Dear Ms. Gates:
Your request was forwarded to me for reply. I discussed it with the clothing experts in our Technical Research Branch. They inform me currently, there is a new standard being developed for Healthcare Worker Protective Uniforms (lab coats and scrubs) in ASTM. They are not aware of any standard for the other lab coats. They provided the following information:
Lab Coats are worn when working with hazardous materials in a laboratory to
- protect skin and street clothes from incidental contact,
- prevent the spread of contamination, and, to
- provide a removable barrier in the event of an incident involving a spill or splash of hazardous substances.
When there is risk to occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Bloodborne Pathogen 1910.1030 requires that the personal protective equipment, including lab coats, should not permit blood or other potentially infectious materials to pass through to or reach the employee's work clothes, street clothes, undergarments, skin, eyes, mouth, or other mucous membranes under normal conditions of use and for the duration of time which the protective equipment will be used.
The type of protection needed dictates the type of the lab coat selected. A complete hazard assessment of the workplace should be performed to determine the need and the type of the lab coat selected. Type and amount of the chemicals, biological agents, radioisotopes, flammable materials, particles, nanoparticles, etc. used in the laboratory, duration of the work or task as well as the risk of splash or splatter for the tasks being done are some of the considerations for proper selection. When more than one type of hazards is a concern, additional PPE elements, disposable coats, or more than one type of lab coat might be considered for an activity or for different type of activities in the laboratory.
Below are some of the general considerations for selecting an appropriate lab coat:
Material: The type of the material that the lab coat is made from is extremely important when selecting the appropriate clothing. There is limited test data on the lab coats for typical conditions that might be encountered in a research lab with respect to combined research activities. A lab coat that is flame resistant may not be chemical resistant or acid/base resistant. Also a coat that is advertised as flame resistant may not have been tested with criteria involving flammable chemicals on the coat. In addition, lab coats are not designed to be the equivalent of chemical protection suits for major chemical handling or emergencies.
Chemical protective clothing manufacturers conduct permeation and degradation tests on their garments. These data must be consulted before the appropriate chemical protective lab coat can be selected. Since synthetic fibers (like nylon or polyester) or cotton blends (without any flame retardant treatments) can ignite, melt, and stick to skin and result in severe burns they should be avoided when working with flammable materials.
In circumstances when splash or splatter is anticipated, the garment must be resistant to liquid penetration.
The clothing worn underneath the lab coat is also very important. Flame resistant lab coats and undergarments that are made from natural fibers are recommended when working with flammable materials. Synthetic fibers should be avoided for undergarments.
Size: An appropriate size that fully covers the wearer and comfortable to wear should be selected.
Use: Lab coats should be worn with sleeves down and fully buttoned and only when in the lab or work area. Lab coats should be removed when leaving the lab/work area to go home, to lunch, to the restroom, or meetings in conference rooms, etc. Lab coats should be kept in the work area. Wearing the coats outside the lab or work can spread the contamination.
Cleaning: Non-disposable/reusable lab coats should be cleaned routinely, by use of a laundry service or work area washers and dryers. Frequency of cleaning should depend on the amount of use and contamination. Manufacturer recommendations should be followed when cleaning and maintaining.
Design: Lab coats should provide full-length coverage up to the neckline. Styles that best fit wearers should be selected.
Snaps, zippers and buttons: Snaps and buttons provide for breakaway coverage in the event of contamination on the front of the coat compared to zippers.
Cuffs: Fitted cuffs are best for lab applications. They are well suited for "overgloving" and hold extra sleeve fabric out of the way while working. Cuffs should be in such lengths that distribute pressure at the wrist over a larger.
Other: Employees should receive training on the use and limitations of the selected lab coats.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact me directly.
Christopher Coffey, PhD
Associate Director for Science
National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory
From: Kim Gates [mailto:kim.gates**At_Symbol_Here**stonybrook.edu]
Sent: Friday, May 03, 2013 3:01 PM
To: PPE Concerns (CDC)
Subject: lab coats & safety
I'm sure you've been asked before by other universities - but I didn't see anything on your web site.
Does your group have recommendations for lab coats to use in research labs that use various types & small quantities of biological, chemical & radiological materials?
We are struggling with the poly/cotton blend vs. 100% cotton vs. flame resistant rated for these labs. And then there's the snaps vs.. buttons, cuff types, etc. to decide on.
We have not found any guidance documents.
Any help or guidance you have would be greatly appreciated by us and all other universities!
Laboratory Safety Specialist
Environmental Health & Safety
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-6200
EH&S Web site: http://www.stonybrook.edu/ehs/lab/
Please note my name and email have changed.
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