To reduce the exposure to potentially infectious materials, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be properly used. When engineering controls and work practices do not supply enough protection, PPE is to be considered as the “last line of defence”. Here, necessary biosafety PPE is summarized.
Working with infectious materials requires wearing gloves. Due to the fact that users may be allergic to latex gloves, nitrile or vinyl gloves should be used instead of latex. Those who prefer latex should use only powder-free gloves.
Corrosives and organic solvents may penetrate gloves or reduce their protective ability; so different types of gloves should be stockpiled in the laboratory.
When using any glove:
- Check for visible tears and other defects.
- Remove rings and other jewellery if they are able to rip gloves.
- Change gloves regularly or as soon as possible if they are obviously contaminated.
- Wash hands immediately after removing gloves.
- Remove gloves when leaving the laboratory; even if they are "clean".
Following should be done for providing eye protection.
- Safety glasses with side shields are necessary which provide minimum level of protection for handling any hazardous material.
- When doing activities with a small splash hazard or working with organisms transmissible through mucous membrane exposure, goggles are necessary, which fit firmly all around the eyes.
- Face shields should be used with goggles when there is an elevated risk of large quantity splashes or if the user is working with highly toxic, corrosive, or infectious materials. Face shields must also be used for protection against UV radiation (be sure that the face shield carries the manufacturer’s validation of UV protection) and when handling liquid nitrogen.
Lab coats that are resistant to liquid penetration for activities with splash potential should be worn or a plasticized apron should be utilized. Lab coats must not be worn outside of the laboratory if they were used during work with infectious materials. For high risk activities, a rear-fastening lab coat should be worn. Provision, laundering, and replacement of lab coats is the responsibility of the LS; lab users should not wash contaminated lab coats at their home.
Masks will help prevent ingestion and protect the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth. They do not provide sufficient protection against infection from organisms transmitted by inhalation, e.g., M. tuberculosis.
Respirators are used when there is the risk of airborne exposure to organisms transmitted by inhalation and containment devices are unavailable or unable to provide sufficient protection. Respirator use must be preceded by medical clearance and training.