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4.5 Personal Hygiene

Good chemical hygiene practices include the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and good personal hygiene habits. Although PPE can offer a barrier of protection against chemicals and biological materials, good personal hygiene habits are essential to prevent chemical exposure, even when using PPE.Some general guidelines that should always be followed include:

  • Do not eat, drink, chew gum, or apply cosmetics in a lab or other area where chemicals are used.
  • Do not store food or drink in refrigerators that are used to store chemicals.
  • Do not ever try starting a siphon or pipette by mouth, doing so can result in ingestion of chemicals or inhalation of chemical vapors. Always use a pipette aid or suction bulb to start a siphon.
  • Always confine long hair, loose clothing, and jewelry.
  • Wear a lab coat when working with hazardous materials.
  • Shorts and sandals should not be worn in a lab when anyone is using corrosives or other chemicals that present a skin contact hazard or where the potential for physical hazards such as dropping pieces of equipment or broken glass are present. 
  • Remove laboratory coats, gloves, and other PPE immediately when chemical contamination occurs. Failure to do so could result in chemical exposure. 
  • After removing contaminated PPE, be sure to wash any affected skin areas with soap and water for at least 15 minutes.
  • Always remove lab coats, scrubs, gloves, and other PPE before leaving the lab. Do not wear lab coats, scrubs, or other PPE (especially gloves) in areas outside the lab, particularly not in areas where food and drink are served, or other public areas.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water after removing gloves and before leaving the lab or using items such as the phone, turning doorknobs, or using an elevator.
  • Always wash lab coats separately from personal clothing. Be sure to identify contaminated lab coats to commercial laundry facilities to help protect their workers by placing the contaminated lab coat in a separate plastic bag and clearly identifying the bag with a note or label indicating the lab coat is contaminated. 
  • Smoking is prohibited in all lab areas at Cornell.