Dental Clinic Lab Coat Tips

According to the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(3)(i), when there is occupational exposure, the employer shall provide, at no cost to the employee, appropriate personal protective equipment such as, but not limited to, gloves, gowns, laboratory coats, face shields or masks and eye protection, and mouthpieces, resuscitation bags, pocket masks, or other ventilation devices. Personal protective equipment will be considered "appropriate" only if it does not permit blood or other potentially infectious materials to pass through to or reach the employee's work clothes, street clothes, under-garments, skin, eyes, mouth, or other mucous membranes under normal conditions of use and for the duration of time which the protective equipment will be used.

Regarding sizes, 1910.1030(d)(3)(iii) states that the employer shall ensure that appropriate personal protective equipment in the appropriate sizes is readily accessible at the work site or is issued to employees.

Based on the above provisions, OSHA requirements of lab coat, which is an appropriate Personal protective Equipment (PPE) can be briefly summarized as follows:

  • + Employers are required to provide PPE free of cost to the employees. OSHA clearly states that PPE must be worn by employees when there is reasonable anticipation of blood exposure is expected.
  • + Dental lab coat must have long sleeves. No specified length of the coat is mentioned by OSHA in their provisions. However, the sleeve of the lab coat must be long enough to prevent blood from contaminating the skin or inner clothes.
  • + OSHA does not provide any specific regulations regarding cuffs. However, if the employer, after careful assessment of the workplace hazards, has determined the use of cuffed sleeve as necessary, they can require his employees to wear cuffs.

The only exception under which an employee can decline the use of PPE is according to 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(3)(ii), where OSHA states:

The employer shall ensure that the employee uses appropriate personal protective equipment unless the employer shows that the employee temporarily and briefly declined to use personal protective equipment when, under rare and extraordinary circumstances, it was the employee's professional judgment that in the specific instance its use would have prevented the delivery of health care or public safety services or would have posed an increased hazard to the safety of the worker or co-worker. When the employee makes this judgment, the circumstances shall be investigated and documented in order to determine whether changes can be instituted to prevent such occurrences in the future.

When operating an x-ray machine, one must wear a lead jacket according to OSHA radiation standard. You are also required to wear a dosimeter to measure the level of radiation that your body is subjected to. Ideally, taking cover in an adjacent room or glass enclosure is recommended to protect yourself from radiation. Your question whether lab coat can be worn, the answer is yes, but you need other protection from radiation since the lab coat will not be sufficient.

Too hot in the clinic? According to OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen Standard (BBP) standard, employees are mandated to wear PPE when they anticipate reasonable exposure to blood and Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIM). Therefore, you are required to wear a lab coat and/or other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as scrubs, mask, face shield, head cover, etc. during the procedures you listed that have exposure to blood and OPIM. If the air-conditioning is not working, you could wear PPE made of lighter materials.  The objective of the PPE is to protect your skin as well as your street clothes from exposure to blood and OPIM. Please remember that PPE regulation is a performance-oriented one in that your employer can decide what the appropriate PPE should be worn by the employees.