but if it is not comfortable it will not be used correctly as a PPE. And if your laboratory employees are not wearing their lab coats correctly, then they are leaving themselves vulnerable to harmful pathogens and chemical exposures due to the lack of a sufficient barrier to exposed skin.

There are many smart technical textile companies that provide PPEs. But I have found only one that provides PPEs that have all three of the important components for textiles used in high-risk areas; fluid barrier protection, a broad spectrum antimicrobial, and a comfortable fit made with breathable fabric. The company is Vestagen, and they are based out of Orlando Florida. Vestagen’s website provides information on the clinical and laboratory research they have conducted, as well as an easy format to purchase your laboratory coats and other PPEs.

The use of technical textiles in conjunction with current laboratory safety guidelines should be the new standard to protect workers in a high-risk environment such as the lab.

By Paul Oliver on January 12th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

In Canada is there currently(or anticipated) a recommended standard for laboratory apparel, similar to the (U.S.) OSHA Compliance Directive 2-2.29 document – which makes reference to ASTM standards for lab apparel?

Kindest Regards

Paul Oliver

the traditional white lab coat(washable) although accepted doesnt cover wrist area properly and the gloves cant fit over its sleeve. am i wrong? what recommendations ca you give? obviously the use of disposable ones gives adds expenses to the practice.
also a friend ask if one of the partners(not emplyess)refuses to use the disposable gown, the office can be liable for osha penalities?

By Rhianna Hawk on January 29th, 2019 at 1:43 pm

I appreciate your tips for taking care of a labcoat. My upcoming medical class wants us to have our own labcoats, so I’m going to be looking at buying one soon. Removing contaminated labcoats is important, for sure, and I’ll remember to do that after every class.

By Karen Phillips on April 1st, 2019 at 11:29 am

when are disposable lab coats to be changed out (besides when obvious soiled)


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