A laboratory coat is required when working nearby to hazardous elements. A flame resistant lab coat is required when handling substances capable of ignition outside the glove box. It is strongly recommended that a flame resistant lab coat should be worn when working with all kinds of flammable chemicals. Expert supervisors should carry out hazard assessment to identify situations where a protective should be worn.
Uses of Lab Coats
When used properly lab coats will:
- Provide protection to the skin and protect personal clothing from any kinds of hazards. Prevent contamination outside the lab.
Limitation of Lab Coats
Protective clothing that includes lab coats, should not be used as a substitute for engineering controls such as a glove box, process enclosure, fume hood etc., or as an alternative for good work practices and personal hygiene. For appropriate chemical handling, it will be necessary to supplement lab coat use with additional protective clothing.
Some Known Limitations of Lab Coats Include:
- Lab coats are not tested for some typical conditions which might take place during a research lab with respect to chemical use, or combined research activities.
- There is very little or no information provided by manufacturers or distributors about the capability of a lab coat for a combination of hazards.
- A coat which is advertised as flame resistant has not been tested using criteria involving flammable chemicals on the coat. The flame resistant criteria was intended to stop circumstances involving flash fire, or electric arc flash and not a chemical fire.
Keeping the above limitations in mind, lab coats are designed from different materials and it is important to select the coats of appropriate material for the different types of hazards taking place in the lab. The first step in this process is to find out the types of hazards that take place in a laboratory.
Choosing the Right Lab Coat
While there are several style features, from a protection point of view, the best coats have the following characteristics:
- Tight cuffs
- Short closures in the front for easy removal.
- Coats with different properties are easy to tear apart and coats should have outer markings clearly differentiating them as FR coats and can be ordered in a different colors.
- Proper fitting
- Appropriate material for hazards to be faced
One coat may not be appropriate for all sorts of lab operations. Some people might want to provide a basic poly/cotton blend coat for almost all operations. The materials might be made of materials for limited reuse or disposable after one time use.
Use of Lab Coat
When lab coats are in use, the following should be observed:
- Wear lab coats that fit the best. Lab coats are available in different sizes. Some lab coat services also offer the feature of custom sizes (e.g., extra long sleeves, short, tall, or woman’s fit).
- Lab coats should be worn fully buttoned or with sleeves down.
- One should wear lab coats only when they are in the lab or work area. Remove lab coats when leaving the lab/work area to go home, for lunch, to the washroom or for meetings in conference rooms etc.
Spill or Splash
Laundry services are not fully equipped to handle significant amount of contamination of lab coats with materials causing a hazard. In case of a spill of any hazardous material on the lab coat, remove the coat immediately. If skin or personal clothing is impacted, it is imperative to proceed to an emergency shower. Remove any contaminated clothing and shower. Generally, significantly contaminated coats and clothing will be considered a hazardous waste and should be managed based on the type of it.
Emergency Fire Involving Lab Coats
This action will entirely depend on the circumstances of fire. If the lab coat is on fire, remove it, leave the area, and call fire ambulance or activate the fire alarm. If both lab coat and clothing are on fire, shout for help then stop, drop and roll, or proceed to an emergency shower if its nearby to extinguish the fire. If the area is on fire then leave the area, close doors as you leave so that the fire does not spread and proceed to hallway safety shower, if its available.
A number of laundry services provide daily laundering of reusable lab coats. Do not refer a local dry cleaner who does not specializes in lab coats as they generally are not familiar with proper handling of the contaminated items.
Apart from providing lab coats and laundering them, the lab coat companies also provide solutions to some of the most common problems experienced while setting up or managing a lab coat system.