This document supercedes Mask and General PPE Guidance for Essential Penn Laboratory Personnel

Issued: 5/14/20 Note that this information is subject to change.

Revised:5/18/20 with PA Dept of Health Mask guidance, Revised 5/19/20 with anti-fog product information

Revised 5/28/20 with new CDC guidance on symptoms

Revised 7/30/20 with clarification on primary lab masks

Required COVID-19 Transmission Prevention Apparel 

Face Masks:  Labs should purchase face masks in sufficient quantity to support their lab staff.  Masks are intended to limit the risk of the wearer exposing a coworker to undetected illness or infection, including COVID-19.  Masks do not provide the wearer with extra protection or eliminate the need for physical distancing practices

  • Surgical-style masks will be the primary mask worn in the lab.
  • A Penn Provided compliant 2-ply 100 % cotton cloth face covering , may also be worn in the lab if surgical style masks are not available.   See Universal Mask Precautions for information for proper use and storage of masks.
  • A limited supply of surgical-style masks may also be available through your School or Center to assist you if you are unable to source your own masks.

Surgical-style masks have similar construction as surgical masks but are not manufactured for clinical use.  These masks are non-sterile and do not carry FDA approvals.  Surgical style masks are composed of three layers.  The outer layers are composed of a non-woven, non-linting fabric.  The center layer is a melt-blow polypropylene. The mask will have elastic ear straps.  It is strongly recommended that surgical-style masks be sourced only through Penn approved vendors.  FUTURE LINK TO PENN PURCHASING 
Do not use Surgical-Grade Masks or N-95 respirators. These items are in very limited supply and must be reserved for healthcare staff and patients.   

Nomex face masks are currently being evaluated for labs that use pyrophorics or large quantities of flammable solvents. 

Face Shields:  The Pennsylvania Department of Health has directed that an employee does not need to wear a mask if it impedes their vision or if it would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task. 
A face shield may be temporarily used in the lab in lieu of a face mask when working at a fume hood or where a face mask creates a hazard.  The face shield must cover the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face when worn without a face mask (Reference: CDC).  Safety glasses must still be worn with face shields. 

Early detection of illness can prevent the spread of COVID-19 to your colleagues.  Researchers must monitor their health daily including daily temperature measurements.  Medical grade, non-contact thermometers should be sourced only through Penn approved vendors.  FUTURE LINK TO PENN PURCHASING 

Lab members should stay home anytime they feel unwell but especially when they have: 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

General Lab Attire and Protective Equipment 

In addition to the COVID-19 Transmission Prevention Apparel listed above lab workers must, at a minimum, wear lab coats and safety glasses while in a lab where chemicals and biological materials are stored or handled.  Lab coats and safety glasses are not required when sitting at a desk in the lab.  This is the standard policy as stated in Penn’s Lab coat, gloves and safety eyewear policy

Lab coats should be made of 100% cotton except for the elastic cuff. Lab coats should be laundered as needed.  Each lab worker should have a spare coat to wear while their primary coat is being laundered. Any Penn-approved vendor may be used for lab coat cleaning.  Lab coats are available from Thermo-Fisher.  Disposable lab coats should not be worn in the lab. 

Gloves must be used in the lab according to standard laboratory PPE requirements.  Do not wear gloves outside the lab.  Nitrile gloves   are available from Thermo-Fisher. 

Wash hands before and after using reusable gloves such as autoclave gloves, cryogen-handling gloves, and heat-resistant gloves.  It is not safe to wear an inner disposable glove with this type of PPE; however, liner gloves may be worn while using the glove box.  

Safety glasses must meet ANSI Z87.1 standard.  Safety glasses are available from Thermo-Fisher. 

Additional protective equipment (fire-resistant lab coats, fire resistant masks) may be required depending on hazards in the lab. The Principal Investigator or their designee will review the need for additional protective equipment. 

To help prevent safety glasses from fogging, ensure your face mask fits properly, and wash safety glasses with soap and water.  A commercial anti-fog product may also be used.  Anti-fog wipes are available from Fisher Scientific (catalog# 19-047-208).

Personal Attire:  Legs must be covered by long pants or a long skirt and closed-toe shoes are required. Shorts and sandals may not be worn into the lab even under a lab coat.