Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense between an individual and exposure to hazardous substances. For this reason do not rely solely upon PPE for protection from hazardous substances, but rather as a failsafe should administrative and engineering controls fail.

The minimum required attire when entering a laboratory is closed toe shoes and long pants/skirt. To perform work in an active wet laboratory, the additional attire of a lab coat, gloves, and safety glasses (or goggles as applicable) is required. This is the baseline level of PPE, however this level of attire may be adjusted to more or less protective clothing after performing a hazard assessment. This will likely be necessary for non-wet laboratories. Support operations for laboratories such as machine shops, glass shops, or other work areas should be considered when assessing department and college level PPE policies and requirements.

The hazard assessment will inform the selection of PPE based on the hazards associated with the processes and materials present. For example, when a process creates a splash risk, eye protection is necessary.

Eye protection

State law requires that every student and teacher participating in vocational, technical or industrial arts shops or laboratories must wear eye protective devices suitable to protect against the hazard. Therefore, eye protection is required in chemical, physical, or microbiological teaching and research laboratories where aerosols, splashes, sparks, dust, molten metals, injurious gases/vapors, projectiles or flying debris may be created that present an eye injury hazard. ANSI Z87.1 compliant eye protection is recommended.

  • Use non-vented or protected-vent goggles for protection from aerosolized hazardous substances or minimal liquid splashes.
  • Use a face shield in conjunction with eye protection when splashes to the face are possible and for protection against flying debris and contaminants to the face. Face shields come in a variety of styles, including disposable. Face shields alone are not adequate for eye protection.
  • Use impact rated safety glasses with side protection or goggles when there is potential for flying debris, projectiles or damaging airborne particles. Consider the possibility of exploding vessels/glassware, centrifuge failures, and violent reactions (expect the unexpected).
  • Use UV protective eyewear when UV lights are used for disinfection or other activities. Even when hood barriers are equipped with UV filtration and/or interlock protection, UV protective eye wear is recommended.
  • Use appropriately filtered goggles for work with open beam lasers. Consult the Laser Safety Manual for additional information.
  • Use a filtered shielded mask for arc welding or cutting for protection against radiant energy.

Use shielding and face/eye protection when using saws, grinders, mechanical sanding, drilling and other operations that can generate aerosols or flying debris.


Proper gloves must be worn when working with organic solvents, corrosives, toxic materials, allergens, or pathogenic organisms. Glove type should be selected based on the hazards present. Different glove materials provide different breakthrough times for different chemicals. Specific glove material recommendations may often be found in the PPE section of a SDS. Note that powdered gloves have been banned by the FDA.

  1. Inspect reusable gloves before use, wash them before removal, and replace them periodically.
  2. Never re-use disposable gloves.
  3. Select gloves that are the right size/fit to ensure dexterity and safety.
  4. Remove gloves prior to leaving the laboratory.
  5. Wash arms and hands immediately after removing gloves when working with allergens, carcinogens, pathogenic organisms, corrosive, or toxic chemicals.
  6. Wash exposed skin well before leaving the laboratory.
  7. If hands will be immersed in a hazardous liquid, the selection criteria may be different – consult the manufacturer.
  8. Thermal protection gloves are required when:
    1. submersion in cryogenic liquids is possible (protective for short duration only)
    2. handling cryogenic systems and compressed gas/liquid piping
    3. handling heated systems or vessels
    4. transferring materials to/from hot ovens, blast furnaces, crucibles, autoclaves, etc.

Glove Material



A synthetic rubber material that offers the highest permeation resistance to gas and water vapors. Especially suited for use with esters and ketones.


A synthetic rubber material that provides excellent tensile strength and heat resistance. Neoprene is compatible with some acids and caustics. It has moderate abrasion resistance.


A synthetic rubber material that offers chemical and abrasion resistance, and is a very good general-duty material for gloves. Nitrile also provides protection from oils, greases, petroleum products and some acids and caustics.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride)

A synthetic thermoplastic polymer that provides excellent resistance to most acids, fats and petroleum hydrocarbons. Good abrasion resistance.

PVA™ (polyvinyl alcohol)

A water-soluble synthetic material that is highly impermeable to gases. Excellent chemical resistance to aromatic and chlorinated solvents. This glove cannot be used in water or water-based solutions.


A fluoroelastomer material that provides exceptional chemical resistance to chlorinated and aromatic solvents. Viton is very flexible, but has minimal resistance to cuts and abrasions.


A lightweight, flexible laminated material that resists permeation from a wide range of toxic and hazardous chemicals. It offers the highest level of overall chemical resistance, but has virtually no cut resistance.

Table 1 - From Grainger Chemical Protective Gloves Quick Tips #191


Required laboratory attire includes long pants or skirts that cover the arms and legs entirely and closed-toe shoes. Avoid loose sleeves or dangling articles of clothing or adornment.

Laboratory coats, coveralls, and aprons protect the user and their clothing from spills and provide a layer that can be quickly removed when contaminated. This additional barrier is an important safety measure and also prevents continued exposures from residual contamination trapped on street clothing. Laboratory coats come in a variety of styles and can have chemical and/or flame resistant coatings applied. Laboratory clothing with special material treatment (flame retardants) must be laundered in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations to maintain protection. Protective clothing may have service life expirations and/or a shelf life.


  1. Use proper clothing and impermeable fabrics (as applicable) to prevent chemical and pathogenic organism exposures, avoid skin irritations and lessen the possibility of allergic reactions and sensitization.
  2. Remove laboratory coats when leaving the laboratory.
  3. Change laboratory coats immediately upon noticeable contamination.
  4. Wear impermeable or liquid resistant aprons and/or coveralls when splashes of hazardous chemicals onto the body are possible.
  5. When working with highly flammable materials, use flame retardant clothing or lab coat. Consider the flammability of clothing worn under flame retardant lab coats (cotton and natural fibers and flame resistance clothing is preferred to highly ignitable materials that melt onto the skin easier).
  6. Avoid washing lab coats at home. Contact EHS for information on lab coat rental and laundering service providers.

Additional PPE may be required or specified depending on the nature of the activity, work setting and related regulations or standards.

Respiratory Protection Program

Respiratory protection may be required to prevent exposure to airborne contaminants when engineering controls (e.g., biological safety cabinets, fume hoods, laboratory ventilation, localized exhaust) prove inadequate. The KSU Respiratory Protection Program (RPP) outlines the institutional requirements for respiratory protection. A hazard assessment, medical exam, fit test, training and enrollment in the RPP are required before using a respirator. Following the procedures outlined in the RPP will minimize exposure to airborne concentrations of hazardous substances and infectious agents. Persons required to use respiratory protection, including filtering facepiece respirators (dust masks), in the execution of their KSU job duties are required to be enrolled in this program through KSU Environmental Health and Safety. For more information see the Respiratory Protection Program.