Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2012 08:26:22 -0500
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**>
From: kauletta**At_Symbol_Here**NOTES.CC.SUNYSB.EDU
Subject: lab coat survey responses
X-To: dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**
Here are the responses to my very unscientific survey. I did my best to 
delete any references that could identify a particular university or 

It sounds like most of us are in the same place - we know what needs to be 
done, but haven't made it happen yet. Some facilities (universities) are 
moving ahead on a facility-wide program. Most leave it to the departments 
and/or individual labs to comply.

Thanks to everyone who responded!
- Kim

Lab Coat Survey
Email sent on 1/4/12 to SEHSA & DCHAS elists. Received 26 responses as of 

We are reviewing how lab coats are managed on our campus. We'd appreciate 
feedback on how your university/college handles lab coats (non-clinical) 
for research labs: 

1. How are lab coats purchased? 
        Each individual student/staff/faculty buys their own? 
        Lab PIs buy them for their labs? 
        Departments buy them? 

·       EHS Department Purchases all labcoats
·       Bio: Lab PI's generally buy them on research or Departmental 
incentive accounts. Chem/Bio: Don't know for certain but I'm guessing the 
same as Bio. Animal: Purchased out of their Department's accounts.
·       Lab PIs buy them for their labs
·       Lab PIs buy them for their labs
·       Lab PIs buy them for their labs
·       Lab PIs buy them for their labs.  We don’t have academic 
departments here, but if the group needs lab coats, it is that group’s 
budget that pays for them, e.g., the PI, the core facility.
·       Usually the research directors buy the lab coat for the graduate 
·       Departments buy them
·       Departments buy them
·       Departments buy them
·       Departments buy them
·       X College provides coats to all bio and biochem research labs, and 
we are looking to extend the program to other research labs. We do not 
purchase coats. Instead, we have a coat laundry/exchange service contract 
that includes rental of coats (with name of each user), biweekly laundry 
and replacement of damaged or worn out coats. 
·       The person they work for pays for the lab coats
·       In our department (chemistry), department provides for employees 
(including student workers).  Some employees buy their own.  Students buy 
their own for teaching labs, but are not required to have them.
·       Departments are expected to purchase lab coats for employees 
(faculty, staff, and students receiving compensation for their lab work). 
Plain old students (non-employees) must purchase their own lab coats 
unless departments decide otherwise.
·       At X areas the lab coats are purchased by the department for the 
faculty.  Students are told they can get their own. 
·       Each individual student/staff/faculty buys their own
·       Departments buy them and students then purchase through the 
·       For my facility, lab coats are purchased through various means. 
All our students are required to buy lab coats as part of the academic 
requirement for all laboratory classes. They can purchase lab coats via 
the university book store or other means. For research labs, either the PI 
(via grant funding) or the department (department budget) purchases lab 
coats for staff, researchers and faculty.
·       Could be any of the above.

2. How are they laundered? 
        Is it up to the individual to launder their own lab coat? 
        The lab uses only disposable lab coats? 
        The lab has a washer/dryer for individuals within their own group 
to use? 
        The departments have a washer/dryer for individuals to use? 
        There is a lab coat laundry service on campus?  (who runs it?) 
        There is a lab coat exchange program with an outside vendor on 
campus?  (who is vendor and who manages the program?) 

·       EHS Department collects all labcoats, professional cleaning 
service launders labcoats, EHS department re-issues labcoats 
·       Bio: Individuals launder their own.  Comment: This is an issue we 
are trying to resolve.  We are considering purchasing a washer/dryer but 
don't really have a good spot for laundry facilities.  Our teaching 
laboratories generally use disposal personal coverings when required. 
Chemistry/bio: after working with the Biosafety Officer on Campus they 
decided to first bleach them then take them to the commercial laundry. 
Animal: they either use disposable PPE although they also use 
non-disposable lab coats.  They have a washer and drying in their facility 
and regularly wash any non-disposable lab wear.  Because of biosecurity 
practices in place they do not allow outside Departments to use their 
·       The departments have a washer/dryer for individuals to use? 
Chemistry only
·       Other? _Most contract with cleaners.  There are cleaners approved 
to handle lab coats contaminated with BBP_ 
·       Other? Laundromat. Is the laundromat on campus or an off campus 
commercial establishment? Off campus commercial. Do lab staff take the 
coats there officially, or its what is included as part of the safety 
info? No they are picked up. Does the lab staff do the laundry or is it a 
drop off service?  Laundromat does the cleaning and pick up and drop off. 
Who pays for it? department
·       Other? We have a contract with an outside laundry service; they 
handle our facilities staff uniforms and the lab coats.  The Hospital has 
a separate contract with an outside service that handles bed linens, their 
uniforms and their lab coats.  Who is your vendor? Oceanside, Who pays (non hospital) for the 
laundry service? The individual labs/groups pay for the service. What dept 
is running/overseeing the service? Plant Operations.
·       We have a service contract that includes rental of the coats and 
·       The lab coats are labeled with the person's name and are laundered 
by an outside service.  People need to have more than one lab coat.  The 
Department pays for the laundering.
·       The departments have a washer/dryer for individuals to use? 
department has washer/dryer – service provided through stockroom
·       Departments are responsible for laundering: some have laundry 
facilities on-site, others may contract with a service. 
·       Laundry is done by the individual wearing the lab coat.
·       There is a lab coat laundry service on campus. (who runs it? Not 
sure). NB supervisors pay for the service.
·       It is up to the individual to launder their own lab coat
·       The lab uses only disposable lab coats
·       The lab uses only disposable lab coats.  Microbiology labs 
purchase disposable lab coats for students doing research. The lab has a 
washer/dryer for individuals within their own group to use 
·       The departments have a washer/dryer for individuals to use.  There 
is a lab coat laundry service on campus?  (who runs it?) The stockroom 
director takes chemistry’s coats to the athletic department for laundering 
a few times a year.  Biology uses washer in vivarium. 
·       Sometimes, the individual launders their own lab coat. Most of the 
time, coats are stained so bad that the PI ends up buying new coats the 
following year. My facility has laundry machines for our dormitories, but 
there has been no attempt or request to allow the science departments to 
use the laundry machines.
·       There is a lab coat exchange program with an outside vendor on 
campus.  (who is vendor and who manages the program?)  Mission Linen, 
Bencia Calif
·       There is a lab coat exchange program with an outside vendor on 
·       Depending on the department, some offer an external laundry 
service for employees and graduate students lab coats, while other do not 
offer it.  Some labs also use disposable lab coats.  There is no 
institutional call on that question, but your questions make me realize 
that we should.  One more thing on my “To do” list.  The graduate students 
and the employees only have to leave their dirty lab coats at the bin and 
they will be picked up by the external service every week and they are 
returned clean, one week later.  People must have at least 2 lab coats 
·       Could be any of the above.

3. How is EH&S involved in the lab coat program? 
        Runs the lab coat purchase &/or laundry program? 
        Only recommend lab coat types when asked? 
        Includes lab coat use as an inspection item during lab 
·       Runs the lab coat purchase &/or laundry program
·       All three Departments: In general our Department of Occupational 
Health and Safety has worked with us on recommending lab coat types. 
Because of the biological nature of three Departments I've described the 
University's Biosafety Officer has had some direct input on lab coat 
·       Only recommend lab coat types when asked 
·       Only recommend lab coat types when asked
·       Only recommend lab coat types when asked 
·       Only recommend lab coat types when asked
·       Only recommend lab coat types when asked
·       Includes lab coat use as an inspection item during lab inspections
·       Includes lab coat use as an inspection item during lab inspections
·       Includes lab coat use as an inspection item during lab inspections
·       Includes lab coat use as an inspection item during lab inspections
·       Includes lab coat use as an inspection item during lab inspections
·       How is EH&S involved in the lab coat program? We pay for the 
·       EH&S advises on appropriate PPE and does lab inspections.
·       EH&S recommends lab coat types when asked and includes lab coat 
use as an inspection item.
·       There is no Lab coat policy from EHS.
·       Includes lab coat use as an inspection item during lab 
inspections.  Also involved in general training to use lab coats, explain 
how the system works.
·       Stockroom person is also EHS, selects and orders coats for 
chemistry dept. researchers. 
·       We managed to persuade the science department to mandate the use 
of laboratory coats in all instructional science courses. This requirement 
is enforced by the instructor of these classes and inspected during EHS 
laboratory inspections. We also gave recommendations for laboratory coats 
to the science departments.
·       Specifies lab coats for work involving pyrophorics
·       EH&S lab coats are also cleaned by the external laundry service. 
The EH&S doesn’t run the program, but we recommend the department to offer 
the service.  We also recommend the lab coat types (depending on the 
activities).  The EH&S personnel uses the lab coat during the inspection 
and the lab coat is one of the many thing we are inspecting.
·       Not really involved 
·       Not involved
·       not involved
·       none
Our facilities use labcoats and uniforms in both laboratory and 
manufacturing settings. We purchase 2 or 3 of each type per employee.  We 
do have names and/or unique identifiers on many of the coats. (Type 
meaning chemical resistant labcoat, 70E rated, cotton, blend etc, 
depending on chemical application).  We do have some disposable coats for 
certain chemical-contacts.We also maintain a laundry contract for both 
uniforms and labcoats.  The laundry is picked up regularly enough that the 
individual has one to wear and one in reserve.  All contracts of this type 
are paid at the site level and then allocated back by area or department 
as appropriate. EHS support is paramount for ensuring the laundry company 
is HazComm trained for any possible contamination issues. (We have had 
OSHA specifically investigate the thoroughness of this training.). We also 
have EHS involved in contract bids and renewals to ensure the discipline 
is represented and documented.
Aramark has one of our contracts. 
Lab coats at X U. are managed per department level, each program adjusted 
to the basis of need and risk assessment.  The one universal piece of the 
program is that each department offers a laundering service, handled by an 
outside vendor (Clean Rental Services is used by each).  Also, the cost of 
the labcoat is always covered by the research lab grant or department.  No 
student is ever purchasing their own equipment, which the exception of 
undergrad core labs. 

The Molecular Biology/Evolutionary Biology/Genomics/ Psychology 
departments maintain a stock of general poly/cotton labcoats for student 
purchase using their lab grant. 

The Engineering School, Physics, and Geosciences departments do not 
maintain any stock of coats, researchers buy them on as needed or as 
requested basis.  Typically, these students will come to me for a 
recommendation, I review their procedure and send them several options 
including the one I feel most appropriate.  The student will then take 
this information to their PI and the lab will purchase it for them. 

My recent “safety win” in respect to labcoats occurred within the 
Chemistry department last year.  The Department Chair created a policy of 
mandatory labcoats for all Chemistry researchers present within the active 
research area.  The department pays for two labcoats for each person, 
embroidered with their name and department.   This is an ongoing program, 
that entails loaner coats, sizing coats and recurrent purchasing of 
labcoats.  I was solely involved with the recommendation of the coats 
taking into account all of the hazards the researchers encounter, their 
habits (good and bad), and general needs of use.  I would be happy to 
share my results with you if desired.
As of right now, lab coats are purchased by the PI.  We are looking into 
having the Office for Research pay for them, as OSHA requires that the 
employer provide PPE.  There was a lot of discussion at one time about 
whether the employer was technically the PI or the University (I say 
University), so the University may end up buying them.  As for undergrads, 
they purchase their own lab coats for use.

We have a vendor that collects them to launder.  As of right now, it’s up 
to the individual to get them laundered.  The program is managed through 
VWR, although they contracted to Healthcare Laundry System for the actual 

Before I answer the third question about EH&S (we are called the Office 
for Research Safety here at XU), let me explain my position first.  I am a 
Lab Safety Specialist devoted to the Chemistry department.  I report to 
ORS, but Chemistry is my “home.”  I work more closely with them to develop 
policy, enforce, inspect, etc… My position was created a year ago, so it’s 
a unique entity within both Chemistry and ORS.  Basically, I have one foot 
in ORS and one foot in Chemistry.  This give me more “power” so to speak 
within Chemistry, as they have entrusted me to ensure compliance.  I am 
currently in the process of developing some policies that the department 
has not had before, but are long overdue.  Once we sort out the lab coat 
buying situation, there will be a lab coat policy.

So with that said, ORS does not have a specific policy regarding wearing 
lab coats.  We can advise on types to purchase, but that’s about it.  The 
Chemistry side of me is working with each Chemistry research lab to 
identify where lab coats are required and where they are not.
At this moment we have set up pilot program for lab coats on which the 
individual department (only two right now) is paying for them. Also, each 
individual professor pays for his/hers students lab coats. The goal of our 
program is to have the department pay for them. With our pilot program we 
have an outside company coming in every week and taking the soil lab coats 
and providing us with clean ones.   Disposable lab coats are not to be 
used in high hazard labs. We are still figuring out if its cost efficient 
to have a washer/dryer: questions with this situation is: who is going to 
enforce there is not just one lab coat being washed? Who is going to 
enforce that there is no real contamination (bsl2  and rad users can not 
mix their lab coats with the regular chemistry users lab coats) The vendor 
we are using right now is CINTAS. There are pros and cons to everything. 
EH&S is the one in charge of the pilot program and looking on how to 
manage lab coats better. Once the pilot program is done we are looking at 
the departments to manage it (this will be challenging). But EH&S does the 
inspections. Lab coats are mandatory at every lab.   I am at the end of my 
pilot program and it has been a challenge. 1) some departments are better 
than others. 2)some students are better than others 3)because of budget 
constrictions some departments do not want to pay for them. 4)no one in 
the department wants to take over (“creating extra work for them” is what 
I am told). 5) in terms of washer and dryers presents a challenge when 
looking for a location(s) and what would be the cost? And who is going to 
oversee it? 
Lab coats are PPE.  Federal regulations require that the employer 
provide/specify the lab coats and provide instructions for their use. 
I am retired from Argonne National Laboratory (a federal contractor R&D 
organization).  Specifications can include whether or not the lab coats 
are cotton (best for fire protection; including electrical arcs), 
synthetic (worst for fire protection), or specifically fire retardant 
(ideal for those who use flammable solvents).   Specifications can also 
include whether the closures are snaps or buttons; and whether the cuffs 
are open or have an elastic closure.  (If choosing snaps, monitor for 
damage during the laundering process.  Specifications for use/inspection 
include use of the closure -- an open lab coat provides substandard 
The institution must be responsible for laundering - typically by an 
external vendor for which a specific contract has been established at the 
institutional (not departmental) level.   It is inappropriate at the least 
for a worker to mix a "dirty" lab coat with their own customary domestic 
laundry.  Similarly for an on-site laundry service that may include 
hospital linens. 
Lab coats used by R&D personnel who use radioactive materials must be 
surveyed before transfer to the general laundry "bin."  Procedures should 
be established for rad-contaminated coats. 
The laundering requirement generates a turnaround time that necessitates 
that each person have at least two lab coats -  preferably personalized so 
that those who pay for lab coats receive clean coats that are in the same 
acceptable condition as when sent to the laundry. 
WHEN to use a lab coat is a contentious topic.  The most conservative and 
prudent "rule" is that every person who enters a lab wears a closed lab 
coat.  This necessitates the availability of guest lab coats.  Any other 
than this conservative approach leads to an endless number of judgement 
calls such as "I was just going to look at slides under the microscope." 
and "I was just checking the temperature of the oven/water bath."  In 
these two examples, there may be other hazardous work in progress by 
others, and/or the "I was just ..."  expands in scope. 
"Inspectors" must set an example by ALWAYS wearing their personal lab 
I have no concerns about lab-to-lab cross contamination and/or creation of 
incompatible mixtures; and have never encountered such concern by others 
more knowledgeable than I. 
We do not really have any sort of formal program for using lab coats.  I 
can not get anyone to pay attention to this issue.
Two chemistry research labs, only about 4-8 students do research any given 
semester.  In all there are 4 teaching labs and 4 research labs. Biology 
has two labs where students wear lab coats.  16 wear them for teaching lab 
(microbiology), 2 or 3 wear them for research.  In all there are 8 
teaching labs and 9 research labs. Psychology has one research lab and  a 
big teaching lab.  Lab coats are not used in any psychology labs. Lab 
coats are not required for general chemistry or other chemistry teaching 
labs.  Occasionally we have a student ask about buying lab coats, but only 
one has gone out to buy his own in my 5 years here.
While I cannot address the specific questions here is my take with respect 
to the employer/employee.

The employer usually supplies the personal protective equipment (PPE). Lab 
coats are considered PPE.
After performing a "hazard assessment,” the employer provides the 
appropriate PPE for employees and maintains the PPE including laundering 
and replacing worn lab coats.  By having the employer launder the lab 
coats, the risk of take home toxins is significantly reduced.  The 
employee has a role here too, and that is to properly wear the lab coats 
and ensure that his/her lab coat is cleaned.

Personally I think that personnel, including students, working in graduate 
research labs should be treated as employees.

I understand your concern.  I come from a non-academic research lab 
background and employee compliance and costs were always an issue.  We 
supplied the PPE through an outside uniform/laundry company.  One of other 
problem was keeping an inventory of the coats. 
How many labs do you have?
·       We have approx 5000 employees in US (10000 globally) with regional 
contracts where we cannot get global contracts (for PPE) .  In NY we have 
3 sites with the largest having 1500 employees. 
·       We have 20 chemistry labs, 24 biology labs, 17 pharmaceutical 
science labs.
·       We have approximately 90 labs.
·       We are a regional public university, ~10,000 students total, MS 
only (no PhD program).  I speak only for the Department of Chemistry.
·       My Department has ca 15 research labs + support spaces and 7 
teaching labs + support spaces.  The Bio/Chem lab I referred two is one of 
probably a similar number of lab facilities in Chemistry.  The animal 
facility is "one" facility but is (just a guess) ca 5000 sq ft.
·       112 Labs with FDNY Chemical Lab permits and about 30 non-chemical 
Labs (physics, nutrition, etc.).
·       We have 73 Heads of Laboratory and about 1.2M sq.ft. of wet lab 

Kim Auletta
Lab Safety Specialist
EH&S    Z=6200
Stony Brook University
FAX: 631-632-9683
EH&S Web site:

Remember to wash your hands!

Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.