As we transition through the re-opening phases in Washington, remember that the facemask required for working in a lab is different than the facemask you need to go the grocery store. If you are working with infectious agents, hazardous chemicals or radiological materials in the lab while wearing a cloth face covering, it could become contaminated during the course of your work and you may not even know it. You could take a biological agent or chemical home with you on your cloth mask - potentially exposing yourself, your family, roommates or the general public. Just like you don’t wear your lab coat and gloves outside the lab, you should not wear a potentially contaminated mask outside of the lab.
If your lab work includes handling hazardous materials, or you work is in an area where hazardous materials are being used, prevent bringing contamination outside the lab by doing the following:
- Wear a disposable medical/procedure mask along with other appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- For work with biohazards, a disposable medical/procedure mask is required at Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) and higher.
- Dispose of your mask before leaving the lab, as it could have become contaminated.
- Replace your disposable mask with a clean face covering of your choice when entering common areas.
If you work in a lab, it is your responsibility to follow safe laboratory practices, including wearing your COVID-19 face coverings in the safest manner possible.
If you have questions, contact your principal investigator (PI) or supervisor about providing you and your coworkers disposable masks that may be appropriate for your work environment.
If you have questions about what type of lab work requires wearing disposable face masks, contact EH&S Biological Safety at email@example.com or 206.221.7770.