Chapter 3 - Personal Protective Equipment (2023)

Chapter 3 - Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be considered the last line of defense in protecting laboratory personnel against chemical hazards.PPE is not a substitute for good engineering controls, administrative controls, or good work practices, and are to be used inconjunction with these controls to ensure the safety and health of university employees and students.

The OSHA Personal Protective Equipment standard,29 CFR 1910 Subpart Ihas the following requirements:

  • Hazard assessment and equipment selection
  • Employee training
  • Record keeping requirements
  • Guidelines for selecting PPE
  • Hazard assessment certification

EHS has developed a writtenPersonal Protective Equipment Programin compliance with the OSHA standard. More information on PPE can be found in theOSHA Safety and Health topics page on Personal Protective Equipment. Use the OSHA Eye and Face Protection eTool along with the Cornell PPE Assessment Form found in these 2 links while conducting a hazard assessment.

3.1 Laboratory Responsibilities for Personal Protective Equipment

Laboratory personnel need to conduct hazard assessments of specific operations occurring in their laboratories to determine what PPE is necessary to safely carry out the operations. PPE must be made available to laboratory workers to reduce exposures to hazardous chemicals in the lab. Proper PPE includes items such as gloves, eye protection, lab coats, face shields, aprons, boots, hearing protection, etc. PPE must be readily available and most equipment is provided at no cost to the employee.

When deciding on the appropriate PPE to wear when performing any operations or experiments, a number of factors must be taken into consideration such as:

  • The chemicals being used, including concentration and quantity.
  • The hazards the chemicals pose.
  • The routes of exposure for the chemicals.
  • The material the PPE is constructed of.
  • The permeation and degradation rates specific chemicals will have on the material.
  • The length of time the PPE will be in contact with the chemicals.

Careful consideration should be given to the comfort and fit of PPE to ensure that it will be used by laboratory personnel.

All personal protective equipment and clothing must be maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition. Only those items that meet NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) or ANSI standards should be purchased or accepted for use.

There are a number of safety equipment suppliers who sell a wide variety of personal protective equipment. Be sure to check with the Purchasing department first to find out which supplier is the Cornellpreferred vendorto take advantage of discounted pricing. If you have questions about what PPE is most appropriate for your applications, then contact EHS

Please Note: Principal Investigators, laboratory supervisors, departments and colleges are free to set policies that establish minimum PPE requirements for personnel working in and entering their laboratories. Check with your DSR to see if there are any department or college specific requirements for PPE.

3.2 Training for Personal Protective Equipment

Laboratory personnel must be trained in the selection, proper use, limitations, care, and maintenance of PPE. Training requirements can be met in a variety of ways including videos, group training sessions, and handouts. Periodic retraining should be offered to both the employees and supervisors as appropriate. Examples of topics to be covered during the training include:

  • When PPE must be worn.
  • What PPE is necessary to carry out a procedure or experiment.
  • How to properly put on, take off, adjust, and wear PPE.
  • The proper cleaning, care, maintenance, useful life, limitations, and disposal of the PPE.

As with anytrainingsessions, PPE training must be documented, including a description of the information covered during the training session and a copy of the sign-in sheet. Training records must be kept of the names of the persons trained, the type of training provided, and the dates when training occurred. EHS will maintain records of employees who attend EHS training sessions.

Information on the specific PPE required to carry out procedures within the laboratory using hazardous chemicals must also be included in the laboratory’sStandard Operating Procedures.

Please note: while EHS can provide information, training, and assistance with conducting hazard assessments and the selection and use of proper PPE, the ultimate responsibility lies with the Principal Investigator or laboratory supervisor.

It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator or laboratory supervisorto ensure laboratory staff have received the appropriate training on the selection and use of proper PPE, that proper PPE is available and in good condition, and laboratory personnel use proper PPE when working in laboratories under their supervision.

3.3 Eye Protection

Eye protection is one of the most important and easiest forms of PPE to wear. Laboratory personnel must use eye protection for biological, chemical and physical hazards found in laboratories including flying particles, broken glass, molten metal, acids or caustic liquids, chemical liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.

It is the responsibility of Principal Investigators and laboratory supervisors to make use of eye protection a mandatory requirement for all laboratory personnel, including visitors, working in or entering laboratories under their control.

Additional information can be found on the OSHA Eye and Face Protection.and EHS Eye Protection in Laboratory Spaces webpage.

3.3.1 Eye Protection Selection

All protective eye and face devices must comply with ANSI Z87.1-2003, "American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection" and be marked to identify the manufacturer. When choosing proper eye protection, be aware there are a number of different styles of eyewear that serve different functions.

Prescription Safety Eyewear

OSHA regulations require that employees who wear prescription lenses while engaged in operations that involve eye hazards shall wear eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or must wear eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses (goggles, face shields, etc.) without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses. Any prescription eyewear purchase must comply with ANSI Z87.1-1989.

Note: Contact lenses by themselves are not considered as protective eyewear.

Safety Glasses

Safety glasses provide eye protection from moderate impact and particles associated with grinding, sawing, scaling, broken glass, and minor chemical splashes, etc. Side protectors are required when there is a hazard from flying objects. Safety glasses are available in prescription form for those persons needing corrective lenses. Safety glasses do not provide adequate protection for processes that involve heavy chemical use such as stirring, pouring, or mixing. In these instances, splash goggles should be used.

Splash Goggles

Splash goggles provide adequate eye protection from many hazards, including potential chemical splash hazards, use of concentrated corrosive material, and bulk chemical transfer. Goggles are available with clear or tinted lenses, fog proofing, and vented or non-vented frames. Be aware that goggles designed for woodworking are not appropriate for working with chemicals. These types of goggles can be identified by the numerous small holes throughout the facepiece. In the event of a splash, chemicals could enter into the small holes, and result in a chemical exposure to the face. Ensure the goggles you choose are rated for use with chemicals.

Welder's/Chipper's Goggles

Welder’s goggles provide protection from sparking, scaling, or splashing metals and harmful light rays. Lenses are impact resistant and are available in graduated lens shades. Chippers'/Grinders' goggles provide protection from flying particles. A dual protective eyecup houses impact resistant clear lenses with individual cover plates.

Face Shields

Face shields provide additional protection to the eyes and face when used in combination with safety glasses or splash goggles. Face shields consist of an adjustable headgear and face shield of tinted or clear lenses or a mesh wire screen. They should be used in operations when the entire face needs protection and should be worn to protect the eyes and face from flying particles, metal sparks, and chemical/biological splashes. Face shields with a mesh wire screen are not appropriate for use with chemicals. Face shields mustnotbe used alone and arenota substitute for appropriate eyewear. Face shields should always be worn inconjunctionwith a primary form of eye protection such as safety glasses or goggles.

Welding Shields

Welding shields are similar in design to face shields but offer additional protection from infrared or radiant light burns, flying sparks, metal splatter, and slag chips encountered during welding, brazing, soldering, resistance welding, bare or shielded electric arc welding, and oxyacetylene welding and cutting operations.

Equipment fitted with appropriate filter lenses must be used to protect against light radiation. Tinted and shaded lenses are not filter lenses unless they are marked or identified as such.

LASER Eye Protection

A single pair of safety glasses is not available for protection from all LASER outputs. The type of eye protection required is dependent on the spectral frequency or specific wavelength of the laser source. If you have questions on the type of eyewear that should be worn with your specific LASER, contact the LASER Safety Officer at EHS See theLASER Hazards sectionfor more information.

3.4 Hand Protection

Most accidents involving hands and arms can be classified under four main hazard categories: chemicals, abrasions, cuts, and heat/cold. Gloves must be worn whenever significant potential hazards from chemicals, cuts, lacerations, abrasions, punctures, burns, biologicals, or harmful temperature extremes are present. The proper use of hand protection can help protect from potential chemical and physical hazards. Gloves must be worn when using chemicals that are easily absorbed through the skin and/orparticularly hazardous substances(such as “select carcinogens”, reproductive toxins, and substances with a high degree of acute toxicity).

There is not one type of glove that offers the best protection against all chemicals or one glove that totally resists degradation and permeation to all chemicals. All gloves must be replaced periodically, depending on the type and concentration of the chemical, performance characteristics of the gloves, conditions and duration of use, hazards present, and the length of time a chemical has been in contact with the glove.

All glove materials are eventually permeated by chemicals; however, they can be used safely for limited time periods if specific use and other characteristics (i.e., thickness, permeation rate, and time) are known. EHS can provide assistance with determining the resistance to chemicals of common glove materials and determining the specific type of glove material that should be worn for use with a particular chemical.

3.4.1 Selecting the Proper Gloves

Before working with any chemical, always read manufacturer instructions and warnings on chemical container labels and SDSs. Recommended glove types are sometimes listed in the PPE section SDSs. If the recommended glove type is not listed on the SDS, then laboratory personnel should consult with the manufacturers’ glove selection charts. These charts typically include commonly used chemicals that have been tested for the manufacturers’ different glove types. Different manufacturers use different formulations so check the glove chart of the specific manufacturer for the glove you plan to use.

If the manufacturers’ glove chart does not list the specific chemical you will be using, then call the manufacturer directly and speak with their technical representatives to determine which glove is best suited for your particular application.

It is important to know that not all chemicals or mixtures have been tested by glove manufacturers. It is especially important in these situations to contact the glove manufacturer directly.

In some cases, you may need to consider hiring a testing laboratory that specializes in determining which glove material will be most resistant to the chemical you are using. For more information, contact EHS

Some general guidelines for glove use include:

  • Wear appropriate gloves when the potential for contact with hazardous materials exists. Laboratory personnel should inspect gloves for holes, cracks, or contamination before each use. Any gloves found to be questionable should be discarded immediately.
  • Gloves should be replaced periodically, depending on the frequency of use and permeability to the substance(s) handled.
    • Reusable Gloves should be rinsed with soap and water and then carefully removed after use.
    • Discard disposable gloves after each use and whenever they become contaminated. Do not reuse disposable gloves as this poses a risk of cross-contamination and can compromise research and health.
  • Due to potential chemical contamination, which may not always be visible, gloves must be removed before leaving the laboratory. Do not wear gloves while performing common tasks such as answering the phone, grabbing a door handle, using an elevator, etc. If you are required to have a glove on to hold something when leaving a lab, remove one glove and use the ungloved hand to touch door handles, elevators, etc.
3.4.2 Double Gloving

A common practice to use with disposable gloves is “double-gloving”. This is accomplished when two pairs of gloves are worn over each other to provide a double layer of protection. If the outer glove becomes contaminated, starts to degrade, or tears open, the inner glove continues to offer protection until the gloves are removed and replaced. The best practice is to check outer gloves frequently, watching for signs of degradation (change of color, change of texture, tears, etc.). At the first sign of degradation or contamination, always remove and dispose of the contaminated disposable gloves immediately and double-glove with a new set of gloves. If the inner glove appears to have any contamination or degradation, remove both pairs of gloves, and double glove with a new pair.

Another approach to double gloving is to wear a thin disposable glove (4 mil Nitrile) under a heavier glove (8 mil Nitrile). The outer glove is the primary protective barrier while the under glove retains dexterity and acts as a secondary barrier in the event of degradation or permeation of the chemical through the outer glove. Alternately, you could wear a heavier (and usually more expensive and durable) 8 mil Nitrile glove as an under glove and wear thinner, disposable 4 mil Nitrile glove as the outer glove (which can help improve dexterity). However, remember to change the thinner outer gloves frequently.

When working with mixtures of chemicals, it may be advisable to double glove with two sets of gloves made from different materials. This method can offer protection in case the outer glove material becomes permeated by one chemical in the mixture, while allowing for enough protection until both gloves can be removed. The type of glove materials selected for this type of application will be based on the specific chemicals used as part of the mixture. Check chemical manufacturers glove selection charts first before choosing which type of glove to use.

To properly remove disposable gloves, grab the cuff of the left glove with the gloved right hand and remove the left glove. While holding the removed left glove in the palm of the gloved right hand, insert a finger under the cuff of the right glove and gently invert the right glove over the glove in the palm of your hand and dispose of them properly. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after the gloves have been removed.

3.4.3 Types of Gloves

As with protective eyewear, there are a number of different types of gloves that are available for laboratory personnel that serve different functions:

Fabric Gloves

Fabric gloves are made of cotton or fabric blends and are generally used to improve grip when handling slippery objects. They also help insulate hands from mild heat or cold. These gloves are not appropriate for use with chemicals because the fabric can absorb and hold the chemical against a user’s hands, resulting in a chemical exposure.

Leather Gloves

Leather gloves are used to guard against injuries from sparks, scraping against rough surfaces, or cuts from sharp objects like broken glass. They are also used in combination with an insulated liner when working with electricity. These gloves are not appropriate for use with chemicals because the leather can absorb and hold the chemical against a user’s hands, resulting in a chemical exposure.

Metal Mesh Gloves

Metal mesh gloves are used to protect hands from accidental cuts and scratches. They are most commonly used when working with cutting tools, knives, and other sharp instruments.

Cryogenic Gloves

Cryogenic gloves are used to protect hands from extremely cold temperatures. These gloves should be used when handling dry ice and when dispensing or working with liquid nitrogen and other cryogenic liquids.

Chemically Resistant Gloves

Chemically resistant gloves come in a wide variety of materials. The recommendations given below for the specific glove materials are based on incidental contact. Once the chemical makes contact with the gloved hand, the gloves should be removed and replaced as soon as practical. Often a glove specified for incidental contact is not suitable for extended contact, such as when the gloved hand can become covered or immersed in the chemical in use. Before selecting chemical resistant gloves, consult the glove manufacturers' recommendations or their glove selection charts, or contact EHS ataskEHS@cornell.edufor more assistance.

Some general guidelines for different glove materials include:

  • Natural Rubber Latex - Resistant to ketones, alcohols, caustics, and organic acids. (See note below)
  • Neoprene - Resistant to mineral acids, organic acids, caustics, alcohols, and petroleum solvents.
  • Nitrile - Resistant to alcohols, caustics, organic acids, and some ketones.
  • Norfoil- Rated for chemicals considered highly toxic and chemicals that are easily absorbed through the skin. These gloves are chemically resistant to a wide range of materials that readily attack other glove materials. These gloves are not recommended for use with Chloroform. Common brand names include: Silver Shield by North Hand Protection, 4H by Safety4, or New Barrier by Ansell Edmont.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - Resistant to mineral acids, caustics, organic acids, and alcohols.
  • Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) - Resistant to chlorinated solvents, petroleum solvents, and aromatics.

A note about latex gloves

The use of latex gloves, especially thin, disposable exam gloves, for chemical handling is discouraged because latex offers little protection from commonly used chemicals. Latex gloves can degrade severely in minutes or seconds, when used with common lab and shop chemicals. Latex gloves also can cause an allergic reaction in a percentage of the population due to several proteins found in latex. Symptoms can include nasal, eye, or sinus irritation, hives, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, or unexplained shock. If any of these symptoms become apparent in personnel wearing latex gloves, discontinue using the gloves and seek medical attention immediately.The use of latex gloves is only appropriate for:

  • Most biological materials.
  • Nonhazardous chemicals.
  • Clean room requirements.
  • Medical or veterinary applications.
  • Very dilute, aqueous solutions containing <1% for most hazardous chemicals or less than 0.1% of a known or suspected human carcinogen.

Staff required to wear latex gloves should receive training on the potential health effects related to latex. Hypoallergenic, non-powdered gloves should be used whenever possible. If a good substitute glove material is available, then use nonlatex gloves. A general purpose substitute for disposable latex gloves are disposable Nitrile gloves.

See the appendix for a list ofrecommended gloves for specific chemicals, definitions for terms used in glove selection charts, glove materials and characteristics, and a list of useful references.

3.5 Protective Clothing

Protective clothing includes lab coats or other protective garments such as aprons, boots, shoe covers, Tyvek coveralls, and other items, that can be used to protect street clothing from biological or chemical contamination and splashes as well as providing additional body protection from some physical hazards.

EHS requires that Principal Investigators and laboratory supervisors prohibit the wearing of shorts and skirts in laboratories using hazardous materials (chemical, biological, and radiological) by laboratory personnel, including visitors, working in or entering laboratories under their supervision.

The following characteristics should be taken into account when choosing protective clothing:

  • The specific hazard(s) and the degree of protection required, including the potential exposure to chemicals, radiation, biological materials, and physical hazards such as heat.
  • The type of material the clothing is made of and its resistance to the specific hazard(s) that will be encountered.
  • The comfort of the protective clothing, which impacts the acceptance and ease of use by laboratory personnel.
  • Whether the clothing is disposable or reusable - which impacts cost, maintenance, and cleaning requirements.
  • How quickly the clothing can be removed during an emergency. It is recommended that lab coats use snaps or other easy to remove fasteners instead of buttons.
  • Laboratory personnel who are planning experiments that may require special protective clothing or have questions regarding the best protective clothing to choose for their experiment(s) should contact EHS ataskEHS@cornell.edufor recommendations.
3.6 Respirators

Respirators are an effective method of protection against designated hazards when properly selected and worn. Respiratory Protection includes all NIOSH approved respirators: Filtering Facepieces (Disposable respirators, N95’s, Dust Masks), Tight Fitting Half and Full Face Respirators, and Powered Air Purifying Respirators. Engineering controls, such as dilution ventilation, fume hoods, and other devices, which capture and remove dust, vapors, fumes, and gases from the breathing zone of the user are preferred over the use of respirators in most laboratory environments.

Pleasesee theCornell University Respiratory Protection Programweb page for more information.

3.7 Hearing Protection

Employees who are exposed to hazardous levels of noise in the workplace are at risk for developing noise‐induced hearing loss.Noise‐induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable but once acquired, hearing loss is irreversible.

Pleasevisitthe Cornell Noise and Hearing Conservation Programweb page for more information.

3.8 Foot Protection

Laboratory personnel (and other personnel) must wear foot protection at all times in laboratories, laboratory support areas, and other areas with chemical, biological and physical hazards are present. Laboratory personnel should not wear sandals or similar types of perforated or open toes shoes whenever working with or around hazardous chemicals or physical hazards. This is due to the potential exposure to toxic chemicals and the potential associated with physical hazards such as dropping pieces of equipment or broken glass being present. In general, shoes should be comfortable, and leather shoes are preferable to cloth shoes due to the better chemical resistance of leather compared to cloth. Leather shoes also tend to absorb fewer chemicals than cloth shoes. However, leather shoes are not designed for long term exposure to direct contact with chemicals. In such instances, chemically resistant rubber boots are necessary.

EHS strongly encourages Principal Investigators and laboratory supervisors to require the use of closed toed shoes for all laboratory personnel, including visitors, working in or entering laboratories and laboratory support areas under their supervision.

In some cases, the use of steel-toed shoes may be appropriate when heavy equipment or other items are involved. Chemically resistant boots or shoe covers may be required when working with large quantities of chemicals and the potential exists for large spills to occur. Cornell University sponsors a “Shoe-Mobile” every three months on campus for campus personnel to purchase a variety of steel-toed shoes for both work AND personal use at discounted prices. Contact EHS ataskEHS@cornell.edufor more information on chemically resistant boots, or to find out when the “Shoe-Mobile” will be on campus.

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