Personal protective equipment

When to use PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be considered the last line of defence in protecting yourself from hazards associated with experiments or processes.

All engineering and administrative controls should be in place first to prevent potentially harmful exposure to a chemical, biological agent, laser, etc. For example, can a less toxic chemical be used in the experiment?

Laboratory or workshop settings

Under most circumstances, PPE must be worn when in a laboratory or workshop.

COSHH/risk assessments should list all PPE needed to safely carry out an experiment. Regulations require that PPE is:

  • properly assessed before use to make sure it is fit for purpose
  • maintained and stored properly
  • provided with instructions on how to use it safely
  • used correctly

Protective clothing

  • Lab coats should be worn at all times in all areas where “wet” work is carried out, such as in chemistry labs or during sample preparation. They should be laundered frequently.
  • Safety glasses should be worn in all designated areas, such as where there are signs saying "Safety Glasses To Be Worn" or "Eye Protection To Be Worn" and whenever handling chemicals, glass vacuum or pressure apparatus.
  • Specialist research areas may require specialist PPE.
  • Disposable gloves give short-term protection against some chemicals but some solvents may attack them. Always wear the right gloves and check if you are unsure.

Wear PPE that fits

It is so important to use personal protective equipment (PPE) that fits and does not hamper someone's ability to work safely:

  • When operating equipment or handling chemicals, over-sized clothing becomes a safety hazard.
  • Wearing gloves that don’t fit makes it difficult to grip or work accurately.
  • Incorrectly fitted respiratory protective equipment (RPE) will not adequately protect you.

It is also important to remember that pregnancy and the menopause may both introduce additional difficulties with proper fit and comfort.

To make sure you are protected, always let your supervisor know if your PPE dies not fit or is uncomfortable.

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