Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Importance of PPE (personal protective equipment)

Every laboratory class, be it in elementary, high school or college should always have a protocol on the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The required PPE is usually composed of a laboratory gown, gloves, goggles, and hair cap. Additional accessories will largely depend upon the type of laboratory experiment to be performed.

The Universal Precaution is to "treat all specimens as potentially infectious." Reagents are also to be considered as toxins and treated as such, no matter what their classification is.

Laboratory reagents in general chemistry classes are usually preserved with sodium azide (NaN2), which is considered as a hazard to health causing symptoms like burns on skin and mucus membranes, respiratory problems, convulsions, and many more unhealthy side effects.

In clinical laboratory classes where students deal with human and animal specimens, proper orientation should be given, again, just before the performance of the procedure to remind the students of proper precautionary measures. This will ensure that students do not take the importance of a PPE for granted. The Universal Precaution should be prominently displayed in significant places where students get to read it more often.

What are the specific uses of each of the PPE?

1. Laboratory gown

This is a long sleeved, usually knee length coat which protects the student from direct exposure to harmful reagents and toxic specimens. In some cases, they are disposable but most students wash their gowns and autoclave them (if needed), which is less expensive than buying disposable gowns every laboratory performance.

2. Gloves

The hands are the most common routes to cause autoinfection that is why it should always be protected from contamination. For highly infectious agents a double or triple layer of gloves should be worn, or better the thickest and most durable brand should be utilized.

3. Goggles

These are used to protect the eyes from reagents/specimens, which may have the tendency to splatter and to produce destructive and corrosive fumes. Since the eyes are composed of thin mucus membranes they are delicate and are sensitive to foreign agents. Extra care should be done to protect these vital organs from damage.

4. Hair cap

The hair easily snags objects that may contaminate the student. It is also one source of mechanical hazards when it can get caught in revolving apparatus, or moving equipment. To avoid this, it should always be tied neatly in a bun and a hair cap neatly in place.

The primary consideration in a laboratory class should be the safety of the student. Every possible means of contamination and/or accident should be explained fully and avoided by making use of the required Personal Protective Equipment or PPE.

These safety measures should ensure that students would have a pleasant and rewarding learning experience in their laboratory class.

Photo by joguldi

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