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Be mindful of your lab coat

The following is an excerpt from the Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety, Third Edition, by Terry Jo Gile. To purchase this book, click here. [1]

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.