The warm summer months can be an even more challenging time than normal for enforcing rules related to appropriate lab attire. This is a great time to review your company’s personal protective equipment (PPE) policy and see if it adequately addresses personal lab attire.

Including rules related to appropriate laboratory attire in a formal policy can help significantly with enforcement and compliance. If the PPE policy already includes this, it’s a perfect time to review the policy with all lab employees and others who may enter the lab when work is being conducted.

Appropriate laboratory attire should cover the torso, legs, and feet. Depending on the work being conducted at your company, this generally means that:

  • Full leg coverage is required. Shorts or cropped pants that leave any part of the leg exposed should not be worn. Skirts should not be worn unless they completely cover the leg.
  • Shirts or tops that cover the upper torso and shoulders should be worn.  Tank tops should not be worn, but short-sleeve shirts are acceptable in most cases.
  • Shoes must completely cover the feet. This means that flip flops, sandals, clogs, and other open-toed/open-heeled shoes should not be worn. Shoes made of porous materials provide only limited protection in a spill and should be avoided. Good shoes should be slip-resistant and protect the employee from splashes and sharp objects.
  • Ties, scarves, and other loose clothing should not hang outside the lab coat to prevent contact with chemicals, biologicals, or other materials.
  • Hats or other head apparel must not restrict vision or interfere with protective eyewear.

On these hot summer days, lab employees can bring long pants and closed-toed shoes to change into after arriving at work and then change back into cooler clothes when leaving for the day. It’s also a good idea to have a few pairs of scrubs available for use when individuals forget to wear proper personal attire. Having to wear scrubs once or twice might also encourage people to remember proper attire!

Wearing the appropriate personal attire in the laboratory can reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous agents and the potential of physical injury, and is an important part of a company’s PPE policy.  For more information on developing a policy that is appropriate for the work conducted at your facility and for tips on enforcing it, please email info@safetypartnersinc.com.

This blog was written by Beth Graham, our Associate Director of Quality, Research, and Training who has been with Safety Partners for the last 11 years.