Shorts and Sandals are Appropriate for the Beach, but not the Lab
It is summer and this is the time of the year where laboratory personnel want to begin wearing shorts and sandals in the laboratories. Adequate protective clothing must be worn whenever working in the laboratory. “Adequate” means, at a minimum, clothing that falls below the knees and shoes that fully cover the feet. These, of course, are in addition to other personal protective equipment such as a lab coat, gloves and protective eye wear.
Why are we even concerned with personnel present in laboratories improperly dressed? The first reason is common sense. Due to gravity, anything with mass will fall to the lowest point. Where is the lowest point of your body if you are standing upright? Your feet. Anything that falls from the counter will either hit or splash onto your feet and legs. If you are wearing shorts, short dresses or sandals then your exposed feet and legs will likely be contaminated.
The second reason is due to laboratory safety policies, best practices and regulations. The following are sources that prohibit shorts and sandals in laboratories for your reference:
1. The IUPUI Chemical Hygiene Plan prohibits shorts, sandals, perforated shoes, cloth sneakers and bare feet in laboratories.
2. The OSHA Laboratory Standard 29CFR 1910.1450 states “Protective laboratory practices and equipment are available and in common use to minimize the potential for employee exposure to hazardous chemicals.” Protective laboratory practices and equipment means those laboratory procedures, practices and equipment accepted by laboratory health and safety experts as effective or that the employer can show to be effective, in minimizing the potential for employee exposure to hazardous chemicals such as requiring long pants and closed-toe shoes.
3. The OSHA Laboratory Standard 29CFR 1910.1450 Appendix A states: “Wear closed-toe shoes and long pants or other clothing that covers the legs when in a laboratory where hazardous chemicals are used.”
4. Prudent Practices in the Laboratory - Handling and Disposing of Chemicals. National Research Council, 2011 states: “Clothing that leaves large areas of skin exposed is inappropriate in laboratories where hazardous
chemicals are used. The worker's personal clothing should be fully covering." and "Wear shoes at all times in the laboratory but do not wear sandals, perforated shoes or sneakers."
5. Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories for Students. American Chemistry Society, 2004 states: "Clothing worn in the laboratory should offer protection from splashes and spills” and “In the laboratory, wear shoes with uppers made of leather or polymeric leather substitute. Do not go barefoot or wear sandals. Do not wear shoes that have high heels or open toes, uppers made of cloth, woven leather strips or other woven material. Shorts, cutoffs, and miniskirts unnecessarily exposure your skin to potential corrosives and are not safe.”
6. The CRC Handbook of Laboratory Safety, 2000 states "Short-sleeved shirts, T-shirts, shorts or sandals should not be allowed in any laboratory where the potential for exposure to the chemicals exists".
Please enjoy your summer but leave the shorts and sandals for your activities outside of the laboratory. If you must wear open-toed shoes and/or shorts to campus, please keep a pair of pants and full coverage shoes to change into for when working in the laboratory.