What to Wear and Why in the Lab

November 3, 2014

A researcher dropped a bottle of hydriodic acid on the floor. His footwear was socks and sandals.

A researcher splashed a few drops of phenol/chloroform from a micro-centrifuge tube on her chest when the lid popped open. She had no lab coat on.

A bit of formalin squirted into a researcher’s eye while she observed another perform a procedure. She was not wearing safety glasses.

These things happened at MIT. Fortunately, these individuals had minimal injuries because they followed good emergency response procedures, e.g. used the emergency eyewash or a shower, and went to MIT Medical for care.

The standard requirements for lab attire and personal protective equipment are based on many years of experience with incidents such as those described above. Things don’t happen all the time, but when they do, it helps to have the basic protection to prevent exposure or injury. Depending on what you are doing, you may need more PPE like a plastic apron, a faceshield, or goggles, or better PPE like a fire resistant lab coat, or thicker chemical resistant gloves of a special material. Assess what hazardous materials you are using and how you are using them to determine if the basic PPE is adequate, and to determine what else you might need for your safety.

Some labs have PPE assessments for common procedures. Review those. For a new experiment, the lab specific SOP form (http://ehs.mit.edu/site/content/chemical-hygiene-program) is a good tool for making a comprehensive assessment, and for sharing the information with others.

The EHS Office is available to assist you with selecting appropriate PPE for your work. We have a web page with details about PPE options and information to help you make a PPE assessment at: http://ehs.mit.edu/site/content/personal-protective-equipment-ppe.

For more details on labcoats, visit:

Contact EHS for assistance, when needed, so that we can work with you to prevent injury or exposure.

For details on some incidents at MIT, visit: http://ehs.mit.edu/site/incident_report

Standard Requirements:

  • Basic lab attire is long pants or equivalent to cover the legs, clothing that covers the arms, and closed toe shoes that cover the foot.
  • Basic lab personal protective equipment (PPE) is a labcoat, fully buttoned, disposable gloves and safety glasses for handling hazardous chemicals, radioiso- topes and biological materials at BL2 or greater. Working near or observing others handling hazardous materials may warrant the same protection. Some labs at MIT require eye protection at all times when in the lab.