PPE for Biosafety
This page covers the specification and considerations required for PPE when working with biological agents.
For general information on Personal Protective Equipment and UCL’s responsibilities, please visit the main PPE page.
Requirment for PPE
PPE is the lowest form of control and should not be relied on as the sole control for protection. However, PPE can be used in combination with other controls such as engineering controls and procedures to work safely with biological agents. Where the risk assessment identifies that PPE is required, it should be available to employees and visitors. There are circumstances where PPE may be introduced prior to the introduction of a new engineering control, during non-routine tasks or during emergency situations.
As a minimum for deliberate use of Biological Agents a lab coat that fastens up to the neck (Howie style), gloves, protective eyewear and closed-toe shoes
In biological laboratories, dedicated side or back-fastening laboratory gowns or coats should be worn. They should:
- have close-fitting cuffs and are fastened using quick-release studs or velcro
- be made of a material which resists shrinking or damage if autoclaved
- be made of material sufficiently impermeable to protect clothing worn underneath from a spill
PPE must be removed on leaving the working area, kept apart from uncontaminated clothing and equipment, and decontaminated and cleaned or, if necessary, destroyed when contaminated by biological agents.
Users should be provided with instructions and information on the process to be followed. This should include procedures for the frequency of changing laboratory coats, e.g. weekly or when contaminated, and should be covered in the local code of practice. At CL3, all non-disposable coats should be autoclaved before laundering. If this is not possible, this must be risk assessed and an alternative procedure approved by the GMBSSC.
When handling biological agents gloves should be worn. Typically nitrile gloves are worn to create an additional protective barrier to skin on the hands. There may be other activities that require a different form or protection e.g. Gloves suitable for cold when handling liquid nitrogen.
Safety Specs / Goggles
Safety spectacles or goggles should be worn to protect the users eyes. Different styles will fit different shaped faces to maximise protection.
Additional protection may be required, as indicated in the risk assessment for the work. This can include:
- disposable coats/gowns
- over sleeves for work in MSCs
Always check that PPE is compatible with each other and not introducing a new hazard to the work.
UCL recommends that disposable visitor PPE is available as standard. The risk assessment for emergency procedures should consider whether disposable PPE needs to be stored as part of the spill kit.
Storage and Disposal
There should be facilities for changing into laboratory clothing adjacent to or just inside the containment area.
At CL2, this could include pegs located immediately inside the entrance.
At CL3, if space allows this could form part of the entrance lobby area. Storage facilities should be provided for both laboratory clothing and outer clothing removed before entering the laboratory. Space should be provided for a container to store used laboratory clothing before autoclaving.
Disposable protective equipment should also be autoclaved before disposal.
UCL recommends that, if possible, and particularly when the entrance to the CL3 is either through or near the entrance to a CL2 zone, that use of different colours are used for CL2 and CL3 to tell them apart.
Last updated: Monday, January 16, 2023