Basic Chemistry Personal Protective Equipment
Safety is always top priority when working with chemicals – so let’s discuss lab safety equipment. It is crucial to analyze all dangers and risks prior to beginning any lab work. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used to mitigate safety hazards. In general labs, there are three types of PPE: hand, eye, and body protection.
1. Hand Protection – Gloves
In labs, gloves are the most commonly used hand protection. In the chemistry world, there are multiple different kinds of gloves that are used for different reasons. These reasons include, but are not limited to, the chemicals you will be coming in contact with, if you will be handling sharp objects, and allergies to materials that the gloves may be made out of. As a general rule, the thicker the glove material, the greater the chemical resistance but thick gloves may not keep the chemicals from coming in contact with your skin if you choose the incorrect kind. Below is a guide for choosing the gloves that should be used depending on the experiment.
|Latex (Natural Rubber)||Good to use for biological and water-based material||Do not use for organic solvents|
Little chemical protection
Hard to detect puncture holes
|Nitrile||Good for solvents, oils, greases, and limited exposure to acids and bases|
Can easily see tears and breaks
|Do not use for long exposure |
Poor against nitric acid
|Neoprene||Good for acids, bases, alcohols, fuels, peroxides, hydrocarbons, and phenols|
Good for most hazardous chemicals
|Do not use for halogenated and aromatic hydrocarbons|
|Kevlar/Leather||Good for use when cutting materials||Do not use with chemicals|
2. Eye Protection – Safety Glasses, Goggles, Face Shield
Moreover, safety glasses are used for many different activities, not just chemistry. Thus, it is important to remember what experiment you will be performing when choosing what kind of glasses to use. Some examples of potential eye or face injuries include:
- Dust, dirt, metal, or wood chips entering the eye.
- Chemical splashes from corrosive substances, hot liquids, strong acids / bases, solvents or other hazardous solutions
- Objects swinging into the eye or face, such as tree limbs, chains, tools, or ropes
When determining the type of eye protection to wear, consider the location, surroundings, type of chemicals, and the reactivity of the experiment. Always read chemical hazard labels before using chemicals in case there are risks that were unforeseen. Below is a guide for choosing what eye protection is appropriate for the experiment.
|Safety Glasses||Goggles||Face Shield|
|Use when there is a low risk of particles in the air or splashing|
Use when the you feel you need the least protection
|Use when particles could be in the air|
Use when there is a risk of splashing
|Use when working with volatile chemicals |
Use when you feel you need the most protection
3. Body Protection – Lab Coat, Protective Apron, Layered Clothing
Body protection is something that is often overlooked in at labs and also for home chemistry. Although wearing regular clothes may be okay, it is important to think about before starting any experiment. Body protection like a lab coat or apron will cover the most space on a body compared to the other protective measures talked about earlier. Below is a guide for how to choose the best option.
|Layered Clothing||Protective Apron||Lab Coat|
Use when working with non-dangerous household chemicals
|Offers some localized protection for the front of your body|
Use when there is a risk of splashing hot liquids
Not suitable alone for chemical experiments
|Offers the greatest protection|
Use when carrying out chemical experiments