Why does one group need a specific rule? Isn’t the question covered by a general statement such as this?
APPROPRIATE CLOTHING: Lab Coats, Long Pants and Closed Shoes are required. Choose sturdy shoes that cover the whole foot and protect from spills and broken glass. Wear a knee-length, long sleeve lab coat closed to protect skin & clothing. Coat sleeves must cover arms & shirts. Wear long pants (or equivalent) to protect from spills & splash. Avoid loose or synthetic clothing; remove loose jewelry; secure hair and clothing away from flames, equipment, and chemical contamination.
My (limited) experience with this issue is that a general rule/guide that addresses the real issues (personal protection) can be used to address specific questions. When I have needed to help a student interpret a general rule for a specific need/restriction, I’ve generally found the students have creative suggestions.
Why do we care if a student wants/needs to wear a veil, as long as she wears lab goggles and her clothing is restrained away from flames & moving machinery? If a surgical mask is an acceptable substitute, then it isn’t that we need to see her face.
Sheila Kennedy, C.H.O.
Safety Coordinator | Teaching Laboratories
UCSD Chemistry & Biochemistry |MC 0303
Office: (858) 534-0221 | Fax: (858) 534-7687
Below is a post from my previous life overseas addressing abayas and other culturally sensitive dress parameters while in the Middle East.
"As the lab safety manager for Texas A&M University at Qatar, I feel uniquely qualified to answer this question as at least 50% of our female students wear either the Burka or Hijab. I will briefly outline the PPE requirements we use for Organic Chemistry Laboratory (which I also used to teach here) below.
Basically, lab coats with elastic cuffs are required to secure loose sleeves from the abaya. The Hijab or Burka is required to be securely tucked into the lab coat collar. For those students that wear a Burka, we require them to wear a surgical mask in lieu of the facial covering (it basically covers the same amount as the Burka). Of course goggles and closed-toed shoes are required. In the 5 years I have been here, this has been the standard policy and we have not had any negative feedback. Thus far, we have not had any students that insist on wearing the full face veil covering everything including their eyes. Some wear this in the hallways, but have no problem removing it for lab courses (all of our courses are coeducational).
Another thing you may want to be aware of is male TAs or faculty responsibilities for the students. I assume your lab instructors are trained to render basic first aid or deal with chemical spills on a student. Due to religious sensitivities, if this is the case, it is a good idea for the instructor to ask for a female volunteer to act as a "helper" in emergencies as the male instructor will not be allowed to touch a conservative female muslim student. It could be something as simple as the female volunteer applying a bandage or manning a drench shower."
I also wanted to mention that in the case of Mechanical Engineering labs and machine shops, they wore coveralls in order to deal with the loose sleeve issue.
Brandon S. Chance, M.S., CCHO
Program Manager, Chemical Safety
Environmental Health and Safety
262 Alexander Street
Princeton, NJ 08540
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