4.4.1 Work clothes and protective clothing

Appropriate work clothes and protective clothing are to be worn when working in laboratories. This normally consists of a long lab coat with long, close-fitting sleeves and a cotton content of at least 35 %. The proprietor must provide such clothing to insured persons employed as defined in Art. 2 of the ArbSchG.

Street clothes alone are not suitable for a laboratory setting because they do not provide adequate protection when carrying out laboratory work. Adequate protection is offered by a laboratory coat (also called a lab coat) with close-fitting sleeves that falls below the knees and covers the lower arms. The coat must have snap fasteners and be made of a fabric that contains at least 35% cotton during its entire service life or be made of a special flame-retardant fabric.

It may be necessary to wear clothing with long sleeves and legs underneath the laboratory coat.

Laboratory coats must be worn fully snapped at all times. In the event of an incident, the fabric of the coat should be able to hold back splashes of hazardous substances for the length of time required to prevent or greatly reduce contact with the skin by the immediate removal of the coat. Should a person’s coat catch fire, the immediate removal of the coat (snap fasteners!) can often keep the fire from spreading to their clothing.

When leaving the laboratory, the laboratory coat must remain in the laboratory area. This minimizes the potential of spreading contamination to other areas (see Section 4.6.1) and facilitates movement between different work areas.

The laboratory coat protects street clothes from contamination when working with hazardous substances. Street clothes are often made with a high fraction of synthetic fibres. The cotton content of the laboratory coat reduces the unfavourable properties of synthetic fabrics in terms of fire resistance and wettability. All clothing worn in the laboratory (besides the laboratory coat) should be made of fabrics that would not pose an increased risk to the insured person in the event of fire through their combustion and melting properties. This is compulsory for accessories such as shawls, scarfs and other items of clothing. Furthermore, these may only be worn close to the body and in such a way that they can be removed quickly.

Should the work clothes of other persons temporarily working in the laboratory, such as skilled workers or service technicians, be at risk of being contaminated with hazardous substances, these persons should also wear a laboratory coat over their work clothes. It is important to prevent the spread of contamination.

For protective clothing see Section 4.5.5. See also DGUV Rules 112-189/112-989 “Benutzung von Schutzkleidung” (Use of protective clothing).

For activities involving biological agents and in the case of a risk of infection, please refer to the technical rules for biological agents “Protective measures for activities involving biological agents in laboratories” (TRBA 100) and DGUV Information 213-086 “Sichere Biotechnologie – Biologische Laboratorien – Ausstattung und organisatorische Maßnahmen”. For activing teratogenic substances, please refer to the information leaflet published by the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the raw materials and chemical industry (BG RCI): Merkblatt M 039 “Fruchtschädigende Stoffe – Informationen für Mitarbeiterinnen und betriebliche Führungskräfte” (Teratogenic substances – information for employees and managers).