Personal Protective Equipment and Attire

Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to garments and devices worn to protect the human body from exposure to hazardous materials. Since no single article of PPE is protective against all hazardous materials or conditions, the proper selection, use, and maintenance of PPE is critical. Laboratory PPE should be selected based on anticipated hazards. EHS provides guidance through a Hazard Assessment Survey and guidance in the attached table (see Appendix D). PPE must meet or exceed the certifications and requirements established from applicable regulatory or advisory agencies, As important as PPE is for laboratory safety, it is the last line of defense. If a more effective method of exposure control is available, it should be used instead, e.g., handling volatile chemicals inside a chemical fume hood rather than wearing a respirator and working with them at the open bench. Consult EHS for any questions about PPE.

PPE for Basic Entry into Laboratories

  • Safety Glasses Are the Minimum Eye Protection Required and Must Be Worn at All Times in All Areas That Are Designated as Eye-Protection Required. This includes all laboratory spaces where hazardous materials are stored or used.
  • Closed-toe, slip-resistant footwear and clothing that covers the legs are required in all laboratories. Open-toe shoes are not permitted.
  • Confine or restrain long hanging hair and beards, loose clothing or scarves, neck ties, and any dangling jewelry.
  • Remove personal protective equipment and wash hands with soap and water before leaving the laboratory. Avoid the use of solvents for washing the skin. They remove the natural protective oils from the skin and can cause irritation and inflammation. In some cases, washing with a solvent may facilitate absorption of a toxic chemical.

Additional Ppe When Handling Hazardous Chemicals

This includes “Basic Entry’ PPE, plus,

  • Gloves where chemical contact may occur. Disposable nitrile exam gloves for incidental contact, and forearm length utility gloves worn over nitrile gloves for potential long- term exposure. Additional information on glove selection can be found later in this section.
  • Long sleeves or laboratory coat. Rubber Splash apron for handling amounts of corrosives larger than what can be handled on a benchtop.
  • Safety goggles, or face-shield for high-risk splash potential.

Eye Protection Requirements*

  • Eye Protection Areas include all active areas of laboratories and are designated by BLUE SIGNS at the entrance doors. YELLOW FLOOR TAPE may be used to designate specific areas where safety glasses must be worn all the time.
  • Minimum eye protection, for most laboratories, this means safety-rated glasses with side shields. Side shields offer some protection from objects that approach from the side but may not provide adequate protection from splashes. Safety eyewear and face protection must meet the ANSI Standard Z87.1, Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices. Safety glasses can be worn over prescription glasses.
  • Eye protection should be upgraded to safety goggles or by adding a face-shield when handling concentrated acids and bases or when handling larger quantities of chemicals or performing procedures with elevated risk of splashing or flying particles.
  • Regular glasses with corrective lenses are not a substitute for safety glasses, although they may be worn under safety glasses or goggles designed to cover prescription glasses, or under a face shield. Contact lenses are permitted in these areas if safety glasses are also worn.

Special Eye Protection is required when activities take place involving the following activities. Contact EHS for additional guidance on protective measures:

  • Larger quantities of corrosive or other chemically hazardous materials.
  • Hot molten metals.
  • Heat treatment.
  • Gas or electric arc welding.
  • Lasers or Infrared or microwave radiation

Body Protection

In addition to safety glasses, closed-toe shoes, and clothing that covers the legs, gloves and long sleeves should be used when handling hazardous chemicals. In higher risk activities, laboratory coats should be worn for additional protection:

  • High cotton content laboratory coats offer protection against common laboratory substances and are less susceptible to burning than many synthetics.
  • Disposable Tyvek or coated Tyvek laboratory coats offer better chemical resistance; they are recommended for certain activities with Particularly Hazardous Substances and can be discarded as hazardous waste upon completion of work.
  • Special flame resistant (“FR”) laboratory coats or smocks should be worn where sparks or open flames larger than Bunsen burner scale are present, and for all operations involving pyrophoric materials or water / air reactive substances.
  • Rubberized splash aprons may also be worn for handling larger quantities of corrosives, while fully encapsulating suits or coveralls may be required in some areas (e.g., cleanroom).

Hand Protection

Dermal contact is among the most common route for exposure to chemicals in the laboratory. As for PPE in general, no single glove provides protection against all chemicals or physical agents. General recommendations for glove selection are provided below; more detailed chemical- specific information is available by contacting EHS directly.

Style and Membrane

Typical Uses

Disposable Exam - Nitrile

Incidental chemical contact or to protect specimens from enzymes on skin. Excellent dexterity, comfortable to

wear, and inexpensive.


Contact or short duration immersion with most solvents, oils, and some corrosives


Contact or short duration immersion with most aliphatic,

halogenated solvents, aromatic hydrocarbons, mineral acids, ketones (best material for acetone – see note 1)


Contact or short duration immersion with oils, most acids

and bases, alcohols


Good for biohazard protection, inorganic chemicals. Highly dexterous. Avoid: oils, grease, hydrocarbon derivatives.

Difficult to detect holes. Can trigger latex allergies.

PVA (Poly- vinyl-alcohol)

Contact or short duration immersion with aromatics and

chlorinated solvents


Contact or extended duration immersion with nearly all chemicals. Very poor dexterity – may need to be worn

under other gloves.


Handling sharp objects

Heavy Leather or Insulated

Extremely hot or cold objects, cryogen handling, sparks

Note (1) – for handling acetone, butyl gloves are best, latex is acceptable. Nitrile should be avoided.

Single Use/Specialty Gloves-For incidental contact with low hazard substances or to protect specimens from possible skin / hand contamination, single use / specialty gloves are commonly worn in the laboratory. Exam gloves are thin, disposable gloves meant for single use.

  • They should not be worn where direct chemical contact or immersion is expected. Double gloving can provide some additional protection, but it is generally preferable to wear a pair of heavier, longer “utility grade” gloves over exam gloves for direct contact or immersion.
  • Utility grade gloves are available in a range of thicknesses and membranes, with nitrile, neoprene, and butyl rubber among the more useful, along with Teflon gloves.
  • Other specialty gloves include Kevlar puncture- and cut-resistant gloves, Nomex and other non-combustible fibers for high heat and open flame work, and insulated gloves for work with hot objects and cryogenic liquids.

Respiratory Protection

Respirators are generally not needed in laboratories due to the small quantities of chemicals handled and the use of chemical fume hoods and other local exhaust ventilation devices. Since improper selection or use of a respirator can place individuals at significant health risk, their use is regulated by OSHA and UVA.

  • Respirators are not all the same nor do they provide universal protection against all inhalation hazards. Where needed, only NIOSH-certified respirators may be used.
  • Individuals considering the use of a respirator must contact EHS to review the intended application and assist in the proper selection, training, fit testing, and maintenance of respirators.
  • Those individuals will also need medical clearance in advance from their UVA healthcare provider.

PPE Selection Guidelines

Laboratory PPE should be selected based on anticipated hazards.

*Approximately 60% of workers who suffered eye injuries were not wearing eye protection.

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