Why do we wear lab coats?

Why do we wear lab coats?

Table of contents

 

Laboratory workers are exposed to certain health risks. They handle different chemicals, mechanical instruments and living organisms (e. g. microbes) in the laboratory. Mechanical, chemical and microbial hazards cause health issues, if not properly handled or if you are not properly dressed according to lab protocol. Skin contact with chemicals, for example, can cause skin injury. If you have a cut on your finger and are dealing with infectious microorganisms, they can enter your body through that cut, leading to an infection. So, dressing according to laboratory protocol is compulsory. Enter lab coats – they have great importance and play a major role when trying to avoid any injury or infection during lab work.

Lab coats are a staple for those working in laboratories and are common even for some scientists who spend most of their day in an office. Lab coats protect your skin and clothing. They act like a barrier against the spills or splashes to minimize the contamination with materials used in the laboratory. They also protect you against radiant heat, sparks and infrared or ultraviolet radiations. They are fire retardant and protect against flying objects (intense, am I right?). There are various types of lab coats and they are used according to the nature of the experiment you are performing. 

So, without further ado, here are some important benefits of using a lab coat in the laboratory during any work.

A group of scientists protected by The Lab Label lab coats.

 

Already know everything about lab coats and how they protect you in the lab? Check out our collection of science-inspired lab coats.

How do lab coats protect you from splashes and liquids? 

A lab coat acts as a physical barrier that protects you from the chemicals that you work with in the laboratory. Lab coats protect your personal clothing underneath from the spills, splashes, drops and unanticipated reactions in the laboratory. You do not need to change your routine clothes to work in a lab, you just need to put on a lab coat and you can start working (a bit of a simplified description but you get the point). Lab coats are barriers that come between you and unexpected accidents in the laboratory. They save you against injuries and, in some extreme cases, even save your life. So, by using lab coats you can protect your skin and clothes from different chemicals. 

How do lab coats protect you from fire?

Many lab coats are fire resistant and protect your clothes and skin in case of fire. They are made up of the mixture of materials polyester-cotton (65% - 35%). This mixture of material is a best combination because 35 percent polyester is easy to maintain and resists the chemicals and 65 percent cotton has fire-resistant properties. So, if you are dealing with flammable material or accidently something is burnt in the laboratory your lab coat protects you from that fire. 

Fire hazard sign. Lab coats protect you from fire.

How do lab coats protect you from the spread of contamination?

Lab workers keep their lab coat in the laboratory they used it in after completion of work. It prevents the spreading of contamination from the lab to another lab or their own home. In this way everything that is outside of the lab is kept from the coat, and everything on the coat  from the lab is kept away from the outside. Lab coats protect the laboratory environment from outside contamination and outside from the laboratory contamination. If you are wearing your lab coat properly and face cross-contamination in your experiment, then it is only due to your hands or other exposed skin. 

How can lab coats help your self esteem? 

Lab coats with all buttons buttoned and sleeves rolled down make you look like a serious professional. A professional-looking lab coat creates seriousness and competence that speaks well for you and your institute/organization where you are working. Lab coats are compulsory to work as a scientist or student in the laboratory, but there is a reason why children and adults want to wear a lab coat, even if they aren’t laboratory workers. To maintain this professional look you must replace or clean your lab coat periodically. If you already look slick, why would you want to compromise your slickness with stains and tears?

Do lab coats protect your clothing? 

If you buy yourself something nice, a shirt or a new pair of pants, you’d naturally want to keep them safe. So, it is necessary to protect your clothes from any damage inflicted by the laboratory equipment or other materials. Whatever you do in the lab, lab coats protect your clothes. Some lab coats can protect your whole clothing by covering you completely, while others, for example shorter versions, only protect your top and you need to combine them with scrubs pants. 

A scientist happy that she's protected by her lab coat.

Do lab coats protect your arms? 

Everything you do in the lab is done by your arms and hands, whether it’s handling chemicals or cutting agar. Naturally, you cover your hands with gloves, but if you don’t put on a long-sleeved lab coat, you’ll leave your lower arms exposed to all of the hazardous materials you might be using for your work. It’s therefore necessary to protect your arms, but also keep your too-long-for-work sleeves out of the way with your lab coat.

Are lab coats easy to take off? 

The process of taking off a lab coat (or any type of protective clothing) is called “doffing”, (which is the opposite of putting clothing on - “donning”). If you are using flammable material or something like acid splashes onto your lab coat, it can cause the lab coat to catch fire or start corroding. You can take the coat off a lot more easily and swiftly compared to personal clothes. It is very difficult to remove contaminated clothes and so we can avoid any skin burn issue by removing the lab coat immediately. 

How does a lab coat protect my clothes from melting? 

What can cause lab coats to melt:

  • Extreme heat
  • Fire
  • Strong acids
  • Strong bases
  • Strong electrical current

 

Some clothes, which are made up of synthetic fibres, melt relatively easily on fire and heat. If you are working in a lab with such clothes and are not wearing a lab coat, then you can have problems with this issue. It can burn your skin also, once it melts through your clothes. Generally, lab coats are made of specialized fibres or cotton (see what materials we use for our lab coats) that will not melt in heat or fire. Which means that lab coats = super safe. 

Image of scientists protected by their lab coats

To sum up

Lab coats could be called the heroes of all the safety equipment in the laboratory. You must wear your lab coat all times in laboratories, to avoid any health issues. Make sure to wear a coat that fits your size and is suitable for the type of work you do in your lab, and also learn what to do in case of emergencies (e.g. if your coat catches fire). 

Looking for your next lab coat, that’s a bit different from all of the plain, white and boring lab coats out there? Check out our collection of coats, decorated with motifs from the world of life science!

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