Lab Safety Equipment & PPE

chemistry lab safety equipment

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. 

Glove Material Advantages Disadvantages 
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
Latex allergies
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
NeopreneGood for acids, bases, alcohols, fuels, peroxides, hydrocarbons, and phenols
Good for most hazardous chemicals
Do not use for halogenated and aromatic hydrocarbons 
Kevlar/LeatherGood for use when cutting materialsDo 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: 

  1. Dust, dirt, metal, or wood chips entering the eye.
  2. Chemical splashes from corrosive substances, hot liquids, strong acids / bases, solvents or other hazardous solutions
  3. 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 GlassesGogglesFace 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 ClothingProtective ApronLab Coat
Least protective
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 

Lab Safety Equipment Resources used:

Further Reading

Home Lab Safety
Briggs Rauscher Reaction
Scientific Method