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Shoes in the lab

  • 1.  Shoes in the lab

    Posted 08-06-2024 18:53

    Looking for advice from seasoned pros!

    I'm about to finish up my undergrad degree and (hopefully) move into the real world of lab work. The enclosed shoes requirement at my university seemed pretty lax, with canvas shoes being acceptable despite offering very little if any protection from liquid spills... I always ensured I was wearing at the very least, leather sneakers without airholes. But this looks far from professional!

    So what type of shoes do you wear in labs in industry? Most of my work experience has been office based where the dress code was based on aesthetics rather than function so I'm very anxious about making a good choice!



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    Sandy Lindsay
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  • 2.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 14:02

    It depends on the workplace.

    At three previous companies, provided it's closed shoes (from ankle downwards), that's all that mattered. I always wore sneakers around the lab along with most of my colleagues, and mine were 'porous'. 

    Where I'm at now, safety shoes are essential in most labs - those would be your typical steel-capped boots or similar. But in the office (only)...anything you like really, even thongs. 



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    William Li
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  • 3.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 18:46

    Hi Wil

    I am concerned by your comment regarding the use of thongs in the office. Unfortunately, I cannot think of any work environment (perhaps with the exception of a lifeguard at the beach or a pool) where thongs are considered appropriate footwear, and I am sure that the various WHS/OHS regulators would take a very dime view of this sort of approach to safety. 

    Cheers 

    Lisa 



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    Lisa Stevens
    Principal OHS Consultant
    Lisa J Stevens And Associates
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  • 4.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 21:16

    Hi Lisa

    While I tend to agree with you about thongs, people in offices can and do wear sandals and other non-closed shoes. It also depends on the local culture and laws. I visited a laboratory in South Korea where they provided us with thongs to wear in the lab. We were all very amused by this- the antithesis of what we would wear in an Australian laboratory. But we had to comply with their WHS policy.



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    Maree Stuart
    Principal Consultant
    MAS Management Systems Pty Ltd
    maree@masmanagementsystems.com.au
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  • 5.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 21:43

    Hi Maree

    Yes, I have similar experiences when I have had lab staff go overseas as part of disaster response teams. Trying to balance WHS requirements (Australian and the host country) and cultural requirements  sometimes gets very difficult. 

    Cheers 

    Lisa 



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    Lisa Stevens
    Principal OHS Consultant
    Lisa J Stevens And Associates
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  • 6.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 19:02

    Thanks William! I don't think I've ever had a job that allowed thongs haha. But yes, I understand there will be a big range depending on the unique environment. I hope to end up in an analytical lab, but even then the type of chemicals being used will probably dictate safety requirements



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    Sandy Lindsay
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  • 7.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 19:32

    No worries Sandy.

    Yes, surprised that it's allowed at all! I wouldn't recommend wearing any open shoes, even in the office. Those who wear that generally change for something more appropriate for the majority of the working hours; they merely arrive and leave wearing those. 

    The safety eyewear and other apparel required in the lab also depends on the workplace, which ties in with the industry. Something highly risky such as petrochemicals or mining will need quite substantial PPE anywhere around site. Whereas being in a pharmaceutical or environmental testing lab (worked in both), it may not be as stringent. 

    Yes, prescription eyewear can be quite costly and would try to get the employer to pay for those, as safety eyewear is a requirement in virtually any lab. But wearing those saves the need to carry overglasses for a few specific actions.



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    William Li
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  • 8.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 21:19

    Hi Sandy

    Often the lab management advises on what is required in their WHS policies. In NSW at least, the onus is on them to tell you about WHS requirements with respect to PPE. And it's your responsibility to comply.

    Don't go investing too much on your footwear until you know where you'll be working. If there are specific requirements for footwear like steel capped boots, then they will definitely tell you about it, and may even kit you up with the right gear!

    Hope this helps.

    Maree



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    Maree Stuart
    Principal Consultant
    MAS Management Systems Pty Ltd
    maree@masmanagementsystems.com.au
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  • 9.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 15:26

    Hi All and Sandy,

    After working 40+ years in industrial laboratories I think I can answer.  If you are in a laboratory associated with 'heavy' industry they will supply your uniform including stout 'work' boots (there is often a choice of boots and how 'light' you can choose will depend on circumstances).  In 'light' industry conditions differ.  When I worked in pharmaceutical they required fully enclosed footwear (but sports shoes were OK) and socks!  However I had a S4 clearance and to go down to manufacturing required light 'work' boots.

    FYI The standard of work boots these days is geared towards comfort and convenience and wearing them all day I found to be better than many 'dress' shoes.



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    [Richard] [Dexter]
    [Industrial Chemistry Research Consultant ][dr.dick.dexter@gmail.com]
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  • 10.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 17:05

    Universities and TAFEs should lead the way in inculcating safe work practices in laboratories by insisting on properly designed safety glasses or goggles (for spectacle wearers) plus fully enclosed shoes with steel toes and a leak-proof tongue. Surely they can do a deal with suppliers to offer them at a good price from the campus shops. Most decent employers will kit you out in company safety uniforms and approved shoes or boots. If the shoes that are supplied aren't comfortable, then seek out a good shop that sells safety gear. It can be a bit of a hit on your pocket if your employer doesn't do the right thing, but it's your body and your life. Putting on your eye and foot gear before you enter the lab. is a great way to start the day thinking safe and working safe. Remember that there are old chemists and bold chemists, but few old bold chemists.



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    Thomas (Tom) Smith
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  • 11.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 18:54

    Hi Tom,

    Interesting comment, particularly given that I spent a lot of my time managing and teaching  health and safety in universities and TAFE's. Most universities have a strong and robust policies about footwear, lab coats, and safety glasses when working in  a laboratory.  The problem is that there are those who enforce the requirements, while there are other lecturers and demonstrators that take a near enough is good enough approach.  AS2243 Safety in Laboratories Series particularly AS 2243.2 Safety in laboratories and AS 2243.1 Planning and Organisational Aspects clear spell out the requirements in respect of minimum safety requirements including appropriate footwear and clothing.  

    Unfortunately, there are enough  'old and bold' chemists around, or those who seem to thing that Work Health and safety requirements are there to be barrier to science, rather enabling safe science. 

    Cheers

    Lisa 



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    Lisa Stevens
    Principal OHS Consultant
    Lisa J Stevens And Associates
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  • 12.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 18:56

    Hi Tom, thanks for your reply! I have to say, I was shocked by the guidelines for shoes in the lab and took a proactive approach to ensure I was wearing leather shoes. They are on top of eye safety though.

    That leads to another issue though- I really struggle with sealed goggles fogging up. Anti-fog wipes aren't as effective as I'd like. I even invested in (very expensive) prescription goggles thinking that the double up of glasses/goggles was the cause and that didn't help at all. Thankfully the lab I'm working in currently doesn't require them full time. My spectacles alone are suitable for most tasks and I only put goggles on when handling particularly hazardous chemicals like conc acids.



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    Sandy Lindsay
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  • 13.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 18:41

    Hi Sandy 

    You have asked  a very interesting and valid question.  Every laboratory and organisation have their own rules regarding what is or is not appropriate footwear.  I am sorry to hear that your university has a very lax approach to safety and footwear.  When working in a laboratory you should wear fully enclosed shoes (i.e. heels, toes and the top of the foot). Where there are chemicals in use, footwear needs to be impervious to chemicals, so I would be suggesting leather topped sports shoes are at the lower end of the scale, while leather shoes  are more appropriate. (mesh/synthetic type materials/canvas do not necessarily protect the foot from chemical hazards.   Depending the environment in which you end up working in, you need to be careful as to whether the chemical that you work with may impact the structural integrity of the shoe (some chemicals will react with synthetic materials) The shoes also have to be sturdy enough to protect the foot from other hazards within the workplace.  Depending on where you end up after graduating, some organisations require safety shoes (steel cap/toe) or boots to be worn in all areas or the organisation.  

    My suggestion is that when you do embark on the next step of your career, have a chat to the OHS Manager, or Laboratory Manager, they will advise you what is required on site. Things like footwear and personal protective equipment should also be covered in your OHS/WHS induction.  As a safety professional I would often have two pairs of shoes in my office (one for general use within the office) and one pair that was suitable for wearing in the laboratory area and other high risk areas or the organisation. 

    I wish you well with your degree and your future career. 

    Cheers

    Lisa 



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    Lisa Stevens
    Principal OHS Consultant
    Lisa J Stevens And Associates
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  • 14.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 09-06-2024 19:00

    Thanks for your insight Lisa. I was hoping to prepare in advance but it seems I may be best to 'wait and see' where I end up in case they provide footwear. In the meantime, I'll stick to my old faithful leather sneakers.



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    Sandy Lindsay
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  • 15.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 13-06-2024 16:47
    Edited by Daniel Turner 13-06-2024 16:47

    Now this is the type of discussion thread that I hope to see far more of in future.

    Thanks to @Sandy Lindsay for the question and all those who contributed.



  • 16.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 28 days ago

    Like what others have said I wear steel capped boots.

    Everyone has the responsibility to look after their health and safety at work (Section 28 Duties of Workers - Work Health and Safety Act 2012 Tasmania), but surely there would be a similar section in legislation in the other states and territories. 



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    Andrew Glasson
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  • 17.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 28 days ago

    Hi Andrew,  Unfortunately, in this case Section 28 does not apply. If you look at the WHS Regs (both the model regs ,Victoria's OHS Regulations and the Tas Regs) it is very clear in Part 3.2 General Workplace Management Regulation 44 it is made very clear that  "the person conducting a business or undertaking who directs the carrying out of work must provide the personal protective equipment to workers at the workplace, unless the personal protective equipment has been provided by another person conducting a business or undertaking.

      The person conducting the business or undertaking who directs the carrying out of work must ensure that personal protective equipment provided under  subregulation (2)is

    (a)    selected to minimise risk to health and safety, including by ensuring that the equipment is 

    (i)    suitable having regard to the nature of the work and any hazard associated with the work; and

    (ii)   a suitable size and fit and reasonably comfortable for the worker who is to use or wear it; and

    (b)   maintained, repaired or replaced so that it continues to minimise risk to the worker who uses it, including by ensuring that the equipment is clean and hygienic; and (ii) in good working order; and (c) used or worn by the worker, so far as is reasonably practicable.

    From my reading of the OHS and WHS regulations, nothing here that suggests that the Worker is responsible for providing their would PPE. Often what organisations do is reimburse workers for things like footwear, prescription safety glasses  where they tend to be more personal items.  

    Section 28 sets out basically that they need to comply with any reasonable instruction given by the PCBU  and co-operate with any reasonable policy or procedures. (i.e. if the PCBU requires the worker use PPE (i.e. safety shoes)  then the worker need to then comply with what is basically a lawful interaction. There is noting in Section  28 that requires the worker to supply their own PPE (unless they were a sole trader)!

    I hope this clarifies the legislative and regulative requirements around the supply of and wearing PPE. 

    Regards

    Lisa 

    www.labsafety.com.au



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    Lisa Stevens
    Principal OHS Consultant
    Lisa J Stevens And Associates
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  • 18.  RE: Shoes in the lab

    Posted 28 days ago

    Hi Sandy,

    In my limited experience, it is pretty variable. In an analytical laboratory during work placement and during my Honours, I wore a pair of Doc Martens boots, which the WHS supervisor at both laboratories approved. I am currently doing work placement as part of my PhD in an analytical laboratory associated with a dairy processing plant. They provided me with steel-capped boots, so it all depends on the specific laboratory. However, in terms of formality and comfort, a good pair of leather boots should serve you well in most capacities other than when specific footwear is required.



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    Kevin Ghavalas
    PhD Candidate
    Deakin University
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