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Choosing The Correct PPE

Selecting the right PPE to sufficiently reduce exposure to hazards is essential to laboratory safety. The purpose of this section is to provide resources allowing researchers to identify and classify various types of PPE so the appropriate safety precautions are taken when conducting research.

For the purpose of this site, PPE will be classified into categories: eye and face protection, hand protection, body protection, respiratory protection, and hearing protection. Each category includes its own corresponding safety equipment that will be described below.

Eye and Face Protection

Eye protection is achieved by wearing eyewear specifically designed to reduce the risk of exposure to chemical splashes, laser radiation, and/or flying debris. There are four primary types of eye protection — of which each has its own limitations — including general safety glasses, laser safety glasses, chemical splash goggles and impact goggles. Full face protection is achieved by wearing face shields.

Type Use                          
General safety glasses
  • Must have side shields, or a one-piece lens that wraps around the temple.
  • Are the minimum level of eye protection that must be worn in the laboratory.
  • Are not effective in protecting the eyes from splashes, and are only recommended for use with solutions that are not likely to damage the eye, such as some buffers and salts.
Laser safety glasses
  • Selection is based on the laser wavelength and power.
  • Protective properties can be found printed on the eyewear.
  • Are not as effective as laser safety goggles at filtering all light entering the eyes.
  • EH&S does not provide laser safety glasses or goggles for use in the laboratory, but will assist in selecting the correct laser safety goggles or glasses for your application, which can be purchased by the PI as needed.
Chemical splash goggles
  • Are recommended any time a splash of chemicals or infectious substances could reach the eyes.
  • Can act as impact goggles to prevent flying debris from reaching the eyes.
  • May be purchased from the campus bookstore or obtained from EH&S in accordance with LHAT recommendations.
Impact goggles
  • Offer protection from flying debris only.
  • Often have ventilation holes on the sides that render the user susceptible to chemical splashes and dust or small debris.
  • EH&S does not offer impact goggles, but chemical splash goggles can often be used in substitution. Feel free to contact EH&S with any questions regarding this substitution.
Face shields
  • Required when splashes from chemicals that can cause immediate skin damage are handled (e.g. working with concentrated acids, dispensing liquid nitrogen, sonicating tissue samples, etc.).
  • Shall be worn in conjunction with chemical splash goggles. Respiratory protective equipment might be required, depending on the task; contact EH&S if you have any questions regarding face shield use.
  • All new PIs receive two complimentary face shields from EH&S. Existing PIs received two face shields during the 2013 PPE distribution event. Additional and/or replacement face shields can be purchased by PIs.
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Hand Protection

Appropriate selection of gloves is essential to protecting hands. Chemically protective gloves are one of the most important tools to minimize dermal exposures to chemicals in research laboratories. Gloves should only be used under the specific conditions for which they are designed, as no glove is impervious to all chemicals.

It is also important to note that gloves degrade over time, so they should be replaced as necessary to ensure adequate protection. Laboratory personnel should use the information below, and manufacturer compatibility charts (found under useful resources in the above right menu), to choose the type and style of glove.

Type   Use  
Light latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves

Disposable latex (powdered or unpowdered)

Working with biological hazards (human blood, body fluids, tissues, bloodborne pathogens, specimens), BSL1, BSL2, BSL2+, BSL3
Disposable nitrile (puncture and abrasion resistant, protection from splash hazards) Working with biological hazards and chemical splash hazards
Disposable vinyl (economical, durable, similar to latex) Working with biological hazards, BSL1, BSL2, BSL2+, BSL3
Light chemical resistant gloves Natural rubber latex (chemical resistant, liquid-proof) Working with small volumes of corrosive liquids, organic solvents, flammable compounds
Light to heavy chemical resistant gloves Nitrile (chemical resistant, good puncture, cut and abrasion resistance) Using apparatus under pressure, air or water-reactive chemicals
Heavy chemical resistant gloves Butyl (high permeation resistance to most chemicals) Working with large volumes of organic solvents; small to large volumes of dangerous solvents, acutely toxic or hazardous materials
Viton® II (high permeation resistance to most chemicals) Same as butyl gloves, plus hazardous material spills
Silver shield (extra chemical and mechanical protection) Same as butyl and Viton® II gloves, added mechanical protection, hazardous material spills
Insulated gloves Terrycloth autoclave (heat resistant) Working with hot liquids and equipment, open flames, water bath, oil bath
Cryogen (water-resistant or waterproof, protection against ultra-cold temperatures) Handling cryogenic liquids
Wire mesh gloves Wire mesh (cut resistant) Working with live animals and exposed to potential cuts
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Body Protection

Lab coats are required for all wet labs. Cotton or cotton/poly blends are sufficient for labs without risk of fire. Nomex coats are required for work with pyrophorics, flammable liquids in quantities of more than 4 liters, or when work involves flammable liquids and an ignition source such as a burner. Barrier coats must be worn when working with infectious materials. Barrier coats can be autoclaved by placing the coats in a pan and placing an additional pan of water in the autoclave.

Type Use  
Traditional (cotton/cotton-polyester blend - protects skin and clothing from dirt, inks, non-hazardous chemicals) General use; chemical, biological, radiation, and physical hazards
Flame resistant (e.g. Nomex or other flame-resistant cotton  resists ignition) Working with water or air reactive chemicals, large volumes of organic solvents, and potentially explosive chemicals
Barrier (predominantly polyester  offers splash protection, not flame resistant) Working with infectious materials
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Respiratory Protection

Program Procedures

Respiratory protective equipment is only used as a "last line of defense," and as a result, requires individual assessment and training by EH&S personnel. Proper fitting and use is key to respirator efficacy, so EH&S requires all individuals who believe one or more of their job tasks require respiratory protective equipment to contact EH&S. The following steps will be taken:

  1. A workplace hazard assessment will be performed to determine if the task requires respiratory protective equipment.
    • If the task does not require respiratory equipment but the employee wishes to use such equipment, he or she must complete Appendix D of the Respiratory Protective Equipment Manual and return the bottom portion of the form to EH&S. This form provides information in accordance with OSHA Sec. 1910.134 regarding voluntary use of respirators when not required under the standard.
  2. If respiratory protective equipment is necessary, the employee will be given a medical evaluation questionnaire to fill out as well as a supplement to the medical questionnaire that outlines the findings of the hazard assessment conducted by EH&S. Both forms should be taken to a contract physician or licensed health care professional (PLHCP) who will perform a confidential medical evaluation to determine the employee's fitness to wear a respirator.
  3. When the employee is approved to wear a respirator for the job task(s) outlined in the hazard assessment, the appropriate respirator will be selected and the employee will be fit-tested following CAL/OSHA's accepted fit-testing protocol. Fit-testing assures the selected respirator is worn correctly to allow proper performance.
  4. During fit-testing, the employee receives training on the appropriate method(s) to store, handle and sanitize the respirator.
  5. Once initial fitting and training are completed, the employee must enroll in and attend yearly training conducted by EH&S through the UC Learning Center. Employees will be authorized to register for the "Basic Respiratory Protection" course to fulfill the annual training requirement.
Type   Use  
Surgical masks Protect against large droplets and splashes (does not require fit-testing) Working with live animals; working with infectious material in BSL-2+ level labs but only protects your sample from you, not the other way around.
N-95 respirators Protects against dust, fumes, mists, microorganisms (requires fit-testing) Working with live animals or infectious materials in BSL-2 level labs with known airborne transmissible disease (e.g. tuberculosis, also required for influenza (flu)); dusty environments
Half-mask respirators Purifies air: protects against a variety of particulates, vapors, dust, mists, fumes; depends on filter cartridge used (requires fit-testing) Working with live animals or infectious materials with known airborne transmissible disease; dusty environments; chemical vapors; particulates
Full-face respirators Same as half-mask, with greater protection factor; eye, mucus membranes, and face protection; depends on filter cartridge used (requires fit-testing) Working with live animals or infectious materials with known airborne transmissible disease; dusty environments; chemical vapors; particulates
Respirator cartridges For use in half-mask respirators and full-face respirators
  • P-100: for dust only
  • Organic Vapor (OV): for fumes of organic solvents only
  • Acid Gas: vapors of hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, etc
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Hearing Protection

All laboratory personnel shall contact EH&S to request noise monitoring in their laboratory settings to perform noise monitoring and advise on the specific use of hearing protectors.

Laboratory workers whose eight-hour time-weighted average noise exposure exceeds the 85 dBA Action Level will be enrolled in the UC Merced Hearing Conservation Program. These individuals will receive annual audiometric testing, will have hearing protectors made available to them by their supervisors, and will be provided training on the fitting, use and care of these devices.

Monitoring results for individuals whose noise exposure exceed the Action Level will also be notified in writing using Attachment B  Noise Monitoring  Dosimetry Results.

Disposable earplugs Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane foam, one-time use design (no cleaning), one size fits all, lightweight, low cost, blocks all sound. Useful when working in areas where sound levels average over 85 dBa; EH&S can assist in assessments
Reusable earplugs Silicone tapered fit, reusable (needs cleaning), corded or uncorded, lightweight, more durable than disposable earplugs. Useful when working in areas where sound levels average over 85 dBa; EH&S can assist in assessments
Hearing band Earplugs connected to a flexible band that can be worn around the neck when not needed. Useful when working in areas where sound levels average over 85 dBa; EH&S can assist in assessments
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