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Protective Gear

Personal protection equipment in the teaching laboratory includes safety goggles, gloves, lab coats, and aprons. In industrial situations, PPE might include full suits of protective clothing, including boots and a face/head shield. Respirators are used when handling very toxic chemicals. If you are required to use a respirator, you will need to be trained in its use. HMIG chemical labels specify the type of PPE required when handling a particular chemical.

Goggles and Eye Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires you to wear chemical spill protection safety goggles whenever anyone in the lab room is handling chemicals. They must be flexible-fitting, hood-ventilation goggles, according to ANSI chemical splash standards. The CU bookstore sells this type of goggles. Past students rated several types of goggles and found the UVEX goggle (Stealth or Classic) as the most comfortable. Sometimes you can find these goggles in a local retail store or in the Colorado Bookstore on the Hill. You can also try the UVEX web site.

If you forget your goggles, there are plenty of pairs in the labs in the drawers by the TA's desk. You are never charged a rental fee if you forget your goggles.

Do not wear contacts in the labs, even under goggles. Soft lenses can be affected by solvent vapors, possibly even fusing to the eye. Contacts also make it difficult to rinse your eyes quickly and properly if you spill something in them.

If you get any chemical at all in your eye, immediately begin rinsing it in the eyewash, holding your eye open. Your TA or another student will come to your assistance and help you ascertain the seriousness of the exposure. There is an eyewash in each room, at the end of one of the student benches. Note the hand-held pull-out safety wash just above the eyewash.



Gloves are highly recommended when handling chemicals and glassware. The most protective gloves are the heavier-style Playtex non-disposable gloves. These come in many colors and may be purchased at the bookstore or local retail stores (including supermarkets). Thick gloves work the best to protect your hands from spills, cuts, and burns; however, they can make it difficult to handle small pieces of glassware. Students complain that thick gloves lead to glassware breakage. Another thick style of glove, the market style, is less protective but equally clumsy.

Some students wear thin Latex gloves, purchased at the bookstore or elsewhere. These gloves do not protect you from solvents or corrosives; these chemicals actually degrade the glove on contact. Latex gloves do provide a small level of protection from solid chemicals and solvents, and they make it easier to handle glassware without breaking it. But if you are handling solvents, these gloves give you a false sense of security, as the solvent could go right through the glove.

Nitrile gloves are a relatively new type of glove that combines the best attributes of both thick Playtex and thin Latex gloves. These gloves are thin enough to allow easy glassware manipulation, while they are resistant to solvents such as methylene chloride for up to 4 minutes. These gloves are available for free in all the organic teaching labs.

Glove types


The clothing you wear to lab is part of your personal protection equipment. You must be covered from the top of the shoulders to below the knees. A bare midriff is right at the edge of the lab bench where it can come into contact with spilled chemicals. Your feet must be covered - sandals are not appropriate in the chemical lab. Very loose fitting garments, such as ties and wide sleeves, as well as long unrestricted hair pose a hazard and must be restrained. The best way to ensure you meet the lab dress code is by keeping a spare set of pants, shoes and shirt in your lab drawer. If you come to lab in unsafe clothing and do not have anything to change into, you can borrow some loaner clothes from the Lab Coordinator.

Lab coats and aprons are not required, although you can wear them if you like.