Laboratory PPE: The 10 Essentials You Need

Laboratory PPE: The 10 Essentials You Need

Personal Protective Equipment, or laboratory PPE, is a crucial component of laboratory safety. It serves as the last line of defence against various hazards present in the laboratory environment. From chemical risks to biological hazards, and physical dangers to radioactive materials, laboratories are filled with potential safety concerns that must be taken care of to ensure the well-being of any lab personnel. So, having the right laboratory PPE is non-negotiable. Let’s go over the ten must-have safety equipment.

Protecting the Body

Lab Coats

Not only do lab coats make you look smart and sharp, but they are also essential for shielding against chemical splashes and spills. They cover personal clothing and exposed skin, reducing direct contact with hazardous materials. Depending on the risk level, lab coats can be made from various materials like cotton, polyester, or flame-resistant fabrics.


Gowns in laboratory settings are designed to offer a protective barrier against spills, splashes, and sometimes particulate matter, depending on the material. They are particularly useful in environments where there is a risk of exposure to infectious agents or when sterility is a priority. Gowns can be disposable or reusable, with the choice depending on the specific requirements of the lab work being conducted.


Depending on the type of experiments, this laboratory PPE is crucial for providing extra protection when working with highly corrosive or toxic substances. Lab aprons are made from materials like rubber, PVC, or neoprene, aprons add an extra layer over the lab coat when there’s a high risk of splashing.

Shielding the Eyes and Face

Safety Goggles

To protect the eyes from chemical splashes, flying debris, and infectious materials with safety googles. They’re crucial when working with liquid chemicals, during grinding or cutting operations, and when handling powders that could irritate the eyes.

Face Shields

They offer added protection over safety goggles for high-risk procedures. They shield not just the eyes but also the face from harmful exposure. They’re particularly important during procedures that generate aerosols or when handling high-risk pathogens.

Safeguarding the Hands


Gloves come in various types designed for different chemicals and procedures. Nitrile gloves are preferred for their puncture resistance and broad chemical protection. Latex gloves are suitable for biological work, while gloves made from specialised materials like neoprene, Kevlar, or cryogenic gloves are used when handling extremely hazardous materials or temperatures.

Ensuring Respiratory Safety

Surgical Masks

Over the past four years, we have become increasingly familiar with masks. These fundamental respiratory protectors are designed to shield us from potential exposure to biological aerosols. These laboratory PPE are frequently used in microbiology laboratories when handling bacterial cultures. 

Importantly, surgical masks serve a dual purpose - not only do they protect the wearer from contaminants, but they also prevent the spread of any contaminants that the wearer may be carrying. This makes them a crucial tool in controlling the spread of diseases, protecting both the individual and the community at large.


Respirators like N95 or half/full-face respirators offer higher protection against airborne particles, gasses, and vapors. They’re essential in environments where air quality can’t be controlled through ventilation alone.

Preserving Hearing

Earplugs and Earmuffs

These are crucial in environments with high noise levels from equipment like centrifuges, vacuum pumps, or ultrasonic cleaners. They reduce noise exposure to safe levels, with earplugs being suitable for moderate noise and earmuffs offering protection against higher sound levels.

wearing laboratory ppe protects you

Training and Hazard Assessment

Training Programs

Comprehensive training ensures that lab personnel are aware of potential hazards and know how to correctly use and maintain PPE. Training covers the selection of appropriate PPE for different tasks, correct donning and doffing procedures, and understanding the limitations of each type of PPE.

Hazard Assessment Tools

Regular hazard assessments help identify potential risks in the lab and determine the necessary PPE. Tools such as checklists, risk assessment matrices, and software applications can help in systematically evaluating processes, substances handled, and the physical layout to recommend the appropriate PPE and safety measures.

Which Laboratory PPE Is Best For Public Use?

This is a complicated question and it all boils down to the environment you’re in, working conditions, and other factors. Here are some key considerations:


In crowded public spaces like supermarkets or public transport, wearing a face mask is generally recommended to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets. If you’re in a less crowded outdoor setting where social distancing can be maintained, a face mask might not be necessary unless mandated by local guidelines.

Working Conditions

For professions that involve close contact with others or exposure to higher risks (like healthcare workers, public transport employees, or customer-facing roles), more specialised PPE such as N95 respirators, face shields, or even gowns might be necessary. These provide a higher level of protection compared to standard face masks.

Risk Level

In high-risk areas with known cases of infectious diseases, more stringent PPE use is necessary. This might include wearing gloves and eye protection in addition to a face mask or respirator. Regular hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face are also crucial.

Personal Health

Individuals with underlying health conditions or those at a higher risk (such as the elderly or immunocompromised individuals) should consider using higher-grade PPE like N95 respirators and eye protection, even in lower-risk settings. They should also be particularly diligent about hand hygiene and social distancing.

Local Guidelines

Always adhere to the guidelines provided by local health authorities and organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO). These guidelines are based on current scientific understanding and are designed to keep you safe. They might include specific recommendations for PPE use in different settings and situations.

Which Of These Personal Protective Equipment Can Be Reused?

This is one of the common questions being asked during the pandemic. Some PPEs are disposable, one-time-use equipment for various sanitary reasons. Washing or sharing them with others is not recommended. 

However, some PPEs can be used multiple times provided proper maintenance has been done. Based on our previous list, let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Lab Coats: Lab coats are typically designed for multiple uses. They should be regularly cleaned and inspected for any damage. If a lab coat becomes contaminated, it should be properly cleaned or disposed of according to the lab’s safety protocols.
  • Gowns: Some gowns are designed to be reusable. These laboratory PPEs are typically made of durable materials that can withstand repeated washing and sterilisation. However, if a gown becomes heavily contaminated, it may need to be disposed of.
  • Aprons: Aprons made from materials like rubber, PVC, or neoprene can often be cleaned and reused. However, they should be inspected for damage or wear before each use.
  • Safety Goggles: Safety goggles are typically designed to be reusable. They should be cleaned and disinfected after each use, especially if they have been exposed to hazardous materials.
  • Face Shields: Face shields can often be reused if they are properly cleaned and disinfected after each use. However, they should be inspected for any damage or scratches that could impair vision.
  • Respirators: Some respirators, such as half or full-face respirators, are designed to be reusable. These respirators often have replaceable filters. Disposable respirators, like N95 masks, should not be reused.
  • Earplugs and Earmuffs: Earplugs and earmuffs are typically reusable and should be cleaned regularly. Disposable earplugs should not be reused.

Laboratory PPEs that should only be used once are surgical face masks, N95 masks, and gloves. Although, studies have been conducted in 2021 (during peak COVID-19) regarding N95’s reusability. 

According to a published study by Cambrige University Press, many doctors have found that sanitize N95 masks using vaporized hydrogen peroxide. Their filtration efficiency remained above 99% after three cycles, but their efficiency went under 95% on the fifth. This interesting study shows that in times of need, scientists would find a way to make do with what they have, especially during times when resources are limited. 

Conclusion on Essential Laboratory PPE

In summary, wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the lab is paramount for everyone’s safety. Each type of PPE has a special job, like protecting your body from harmful chemicals, keeping your eyes safe, taking care of your hands, making sure you breathe safely, and protecting your ears from loud noises.

Some laboratory PPE can be used again after cleaning, while others are for one-time use only. No matter what, you should always check your PPE for any damage before using it.

Remember, PPE is your last shield against dangers in the lab. But it doesn’t replace other safety steps like good lab habits, using safety tools, and having good ventilation. Learning how to use and take care of your PPE properly is also key.

By knowing what each type of PPE does and using them right, people working in labs can lower their risk of getting hurt or coming into contact with dangerous materials. This makes the lab a safer place to work. Always remember, safety first in any lab setting. Stay safe!

Related aticles
Contact us for any queries

+61 410 185 743
Mon - Fri: 8:00 - 18:00