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Let's assume I am wearing a labcoat for two reasons:

  • Prevent the various bacteria, proteins, skin cells and substances on my clothes and my skin from contaminating my experiments.
  • Prevent various dangerous things from the experiment getting on me, and ruining my clothes or endangering my health (eg. toxic chemicals, pathogenic bacteria, ecotropic virus, etc)

A labcoat is an imperfect, but valuable barrier against such hazards. Perhaps a droplet of some Nasty Substance™ ends up flying towards my arm, but instead of getting on my exposed skin, hits my labcoat.

However, what happens when I take off my labcoat? My gloves, which have just been in contact with lots of Nasty Substance™, go through the sleeves of the coat, possibly smearing the substance all over the inside of the fabric. When I put on the coat again the next day, now my skin is in contact with these smears.

I could remove my gloves before taking off the labcoat, to avoid this smearing. But this time, I have to touch the labcoat with my bare hands as I remove it. Remember the Nasty Substance™ that was stopped when it splattered on the outside of the fabric instead of my skin? What if I know end up touching that?

I know that for truly dangerous conditions, there is specialized equipment and detailed procedure. Even at BSL2+, traditionally disposable labcoats are required, rendering the issue somewhat irrelevant. So let's assume the highest level below that, BSL2, as the context for answers.

In short, what is the correct way of putting on and taking off gloves and non-disposable labcoat when working in BSL2 conditions?

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    $\begingroup$ I use a labcoat when working with RNA or Iodine-125. I always do labcoat first, then gloves. When taking the coat off, I remove gloves first, then labcoat. This is usually sufficient, but if you're working with stuff nasty enough to matter, the coat won't provide protection for long. If it's acid, get the coat off ASAP before it soaks through. If it's biological you probably should have been working in BSL3 or 4 conditions. If you're working with something bad enough that a few drops on your labcoat will hurt you, your labcoat is not proper protection. $\endgroup$ – user137 Oct 6 '14 at 23:32
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Wear two sets of gloves. First, use nitrile gloves, not latex for this. 4mm or thicker is a specification I would recommend to avoid tearing. Latex will bind too well to itself and tear easily with increased friction etc (same logic behind not using two condoms). Also, use a coat with an elastic cuff on the sleeve. So here's the breakdown

  1. Put on first set of gloves
  2. Put on coat over gloves. Decon if needed for application.
  3. Put on second set of gloves.
  4. Science
  5. Take off second set of gloves.
  6. Decon as needed for your health
  7. Take off coat
  8. Take off first set of gloves

I can find sources for this, but I've been doing ABSL2 and BSL3 for a while, and they always go through this in safety training.

Edit: My internal nagging to site got the better of me, so some examples that recommend double gloving:

http://oehs.vcu.edu/chemical/labsafe/perchloricacid.pdf

https://extranet.fhcrc.org/EN/sections/ehs/hamm/chap3/section6.html

http://orsp.umich.edu/policies/um/committees/BRRC/ADDITIONAL_PRACTICES_revised_8_7_14.pdf

http://ehs.columbia.edu/carcmutguide.html

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

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    $\begingroup$ I would say that double gloves are overkill for BSL2. Above that level I would agree, but they are causing some problems and inconveniences, too. So I would do lab coat first, then gloves and vice versa. And make sure that you put the lab coat in the laundry regulary or when something get spilled on it. It is also a good idea to have some (probably older) clothes in the lab available for changing if necessary. $\endgroup$ – Chris Oct 7 '14 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Chris I agree it's a bit overkill, but it is the correct way to handle the scenario described. It can also be used in BSL2 conditions where there are chemical concerns on top of biological ones. I think the "I'm worried about a drop" scenario is only likely to be an issue with chemical concerns (but is actually unlikely altogether). I would be curious to know if there are more users of BSL3 and higher or chemicals which require double gloves. I lean towards chemical, but that's just a guess. $\endgroup$ – Atl LED Oct 7 '14 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ I would say it really depends on the chemicals. Chloroform breaks through almost all gloves used in the typical biology/biochemistry lab, phenol gives a little more time. $\endgroup$ – Chris Oct 7 '14 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ The National Academies Press publishes reports on lab safety nap.edu/search/?term=Lab+safety PDF downloads are free. Chapter 1 of Safe Science; Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research reads like the script for a horror movie of what can and does go wrong in and academic lab setting. $\endgroup$ – AMR Aug 24 '15 at 22:52

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