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3.5 Protective Clothing

Protective clothing includes lab coats or other protective garments such as aprons, boots, shoe covers, Tyvek coveralls, and other items, that can be used to protect street clothing from biological or chemical contamination and splashes as well as providing additional body protection from some physical hazards.

EHS strongly recommends that Principal Investigators and laboratory supervisors discourage the wearing of shorts and skirts in laboratories using hazardous materials (chemical, biological, and radiological) by laboratory personnel, including visitors, working in or entering laboratories under their supervision.

The following characteristics should be taken into account when choosing protective clothing:  

  • The specific hazard(s) and the degree of protection required, including the potential exposure to chemicals, radiation, biological materials, and physical hazards such as heat.
  • The type of material the clothing is made of and its resistance to the specific hazard(s) that will be encountered.
  • The comfort of the protective clothing, which impacts the acceptance and ease of use by laboratory personnel.
  • Whether the clothing is disposable or reusable - which impacts cost, maintenance, and cleaning requirements.
  • How quickly the clothing can be removed during an emergency. It is recommended that lab coats use snaps or other easy to remove fasteners instead of buttons.
  • Laboratory personnel who are planning experiments that may require special protective clothing or have questions regarding the best protective clothing to choose for their experiment(s) should contact EHS at askEHS@cornell.edu for recommendations.