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Personal safety equipment

This section mostly deals with the protection of eyes, skin and respiratory organs.

Safety goggles and face mask

It is mandatory to wear safety goggles or a face mask when working with liquid nitrogen. It is also required to wear safety goggles or a face mask when working with anything that can splash when boiling, or can splinter, when working with strong acids, bases or radioactive materials.

When wearing contact lenses: be extremely careful when working with strong acids, bases or poisonous solutions. If any of these substances come into contact with the eye they may come underneath the contact lens and damage the eye. Therefore, always work in the fume cupboard and wear safety goggles. In the event of an accident, it is extremely important to remove the contact lens so the eye can be thoroughly washed.

Safety goggles are found in various qualities and sizes. They must have side protection so that there is less likelihood of particles coming into the eye from the side. Some have adjustable side lengths, some are adjustable up or down so that they fit the individual. Usually they are made from strong plastic material (e.g. polycarbonate) - their weakness being that some organic solvents can dissolve the surface so they become opaque.

Gloves

Safety gloves are used when needed to protect the hands from substances that can damage the skin, either directly or by penetrating the skin and cause damage elsewhere.

When should gloves be used?

  • Wearing gloves is absolutely necessary whenever there is a danger for skin contact with hazardous substances (e.g. when cleaning up a spill, when the hands are dipped into a substance, when hands are in contact with skin-penetrating vapours, when there is a risk of spillage etc.).
  • Wearing gloves is also necessary when skin contact with experimental solutions can be harmful for the experiment itself (transfer of microorganisms, proteases, nucleases or other skin-borne enzymes).
  • In other situations one should consider whether it is at all necessary to wear gloves, since they retain moisture so that the skin becomes overheated and its pores open up. Cotton gloves can be used as under gloves to absorb the moisture. Some glove material can give rise to eczema or allergy (especially latex).
  • When working with solids, the cheapest disposable gloves can be used as solids do not penetrate. However, this is assuming that the gloves are not wet and that one is not working with solvents at the same time.

Penetration times

  • Not all gloves are equally resistant to all substances and materials.
  • Penetration times provide data showing how much time can elapse from the first contact until the first traces of the substance getting through the glove.
  • Penetration times are provided by the glove producer.
  • Notice that penetration times often refer to pure substances and not blends.
  • It is always necessary to know penetration times when working with liquids.
  • When working regularly with a special blend, it is possible to test the penetration time by using a special glove tester. Several authorised advisory bodies offer this service.
  • See Aarhus University’s (SvF AU) “Glove database” (“Handskedatabase”)
  • See also “Quick selection guide to chemical protective clothing”, Krister Forsberg, S. Z. Mansdorf, Fourth edition.

Provisions and precautions

  • Use only gloves approved by DS/EN 374-3. Approval means that the gloves have been tested for one or more chemical with regard to penetration and that it is possible to obtain test data from the producer.
  • In biological work it is often sufficient to use disposable gloves that are only approved for food use. Make an assessment before starting work
  • Preferably use disposable gloves that can be thrown away if they come into contact with a chemical or when the penetration limit has been reached.
  • Use gloves that are not powdered (allergy risk). The powder (cornstarch) does not itself cause allergies, but can be an irritant and carry possible allergy-causing molecules from the glove material.

N.B. There may be a risk of allergy even from powder-free gloves.

General advice on using gloves

Before putting on gloves:

  • Hands should be clean and dry.
  • Avoid wearing rings inside gloves.
  • The gloves should be intact
  • When working with liquid chemicals make sure you know the penetration time for the gloves you are using. This is calculated from the first contact with the substance.
  • If the gloves are to be worn for more than 15 min, inner cotton gloves will help to absorb moisture from the hands.

Gloves must be changed:

  • If they break, are torn, etc.
  • Before the penetration time has been reached, even if the gloves are intact
  • If gloves become dirty on the inside (often with short cuffs)
  • When inner gloves become wet
  • After work and before breaks, etc.
  • Always wash hands when changing gloves.
  • Remove gloves before touching cabinet doors, door handles etc.

Good hand hygiene

  • Good hand hygiene is extremely important as dry and cracked hands increase
  • the risk of picking up substances and materials that can cause eczema and allergic reactions.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often.
  • Dry hands carefully and rub in a nourishing hand cream.
  • If one type of glove gives problems, change to another type or to another size. 

Respiratory protection

Only under very special circumstances, e.g. in the event of accident, will it be necessary to use respiratory aids (gas or dust masks). Respiratory organs are primarily protected by avoiding situations likely to give rise to hazardous gases, vapours or dust, such as working in a fume hood.    

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