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Appropriate Footwear in the Lab

Many labs struggle to determine appropriate footwear. 

by Lab Manager
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The Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) states, "Shoes should be comfortable, rubber soled, and cover the entire foot. Disposable, fluid-resistant shoe covers can be worn for jobs where splashing is expected. Because canvas shoes will absorb chemicals or infectious fluids, they are not recommended. Leather or a synthetic, fluid-impermeable material is suggested."

Terry Jo Gile, the Safety Lady®, a nationally recognized expert in the area of lab safety, writes: "Obviously, [these guidelines] eliminate sandals, clogs, and sling back shoes, but even the classic woman's pump does not cover the entire foot. Most laboratories I have visited require athletic shoes (jogging or running shoes) because they have a nonskid sole, are comfortable for the many hours of standing required in our profession, and they protect the whole foot. There has been some discussion about clogs at my institution because they are allowed in the operating rooms; however, we continue to follow the guidelines to provide the best protection for our employees against spilled chemicals and sharps, such as broken glass."

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Dan Scungio offers this advice for laboratories struggling to enforce appropriate footwear:

1. Check the dress code policy. Some laboratories have their own policies and others follow their corporate dress codes. If footwear is not addressed appropriately for the lab, it’s time to either change the lab policy (if one exists) or it may be time to create one.

2. Another place to look is in your Chemical Hygiene Plan. OSHA is not as specific about laboratory footwear, but they do require that employers ensure the use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including proper foot protection. The PPE section of your Chemical Hygiene Plan is a good place to set policy about laboratory footwear if it is not discussed well in the dress code.

3. The next important step in your approach will need to be education. You can’t over-communicate to staff about the appropriate types of lab footwear. Use posters with pictures, send out reminder e-mails, and discuss it in staff meetings.

Read the article Can Shoes Cause a Headache? to find 3 interesting challenges regarding the enforcement of appropriate footwear in the lab.