Laboratory PPE: Safety and Protection
Laboratories are environments at great risk, whether they are physical, chemical, or biological. Laboratory technicians are exposed to a variety of potential hazards such as splashes of hazardous substances, cuts, burns, or the inhalation of harmful gasses. It is therefore essential to implement appropriate safety measures to protect the personnel.
This is where Personal Protective Equipment comes into play. In a laboratory, PPE plays a role in protecting the laboratory technician by creating a real safety barrier against job-related hazards.
Whether you are a laboratory manager or HSE, it is crucial to consider the importance of personal protective equipment in ensuring the safety of your team.
The risks in the laboratory
To understand the risks in a laboratory, it is interesting to examine the different types of laboratories that exist, and therefore the specific hazards associated with each of them. It is also important to consider the safety levels, which actually represent levels of danger, ranging from 1 for the lowest level of danger to 4 for the highest level of danger. Based on all of this, it will be necessary to adapt one’s safety equipment.
The different types of laboratories
Depending on the type of laboratory, you will be able to choose the most appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). These laboratories can be grouped into three main categories: chemistry, biology, and physics.
1. Chemistry Laboratory
In a chemistry laboratory, the handling of hazardous chemicals is common. This type of laboratory is known for implementing highly rigorous safety measures. Associated risks include explosions, burns, fires, splashes, and inhalation of harmful substances.
2. Biology Laboratory
The biology laboratory is often used for drug manufacturing (pharmaceutical laboratory) and conducting medical tests. The major risks are related to exposure to biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.
3. Physics Laboratory
The physics laboratory is primarily focused on research and theory testing. This type of laboratory is considered one of the least common in the world. Physical risks include mechanical, thermal, electrical, and acoustic hazards.
When choosing protective equipment, it is also crucial to consider the biosafety level for each laboratory.
- Biosafety level 1: poses little or no hazards.
- Biosafety level 2: poses a moderate hazard.
- Biosafety level 3: poses a high hazard with a possible risk of propagation.
- Biosafety level 4: poses a high hazard with a high risk of propagation.
Different levels of biosafety containment require different protective equipment.
At biosafety level 1, it is mandatory to wear a protective lab coat.
For laboratories classified at biosafety level 2, in addition to the lab coat, it is necessary to wear goggles and gloves as minimum additional equipment.
At biosafety level 3, it is essential to wear a protective suit and at least a respiratory protection device.
Finally, in laboratories classified at biosafety level 4, it is imperative to wear a fully enclosed suit, such as a hermetic suit, to ensure maximum protection.
Thus, the requirements for protective equipment increase according to the biosafety level of the laboratory.
Personal protective equipment in the laboratory
How to protect oneself and work safely in a lab?
Safety in a laboratory is of paramount importance due to the presence of hazardous substances. In order to ensure adequate protection, it is essential to conduct a risk analysis, prioritize them, and implement preventive measures.
Among the most common accidents are splashes. That is why it is essential to have appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Wearing safety goggles and a laboratory coat is considered a minimum requirement.
The lab coat is the most commonly used equipment for body protection. It provides protection for both the skin of the laboratory worker and their clothing. It is important to choose a lab coat that is resistant to chemicals and not easily flammable.
In some cases, the use of a protective coverall may be more appropriate in situations where the body needs to be better covered.
Eye protection is of paramount importance as they are exposed to various potential hazards.
For instance, it is crucial to protect against glass fragments in case of an explosion, while also safeguarding against dangerous liquid splashes or harmful gases.
To ensure this protection, it is recommended to wear protective glasses, but it is also possible to use a visor for more comprehensive protection.
When handling hazardous substances, it is essential to wear protective gloves.
Nitrile gloves are generally preferred, while latex gloves may not be suitable for all tasks and can cause allergies in some individuals.
There are also gloves specifically designed for extreme temperatures, whether high or low, as well as cut-resistant gloves.
The protective mask is an essential equipment to ensure your safety against various droplet-transmitted pathogens.
For protection against toxic gases, a gas mask is necessary to ensure the safety of individuals exposed to such risks.
Ear protection: earplugs and noise-canceling headphones
In a laboratory, there can be situations where one is exposed to loud noises. In such cases, it is important to protect your hearing by using earplugs.
A noise-canceling headphone can also be used, depending on the level of noise exposure.
It is essential to choose the appropriate method of protection based on the intensity of the encountered noise.
To ensure proper protection, it may be advised to wear overshoes. These safety equipment items are useful for safeguarding both the shoes and the feet, while also preventing the spread of hazardous substances outside the laboratory.
Safety and risk prevention in the laboratory are essential to protect personnel from physical, chemical, and biological hazards. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) plays a crucial role in creating a safety barrier against these hazards. Depending on the type of laboratory and specific containment levels, it is important to choose the appropriate PPE, such as lab coats, protective goggles, gloves, masks, earplugs, and shoe covers.