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Training Programs & Policies Documents
Protective Equipment (PPE) includes safety glasses, goggles, face shields, gloves, lab coats, aprons, ear plugs, and respirators. Personal protective equipment is carefully selected to ensure that it is compatible with the chemicals and the process used.
For more information see the GT Laboratory and Personal Protective Equipment Policy.
Gloves, especially, should be chosen carefully: They must be resistant to the chemicals being used but also not put the wearer at risk because of loss of dexterity, risk of ergonomic injury (such as increased muscle strain from gloves that are too heavy or stiff for pipetting, handling small objects, etc.), or increased risk of being caught in rotating equipment from gloves that are too loose on the user’s hands.
While there is no single glove material that provides 100% protection from all chemicals, a good all purpose glove is the nitrile exam glove. Latex gloves, which have been the most commonly used glove in labs for many years, are not resistant to many of the most common solvents found in laboratories. Additionally, latex is a natural product and is also a powerful allergen which readily becomes airborne on glove powder each time a glove is removed. Most hospitals have banned the use of powdered latex gloves. Many institutions have banned latex gloves entirely.
Consult the (Material) Safety Data Sheet section on handing instructions before selecting gloves. Some, but not all (M)SDSs contain glove selection information. If you have questions about appropriate glove selection, contact EHS (404-894-4635). Be sure to include the name of the chemical and CAS number.
Thermal gloves for cryogenic applications are commercially available in a variety of lengths to be appropriate for the application. One should remember, however, that no cryo-protective glove is intended to provide protection against direct immersion in cryogenic liquids. Cryo-protective aprons are also available.
A number of glove styles are commercially available for hot work processes, most of them involving layers of leather, Kevlar, and insulating foam. Like any other piece of personal protective equipment, thermally protective gloves must be chosen based on appropriate length, level of protection required, and also the level of dexterity required to accomplish the task at hand. Gloves made of asbestos cloth are not allowed in Georgia Tech laboratories. If you find asbestos containing gloves or hot pads in your lab, please contact EHS (404-894-4635) to remove and dispose of them appropriately.
Respirators are a last resort when it comes to protecting people in the workplace. Under the Georgia Tech Respiratory protection program and the Federal Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910. 134) employers are required to determine that no other method of protecting the employee is feasible before resorting to the use of respirators.
A respirator is a device designed to protect the wearer from inhalation of harmful substances. When chosen correctly and used properly, respirators can protect the wearer from harmful gases, mists, vapors, fumes, and fine particulates. Respirators fall into the following two general classifications, according to mode of operation:
Using a respirator safely involves a lot more than just buying the respirator and strapping it on. Proper use of a respirator involves:
A Respiratory Hazard Evaluation to identify the hazard and determine whether it can be adequately controlled with engineering or administrative controls- without resorting to respirator use.
Medical Clearance to wear a respirator (having a medical professional determine if your heart and lungs are fit enough to handle the strain of wearing a respirator)
Fit Testing in the exact make, model, and size respirator that you will be wearing to work
Training in the hazards that make respirator use necessary as well as how to put on, use, and care for the respirator.
The use of respirators here at Georgia Tech is covered by the Georgia Tech Respiratory Protection Program. Outside of GT, respirators are covered by their own section of Federal law: 29 CFR 1910.134. This is because, while using a respirator properly can prevent chemical exposures, using respirators improperly can actually result in chemical exposures. This is due to what safety professionals call a false sense of security.
Here’s an example of how misuse of a respirator led to a chemical exposure that would not have happened if a respirator was not involved: In 2009 in a Georgia Tech lab, a small bottle of a toxic, anesthetic powder was accidentally knocked off a high shelf (about 5 feet off the ground). The bottle shattered and the powder was strewn about. Some of the powder became aerosolized by the force of the impact. It is also theorized a portion of the material may have sublimed in the bottle and was released as a gas when the bottle shattered. The person in charge of the lab ordered everyone out immediately. She then borrowed a respirator from a neighboring lab group, re-entered the lab, and proceeded to clean up the spill using a dust pan and paper towels. Before she could complete the clean up, she began to feel dizzy. Fortunately, she was able to exit the lab before passing out.
Had the researcher not gained a false sense of security by having the respirator, she would not have re-entered the lab and not suffered the exposure.
The bottom line is that you can’t KNOW that the respirator fits you unless you have been fit tested in it. Wearing a respirator that doesn’t fit or the wrong respirator IS worse than not wearing the respirator at all.
Summary of Rules Regarding Purchase and Use of Respirators
Facemasks are loose-fitting, disposable masks that cover the nose and mouth, such as surgical masks and nuisance dust masks. Facemasks are not approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for protection against any regulated hazardous material.
Facemasks help stop droplets from being spread by the person wearing them. They also keep splashes or sprays from reaching the mouth and nose of the person wearing the facemask and are therefore useful when cleaning up spills of infectious materials. They are not designed to protect you against breathing in gases, vapors, or very small particles. Facemasks should be used once and then disposed of.
N95’s are respirators which are approved by NIOSH for use against certain selected airborne particulates when used as part of a respiratory protection program which includes:
Notice the warning which describes how it may be used below:
There are nine different classifications of respirator particulate filters based on three different levels of resistance to oily aerosols and filter efficiency:
N = not resistant to oil
R = resistant (somewhat) to oil
P = oil proof (strongly resistant to oil)
95% efficient at stopping particles 0.3 microns (μm) in diameter
97% efficient at stopping particles 0.3 μm
99.97% efficient (but referred to as 100%) at stopping particles 0.3 μm in diameter
N-95s are approved by NIOSH only for protection against non-oily particulates. A number of N-95s are marketed as “NIOSH Approved” with wording to the effect that they are also for protection against nuisance levels of acids or solvents. These products are NIOSH approved- but only for protection against non-oily particulates. Their use against acid or solvent aerosols is only a manufacturer’s suggestion. N-95s are specifically not approved for use with nano-materials.
Anyone at Georgia Tech who feels he or she may be carrying an infections disease, is encouraged to wear a facemask for the purposes of protecting other people. (Please see the GT Policy on Dealing with H1N1 flu.) Use of facemasks to protect oneself from infections by others has generally been discounted as ineffective.
Use of N-95 respirators as part of a complete Respiratory Protection Program has been approved for protection of specific at risk groups (Public Safety, Student Health) for protection against respiratory infections. Use of N-95 respirators is also permitted by EHS for specific work groups including GT Maintenance, Housing, Landscaping and Building Services. Use of N-95s in a laboratory setting is not allowed without prior permission from GT EHS.
For more information about Respiratory Protection at Georgia Tech, please see the GT Respiratory Protection Program or contact EHS (404-894-4635).
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