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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  Resources  /  Laboratory  /  Lab Manual  /  Protective Clothing

Protective Clothing

It is essential that lab workers wear the correct protective clothing for the task they intend to carry out. Lab coats and safety glasses are provided, as are gloves and plastic aprons.

  • Lab coats

You will be issued with a lab coat before you start work in the laboratory and must wear it at all times when working in the lab.

Lab coats are your first line of defence. They are not just worn to keep your clothes clean, they are to protect against chemical splashes and spillages and, in some cases heat and fire. If something spills on you it is much easier to remove a lab coat quickly to prevent the substance coming into contact with your skin, than it is to remove your clothing.

Make sure your lab coat is done up and your sleeves are rolled down. A lab coat that is flapping about is not providing the protection that it is meant to provide and can easily catch on things, knock things over etc. If you are taking things out of a hot oven, keeping your sleeves rolled down can help to protect against burns to your forearms.

Lab Coats must not be worn outside the laboratory area.

  • Eye Protection

Safety glasses must be worn when the risk assessment indicates there is a need.

Do not underestimate the importance of safety glasses. Eye injuries are very unpleasant and are invariably followed by a visit to the UCH A & E Department. Eyes do not like foreign bodies; no matter how harmless a substance may seem, it will hurt if it is in your eye. Protect your eyes.

Safety goggles are mandatory for those who wish to venture into the realms of heavy engineering. This includes the use of angle grinders, geological hammers, club hammers etc., all of which are available and frequently used.

Face shields are provided for use with strong acids – in particular Hydrofluoric acid – and these must be worn. They provide additional protection, not just for the eyes but also for the whole face and neck. They also have the benefit of stopping the user from touching their face whilst wearing contaminated gloves and do not have the annoying habit of slipping off the nose like safety glasses.

  • Gloves

It is essential to wear gloves when handling chemicals or environmental samples of any kind. The disposable gloves provided are resistant to most of the chemicals likely to be encountered in the laboratory. However, when using "strong" acids (HF, H2SO4 etc.), it is recommended that the thicker rubber gloves are worn. When you have finished working with chemicals, always wash the gloves before you take them off. This also applies to disposable gloves, which should never be placed in the bin whilst there is still a risk of them being contaminated. Please think of the cleaning staff who do not always wear gloves when emptying the bins and may suffer an injury as a result of your actions. Even if they are wearing gloves, they may spread the contamination to, for example, door handles in the rest of the department. This form of contamination can also occur when lab workers walk between rooms without first removing contaminated gloves. Always be aware of these risks when handling chemicals and think of the safety of other lab users as well as your own.

Most of the gloves provided in the lab are vinyl or nitrile. Every effort is made not to use latex. However if you are known to suffer from a latex allergy please inform the lab staff so that they can ensure that you have appropriate hand protection.

Rubber gauntlets (long, thick gloves) are provided for use when acid washing glassware and thicker “marigold” gloves are available for washing up. These are more resistant to broken glass than the thinner disposable gloves. It is important to wear gloves when washing glassware as many of the detergents used in the lab can cause skin disorders with prolonged use.

  • Masks

Some of the work carried out in the lab will generate fine dust e.g. grinding or sieving sediment or plant material. If this cannot be carried out in a fume cupboard other precautions must be taken to avoid inhalation of these particles. Dust masks are available and should be worn by all who are working in the affected area. Work of this nature can only be carried out in designated rooms .

Chemical resistant masks are not kept in the labs, as all chemical work must be carried out in a fume cupboard.

  • Aprons

Chemical resistant aprons are provided for use with Hydrofluoric acid. It is essential that these are worn over a lab coat when carrying out any procedure using HF as Lab coats are not adequate defence against splashes or spills of HF. Once work has finished the aprons must be wiped down, even if you do not suspect that they are contaminated.