New lab safety video on personal protective equipment

Courtesy of University of California, San Diego, chemistry lecturer Haim Weizman, here is a new video on personal protective equipment–mostly lab coats, with a nod to eye protection.

So far, two complaints have cropped up on the Division of Chemical Health & Safety e-mail list about the video. One is that it shows safety glasses rather than splash goggles. I agree that goggles would be a better choice, especially when part of the video shows a splash. Safety glasses are really just for impact protection.

The other complaint concerned “the low-cut tank top work by the lab worker.” I agree with this to some degree, because the lab coat doesn’t cover the top of the worker’s chest, either. On the other hand, how much protection would a crew-neck t-shirt really provide? And how much clothing policing is reasonable? UCSD started requiring lab coats in its undergraduate labs a few years ago precisely because it was difficult to enforce a dress code. “Our explanation of what was appropriate attire was a huge paragraph and had to be constantly changed” as fashions evolved, teaching labs safety coordinator Sheila Kennedy told me in 2010. If chest protection is such a concern that you might want people to take a ruler to their collarbones, then perhaps the answer lies in lab coat design rather than dress codes.

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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  1. Safety glasses that are fitted properly provide an effective baseline of protection. Injury reports bear this point out. Most eye exposures are simply due to a failure to wear any protective eye wear at all – not because they were wearing safety glasses versus goggles. If a lab based risk assessment shows greater levels of protection are needed (e.g., concentrated corrosives or larger volumes) then the researcher should upgrade what they are wearing during the time of the experiment. Some laboratory settings show that safety glasses would be appropriate virtually all the time. We are trying to teach risk assessment. We need to be realistic to cause a culture shift. We are trying to educate intelligent students to choose wisely.

  2. When I was a graduate student teaching assistant, I have a foggy recollection that the undergraduates in the teaching labs would take their lab coats home to use for other labs. At the time, it didn’t really occur to me that that could be an issue. Now that I’ve been in industry for a while, I’m shocked that this was allowed. The entire purpose for a lab coat is to keep unpleasant things from getting to your skin, so why would you take that coat, stuff it in your bag, and take it home with you? Is this a common occurrence at other universities? It seems to me that there should be a safer solution than that.

  3. I think that if a person is handling liquids other than water or wine he/she should wear splash goggles. Safety glasses do not provide the seal above the eyes that goggles do. The trajectories of liquid droplets tend to like those of mortar shells, not rifle bullets.

    Some people don’t like to wear goggles because they think it makes them look unattractive. My response is that if you are attractive without goggles you’ll be attractive wearing them.