Q: Are medical doctors and nurse practitioners obligated to wear lab coats when seeing patients?
A: It depends. PPE in the form of fluid-resistant garments (gowns or lab coats) is required to be worn by employees whenever the procedure being performed may be reasonably anticipated to splash or spray blood or OPIMs.
Lab coats may or may not be considered PPE, depending on whether the fabric they are made out of is fluid resistant. If lab coats are fluid resistant and provide coverage in the form of high necks, etc., they can be considered PPE. The lab coats would have to be worn during procedures in which a splash/spray exposure could be expected. If the procedures performed cannot be reasonably anticipated to result in splashing or spraying blood or OPIMs, body protection garments are not called for.
The requirement to wear PPE also depends on whether the providers are employees of a corporation or if they are owners of a practice. As employers (if the providers were the owners), the requirements of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard placed upon employees technically do not apply. However, we encourage employers to abide by OSHA requirements to reinforce the important of safety in the facility.
*This is an excerpt from The OSHA Training Handbook for Healthcare Facilities  by Sarah E. Alholm, MAS.