Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the safety clothing and devices worn to ensure safety to various occupational risks. It can be caused by exposure to chemicals, mechanicals, radiological or electrical hazards. Medical personnel wears them to be safe from exposure to transmissible diseases and prevent injuries. Doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other front-line health personnel wear PPE in their workstations. The type of the PPE may differ on the nature of the work and the levels of the hazards. Examples of personal protective equipment in the laboratory include laboratory coats, safety glasses or splash goggles, gloves, etc.
Before using personal protective equipment, one needs to be fully aware of the laboratory protocols. The laboratory personnel should avoid short dress, loose clothing, ornaments, open hair, and open-toe shoes. The appropriate protocol needs to be followed while donning (putting on) PPE and doffing (taking off) PPE.
Types of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment is of various types. It includes protecting the body, face, eyes, hearing, and respiratory protection.
It protects the laboratory personnel’s clothes and skin from any stains of the dyes, blood, or any other dust, dirt, or laboratory contaminants. A lab coat is also a semi-fire retardant. 35 % polyester and 65% cotton are used in the ideal lab coat. Cotton has the property of semi-fire retardant, whereas polyester possesses resistance to chemicals. When the lab coat is kept in the laboratory only, it minimizes the risk of cross-contamination to the other surface areas and minimizes its hazard. Chemical resistant sleeves and aprons can be used based on the hazard and potential risk assessment.
An apron is used when any additional hazard-specific splash protection is required. It is used in the process of removing liquid nitrogen. An apron is used when a large volume of the fluid sample is to be handled or when handling chemicals. In the laboratory, an apron is also used during the autopsy.
The gown provides coverage like that of laboratory coats; solid-front and has back-closing garments with elasticized cuffs. One can wear it on top of the scrub or top of their clothing. Both the disposable gown and wraparound gowns are available.
Coverall is worn on the top of personal clothing or top of scrubs. They are of both disposable and reusable types. During its removal, it needs to be removed safely. Coveralls with a zip flap should be considered for protection against splashes.
Footwear should cover the top of the foot, and it should be well-fitting and comfortable. It must be of a design that prevents the slips and the trips and helps prevent injury from falling objects.
Eye and Face protection
Safety glasses and goggles
Safety glasses are one of the minimum requirements for working in labs around hazardous material. It protects from any flying objects too. It does not protect against the chemical splash. Since the regular safety glass cannot protect against UV rays and lasers, special safety glasses are used.
If there is a chance of the splash hazards, personnel can use face shields in addition to the safety glasses goggles. Possible splash hazards may be during working with a large volume of the liquid, dispensing cryogenics, preparing the corrosive bath, or working with the molten metals.
A surgical mask is a loose-fitting mask. It is resistant to the fluid and protects from the large droplets, splashes, or sprays of body fluids. It protects from the respiratory emissions of the persons. However, leakage can occur around the edge. A surgical mask is not considered respiratory protection because tiny particles can enter through it.
Gloves protect the laboratory personnel’s hands from the risk of exposure to the various contagious laboratory samples. It minimizes the hazards of chemicals. The most commonly used material for the gloves is nitrile, latex, and vinyl. For the laboratory, the minimum protective glove is the disposable nitrile gloves. Such gloves need to be removed immediately when in contact with the chemicals. Disposable gloves should not be reused and should not be disinfected because the exposure of such gloves to the disinfectants and the prolonged use may reduce their protection to the user. Before wearing the glove, it should be checked if it’s torn or intact.
Reusable gloves need to be washed thoroughly and air-dried before using them. The selection of gloves depends upon the purpose and nature of the work. For example, insulated gloves can prevent excess heat, and cut-resistant gloves need to be used to avoid cuts and abrasions.
If the laboratory personnel is exposed to excessive noise or ultrasound (high frequency), it may cause hearing loss. Ear plugs and ear muffs help in protecting the ear.
It reduce the amount of noise that reaches the ear via the route of the ear canal. When placed correctly, it expands to fill the ear canal, and the wall in it gets sealed. Both the disposable and the reusable earplugs are available.
Ear muffs enclose the whole external ears and fit against the head. Its inside part is lined with acoustic foam. Use of the ear muffs with the ear plugs prevents the loud noise.
When there is an inhalation hazard of the harmful gases or which can cause irritants, respiratory protection is required.
N95 is the tight-fitting respirator that prevents exposure to small particle aerosols and large droplets. It filters about 95% of airborne particles.
How to put on Personal Protective Equipment (donning PPE)?
- While handling the suspected, probable, or confirmed case of viral hemorrhagic fever health and other potential hazards always put on the required PPE. Another trained member of the team should supervise the dressing and the undressing of the PPE.
- First of all, gather the necessary items of PPE necessary items.
- Then, put on the scrubs.
- Then, wear the rubber boots. If the rubber boot is not available, wear the closed, punctured, and fluid resistant shoes and put on overshoes.
- After that wear the impermeable gown over the scrubs. Put on the waterproof apron if an impermeable gown is not available.
- For face protection, firstly put on the medical mask. Then, put on goggles or a face shield.
- After that, put on the head cover if it is available.
- Perform hand hygiene before putting on the gloves.
While wearing PPE, avoid the habit of touching or adjusting PPE. If the gloves get torn or damaged, remove them. Between the patients, change the gloves. Perform hand hygiene before putting on the new gloves.
How to take off Personal Protective Equipment (doffing PPE)?
There are various methods for the safe removal of personal protective equipment. Safe practices ensure that the cloth, skin, or mucous membranes don’t get contaminated. Except for the respirator, remove all the PPE before exiting the patient’s room. Remove the respirator after leaving the patient’s room and closing its door.
The outside of the PPE items is contaminated. If, during its removal, hands get contaminated, then wash the hands or use the alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Firstly, peel one glove by grasping it with the other gloved hand starting from the side of the palm.
- Then, hold the glove with the gloved hand, slide the ungloved hand’s fingers under the remaining glove at its wrist, and peel off the second glove over the first glove.
- Finally, discard in the waste container.
Goggles or face shield
- Remove goggles or face shields from the back by lifting the headband or ear pieces.
- Discard it in the waste container.
- If it is made of a reusable item, place it in the designated receptacle for reprocessing.
- Unfasten the gown ties, ensuring that sleeves don’t contact your body when reaching for the ties.
- Pull gown away from neck and shoulders, touching inside of gown only.
- Turn the gown inside out.
- Fold or roll into a bundle and discard it in a waste container.
Mask or respirator
- Grasp the bottom ties or elastics of the mask/respirators, then the ones at the top, and remove them without touching the front.
- Discard it in a waste container.
After removing all PPE, wash hands or use the alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Hand hygiene is important if the hand gets contaminated during the removal process.
- Moran, J. B. (1987). Personal protective equipment. In Applied Industrial Hygiene (Vol. 2, Issue 3). https://doi.org/10.1080/08828032.1987.10389812
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Sequence for Putting on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1–2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/A_FS_HCP_COVID19_PPE.pdf
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the Laboratory Westlab. Westlab.com. (2022). Retrieved 7 June 2022, from https://www.westlab.com/blog/2018/03/20/personal-protective-equipment-ppe-in-the-laboratory.