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Purchasing Guide

Illustration of a face mask
Credit: Lab Manager

Purchasing Guide: Safety Equipment and PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety equipment are crucial for protecting workers from everyday hazards

by Lab Manager
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Personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety equipment can be found in any lab, as they are crucial for protecting workers from everyday hazards. Masks, face shields, safety goggles, lab coats, and gloves all limit your staff’s exposure to harmful agents. Other equipment such as chemical storage cabinets prevent fires or chemical reactions, while safety showers and eyewash stations are critical to mitigate harm to workers if an emergency occurs. For a list of safety equipment and PPE manufacturers, see our online directory:

8 Questions to Ask When Purchasing PPE:

  1. What PPE is required for the work you do in your lab?
  2. What PPE do you require to comply with regulations?
  3. How often will the equipment be serviced, inspected, or replaced?
  4. What are any specifics I must factor in (e.g., glove material types for specific chemicals like DCM)?
  5. Do you have PPE that properly fits each member in your lab?
  6. How will you keep track of and manage your PPE inventory? Do you have a means of tracking expired PPE and ordering of replacement products?
  7. What items expire (e.g., calcium gluconate for HF exposure treatment)?
  8. What styles and sizes do we need to meet everyone’s diverse needs?

Proper OSHA Documentation

Document your OSHA PPE hazard assessment certifications. OSHA requires written certification (under 1910.132(d)(2)) of hazard assessments. It’s an often overlooked or unknown requirement resulting in violations. Employers must do job hazard/safety assessments (known as JHAs/JSAs). They’re easy to do by focusing on jobs, tasks, hazards, controls, and PPE. Use a table or spreadsheet to make it easier to create and read. You should still follow the hierarchy of hazard controls where PPE is last by including other forms like engineering and work practices. This is a simple requirement that demonstrates that due diligence has been done.

Selecting Proper PPE

Select PPE for specific purposes. PPE should reflect the wearer’s needs. There are many types, models, sizes, varieties, and options. Base PPE selections on the people, not just the hazards—it’s more likely to be a success. Consider risk on a range, not safety alone, which is binary (i.e., safe/unsafe). Get specific about the hazard(s). For example, glove material for chemical permeability; flying particles, splash, or splatter for the eyes; and different face shields. Do they allow the wearer to use them comfortably and effectively? If someone can’t or won’t use it properly, it won’t accomplish anything.