Lab Safety Basics
Question: How do we go about getting our lab coats washed? Do we take them home and wash them there, or have to wash them in the lab, or do we have to send them to some place for washing? Does the university have a service? Some of our lab coats are worn while handling bio-hazardous material*. Thank you for your help.
Answer: There is no University-wide provision for laundering lab coats of other machine washable PPE items. Some Colleges or Departments have laundry facilities, but those are not open to others. Providing appropriate PPE is the responsibility of the School, the Department, and the individual supervisor. One or a combination of these must assume the expense for laundering (or replacing) contaminated personal protective equipment -- such as lab coats, smocks, coveralls, etc...
If an item is contaminated with hazardous chemicals, then under the requirements of the CHP and the recommendations of OSHA and the National Safety Council, the item may NOT be taken home for cleaning, nor may it be sent out to the cleaners without special information and handling instructions. No definition of this term (contaminated with hazardous chemicals) has been adopted, so the recommended working definition would be the one used for classifying waste as hazardous waste. If an item is not contaminated with hazardous chemicals (or human pathogens, or radioisotopes), then it is merely soiled with normal daily dirt and dust and there is not a restriction upon laundering it at home. (However, an employer may not REQUIRE the employee to take required PPE home for cleaning.)
Some people launder their lab coats in the lab sink and hang them in the lab to dry. Some groups have contracted laundry pick-up and delivery services with local commercial laundries. What is required is that the laundry be labeled (1) that it ISN'T or IS or MIGHT BE contaminated with..... list of known or potential contaminants, and the PPE which should be worn by the laundry personnel when handling to guard against risks posed by the (potential) contaminants.
An alternative to laundering is to dispose of the item(s) and buy new. If the item is contaminated to the extent that it fits the definition of hazardous waste (or category I bio-waste, or rad waste....), it must be disposed of as hazardous waste or cat I bio-waste or rad waste. THIS IS RATHER UNLIKELY but must be considered. If an article of clothing or a glove is not hazardous waste, it may be disposed of in the regular trash.