Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense against laboratory hazards. PPE should be considered only after Engineering and Administrative Controls have been examined.  In order for PPE to protect the user, it must be stored, maintained, and worn properly.  Since PPE can fail, those who wear it should be trained to understand its limitations.  


PPE does not eliminate the hazard.  The need for PPE is dependent upon a risk assessment of the work and the materials in use. For example, there is not one type of glove that can protect against all contact hazards. A risk assessment should be conducted with Safety Staff before appropriate PPE is chosen.

Types of PPE:

Eye and Face Protection
Hand Protection
Head Protection
Hearing Conservation
Skin Protection/Proper Clothing

Basic PPE Requirements

Laboratory Supervisors are responsible for determining the appropriate PPE for each lab activity. Visitors may also be required to follow these practices when entering a UVM lab. 
  • Closed-toed shoes are required in every lab
  • Wear lab-appropriate clothing (no shorts, mini skirts, belly shirts, or tank tops)
  • Gloves are required when working with substances that are potentially hazardous, i.e. biological agents, chemicals, radioactive materials, etc.
  • Lab coats and gloves are required in all BSL-2 labs
  • Tie back long hair, remove dangly jewelry, and do not wear loose clothing, especially when working with open flames or moving parts.
*No PPE is to be worn in common areas. Make sure to remove all PPE before traveling from a lab into hallways, breakrooms, elevators, or bathrooms.*
Additional PPE may be required based on the hazards. The presence of certain physical hazards or other specific elements may also dictate type and style of PPE. Be sure not to create additional hazards with your PPE choice.  For example, short sleeves may be preferable if there is a possibility that long sleeves could get caught in a mechanical operation.
A risk assessment should be conducted with Safety staff before appropriate PPE is chosen.
One tool available to help with PPE choices for chemical use is the Chemical Use and Planning Form.
The OSHA publication on PPE can be found here.

PPE Limitations

All personal protective equipment has limitations. This is why PPE is referred to as the last line of defense and why administrative and engineering controls are utilized before determining PPE use. Specific hazards require specific PPE selection. No one material protects against every hazard.

PPE limitations:
  • May restrict movement, dexterity, field of vision, communication, or comfort.
  • Misunderstood or misused PPE may provide a false sense of security.
  • Must be maintained properly to be effective.
  • When contaminated, PPE must be changed.


The value of keeping yourself protected greatly outweighs any PPE limitations.

Safety personnel can assist in determining appropriate PPE.


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