Improving Academic Lab Safety

Improving Academic Lab Safety

The importance of safety education and incident reporting.

After recent incidents at UCLA and Texas Tech University, academic institutions are looking to improve lab safety. Officials are focusing on the issues of safety education, near-miss reporting and safety culture.

“If people understand the ‘why’ behind things, they’re more likely to do what they need to do.” Robert H. Hill, American Chemical Society

A report from the National Research Council states that major groups and leaders at universities need to be involved in lab safety and creating a safety culture.nrc

The American Chemical Society is working on safety education guidelines, looking into a centralized reporting system for incidents, and finalizing guidance on identifying hazards.

acsACS also wants academic institutions undergraduate chemistry departments to have a committee that promotes safety culture.

Academic labs are improving their safety, as young researchers are more aware, young faculty place higher priority on safety, and lab designs are becoming more secure. Continuous underlining of the importance of safety is vital to seeing positive change to the safety culture.

Harmony Lab & Safety Supplies

Harmony Lab & Safety Supplies offers quality disposable apparel for lab safety applications and much more.

Have a look at our Disposable Apparel products and stay safe.

Trash Can Liner Basics

Trash Can Liner Basics

Shop for Trash Can Liners HERE


Plastic Types

There are three types of plastic used in can liners: High-Density (HD), Linear Low-Density (LLD), and Reprocessed.

High-Density (HD) Plastic

High-Density plastic makes a “crinkly” noise when you move it – like a supermarket bag.  HD plastic is also harder to start or puncture a hole in than Linear Low-Density (LLD). Once a hole is started in HD plastic, it will spread quickly or “zipper”. While High-Density can liners are thinner than Low-Density can liners, HD plastic can hold the same or greater weight. The thickness of this type of plastic is measured in Microns. This type of plastic can liner is best suited for cans without edges, paper, food, and smooth heavy objects. High-Density can liners offer substantial cost savings on a per-liner basis.

Linear Low-Density (LLD) Plastic

Linear Low-Density plastic can liners are quiet when moved, without a “crinkly” sound. It is easier to start or puncture a hole into than High-Density, but a hole with spread less quickly. The thickness of LLD plastic is measured in Millimeters. This plastic type is the most common. It has multiple uses and is recommended for sharper objects and tough transport conditions.

Repro Plastic

Repro plastic is reprocessed or made from recycled material. According to the EPA, 10-100% of the plastic is post-consumer recycled content. Reprocessed plastic can liners have a lower capacity for weight, but are also cheaper. Thicker reprocessed plastic can liners are needed to list the same amount of weight as a virgin resin bag (compared to the other types of plastics).

Bottom Seal Types

Select the proper can liner bottom seal type for its use and seal efficiency.

Star Seal star seal

A star seal is the most common kind of bottom seal for can liners. The bottom of the bag resembles a star shape or “bunched up”. This bottom seal type conforms better to larger, round trash cans. Star seals are not likely to leak. Star seal can liners are the most expensive and highest quality bottom seal type. Star seal liners are designated by two dimensions (i.e. 40 x 46).

Gusset Seal gusset seal

A gusset seal can liner is a flat style bag with both sides tucked in which forms a gusset. If the bag is lying flat, it will have a third dimension like an expandable envelope. Gusset seal can liners confirm reasonably well to the shape of the trash can. However, this type of bottom deal may leak and has a potential for a weak bottom. Gusset seal can liners are the least expensive bottom seal types. Gusset seal liners are designated by three dimensions (i.e. 23 x 17 x 46).

Flat Seal flat seal

Flat seal liners will lay out perfectly flat like a tube with a seal on one end, or resemble a pillowcase. This type of bottom seal does not conform to the shape of the trash can. Flat seal can liners hold 20-30% more than a star sealed can liner. This seal has a medium leak potential. It is designated by two dimensions (i.e. 40 x 46).

Package Dispensing

Can liners are packaged to dispense in different ways. Be sure to choose the appropriate package dispensing method for your desired use.

Flat (Bulk) Pack

Flat Pack can liners are individually folded and boxed for one at a time dispensing.

Coreless Rolls

Coreless can liners are packaged with no cardboard cylinder. The liners have perforated edges or are interleaved for non-perforated dispensing.

Cored Rolls

Cored roll can liners are rolled together on top of a cardboard cylinder (similar to paper towels). Can liners that are core rolled have perforated edges.

Tips to Consider

When Choosing a Can Liner, Remember These Tips

1) Choose bag size and bottom seal of the liner based on type of trash can being used

  • Some manufacturers will state liner sizes in “gallons” in an attempt to offer smaller liners that use less plastic.
  • Star sealed can liners are the most expensive and highest quality since they conform better to larger, round trash cans.
  • Gusset sealed bags are the least expensive and will tend to leak, unlike star seal or flat seal.

2) Choose plastic type (HD or LLD)

  • High density liners are lower in cost than low density liners.
  • Recycled plastic or repro liners yield a bag with a lower capacity for weight at a lower cost. A thicker repro liner is needed to lift the same amount of static weight as a virgin resin bag.

3.) Verify the gauge or thickness of the liner

  • Some manufacturers avoid stating the actual thickness of the liners, an attempt to sell less plastic for a higher price.
  • There is no governing agency to ensure that a thickness listed on the carton is what is actually in the box. Comparing against other brands will help identify any differences. Less weight equals less plastic.
  • Many manufacturers will test liner samples in their lab to give you the actual mill/mic thickness of a competitive product for comparison purposes.

4) Check how many liners are in the case and calculate the cost per can liner pricing

  • Fewer liners in a case gives the appearance of a better value because of the lower price
  • Calculating the cost per can liner will give you the true cost per use.

Why Gauge is Not Always Important

Film thickness is no longer the only standard for judging overall bag strength. The development of advanced resins and additives has changed the standard method for selecting the correct can liner. Manufacturers are producing thinner, lighter trash bags that are stronger and more durable than thicker bags made from lesser quality raw materials.

Strength Grade Key

Light For crumbled papers, cups, light waste, etc.
Medium For packaging waste, wet paper, etc.
Heavy For light wood, metal scraps, wet cardboard, etc.
Extra Heavy For heavy, sharp, or wet trash.
Super/Extra Heavy For heaviest cleanup jobs in warehouse, cafeteria, or facility ground.



Most Common Cans & Recommended Liner Sizes

cans and liners



Shop for Trash Can Liners HERE


Respirators – Protection from Airborne Particles

What is a Respirator?

A respirator is a device worn over the face/mouth designed to protect the wearer from inhaling harmful dusts, fumes, vapors, or gases. Respirators come in a wide range of types and sizes used by all sorts of industries.
Respirators cover the nose, mouth, and sometimes the eyes and face. They provide protection from airborne particles including dust, mist, liquids and fumes, gases or vapors. Respirators range from single-use disposable masks, to reusable models with replaceable cartridges.

Why Should You Use a Respirator?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that deaths from work related respiratory diseases and cancers account for about 70% of all occupational disease deaths.

An estimated 5 million workers are required to wear respirators in 1.3 million workplaces throughout the United States. – US Department of Labor

Even “clean” industrial processes often generate large amounts of harmful particulate matter and require breathing protection. Respirators provide protection against work related respiratory diseases and cancers by filtering out harmful particulates.

How to Choose the Right Respirator

The contaminants, exposure, time, and concentration level of potential airborne particles is essential to know when choosing a respirator. If used in the workplace, a respiratory protection program must be in place according to the requirements set by OSHA Respiratory Protection Standards.


Styles of face masks to consider:

Half Face Mask:half face masks

  • Protects nose and mouth
  • Found in particulate and chemical cartridge/gas masks
  • Both in disposable and reusable respirator models
  • Eyewear and additional face protection may be needed

Full Face Mask:full face masks

  • Protects eyes, nose and mouth
  • Found in particulate and chemical cartridge/gas masks
  • Reusable respirators only

Respirator valve variations:


  • One-way exhalation valve near the mouth
  • Allows user to experience cool, dry comfort
  • Found on these respirator types
  • Disposable and reusable particulate respirators
  • Chemical cartridge/gas mask respirators


  • No vents to allow air movement
  • Hot air may build up inside respirator with long period of continuous use
  • Found only on disposable, particulate respirators

Respirator cartridges and filters:


  • Used in respirators to protect against gases and vapors
  • Chemical cartridges block out vapors but not particles
  • Dual cartridges include a replaceable pre-filter to block airborne particles
  • Found on these respirator types
  • Disposable and reusable particulate respirators
  • Chemical cartridge/gas mask respirators


  • Used in respirators to protect against airborne particles
  • Replacements are widely available
  • Not found in disposable respirators
  • Found in both particulate and chemical/gas mask respirators


Respirator Ratings

Respirators are rated by the type of contaminants and how much they filter out. Each rating has a letter (N) and number (95). The numbers refer to the percentage of one-micrometer particles removed during trials.

United States NIOSH standards define the following categories of particulate filters:

Oil resistance Rating Description
Not oil resistant N95 Filters at least 95% of airborne particles
N99 Filters at least 99% of airborne particles
N100 Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles
Oil Resistant R95 Filters at least 95% of airborne particles
R99 Filters at least 99% of airborne particles
R100 Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles
Oil Proof P95 Filters at least 95% of airborne particles
P99 Filters at least 99% of airborne particles
P100 Filters at least 99.97% of airborne particles


Protect yourself and your employees from harmful airborne particles with the right respirator.

Stay healthy and safety compliant by using respirators!





Choosing the Right Disposable Gloves

Employers are required by law to provide their employees with acceptable personal protective equipment (PPE). This is to ensure the employees’ safety and minimize potential risk.

PPEs should be utilized in conjunction with a controlled work environment to complement each other and act as the final barrier between a hazardous chemical and an employee.

Gloves are a major part of personal protective equipment, but the sheer number of options can be daunting.

Below, we will break down the specifications of each glove type.

1. Latex Gloves 2810W-glove

Many consider Latex Gloves to the be industry standard. It provides the highest level of touch sensitivity and dexterity allowing an extreme level of precision. Latex provides an optimal barrier against infectious material and biological contaminants.

  • Natural Material made from rubber
  • Comfortable, tight fit providing a normal level of touch sensitivity
  • Wearable for an extended period of time
  • Cost-effective
  • Strong, elastic, and puncture resistant

2. Vinyl Gloves 2910w-gloves

An ideal choice for those seeking latex-like attributes, but are allergic to latex itself. Vinyl gloves are designed with a loose fit making it more comfortable than latex. While still being extremely comfortable for long term use, vinyl gloves are designed more for short-term activities.

  • Less-expensive than latex gloves
  • Slightly loose fit, suitable for short-term tasks
  • Easy to put on
  • Medium-duty glove
  • Effective temporary barrier against biological contaminants

3. Nitrile Gloves duraskin-nitrile---2010w-glove

A latex-free glove that provides superior strength and protection. It’s level of dexterity and touch sensitivity is slightly below latex. Nitrile gloves are excellent for highly demanding jobs due to its resistance to puncturing.

  • Highest quality latex replacement
  • Synthetic material, allergy-free
  • Naturally resistant to oil
  • Puncture-resistant, highly durable
  • Medical, food, and industrial applications

4. Polyethylene Gloves lbfh-pe-gloves

A low-cost, temporary barrier between hands and a material. Often used in the food service industry due to its cost-effectiveness. They are easily put on and taken off thus are perfect for temporary and short-term uses.

  • Loose design
  • Ideal for food prep
  • Light-duty glove
  • Most economic option

5. Chloroprene Gloves 2011W-gloves

Offering the fit and feel of latex, they are still a 100% synthetic formulation (latex-free). They are more puncture resistant than latex while providing superior protection against corrosive chemicals. It offers an incredible grip in both wet and dry environments.

  • More elastic than vinyl
  • More puncture resistance than both vinyl and latex
  • Suitable for medical, industrial, and laboratory applications

The type of glove used depends on what level of protection is needed. Generally, thicker gloves provide greater chemical resistance even though thin gloves can be made to be as strong as their bulkier counterparts.

Gloves can be purchased in either powder or powder-free options. The power is usually USP cornstarch and acts as a lubricant in the donning process. This powder, through its reaction with latex, can cause latex allergies. This is where powder-free latex gloves and latex-free gloves come into use.

Medical gloves, otherwise known as examination grade gloves, are designed around the quality requirement of the FDA. Originally intended for hospital settings, they have seen use in other fields where a higher degree of protection is required.

The food service industry uses gloves designed for short-term use, such as the polyethylene material. Gloves are an essential piece in minimizing cross-contamination.

Industrial gloves are not regulated by any US government agency, however, the American Society for Testing and Materials does set standards which our gloves conform to.

Gloves in general typically last 3 years from the date of manufacture, if stored properly. Disposable gloves should be stored in their original packaging, away from extreme temperatures, and excessive dust, sunlight, and moisture.

Browse our Disposable Gloves section here.

Harmony Lab & Safety Supplies

Tyvek Disposable Apparel

What is Tyvek Disposable Apparel and how does it protect?

In the previous article, we discussed glove being a major part of personal protective equipment, or PPE. When work involves hazardous materials, Tyvek clothing can protect.

Tyvek apparel, created by Dupont, features a single layer of synthetic material called high-density polyethylene. This single layer manages to be extremely resistant to hazardous chemicals, dry matter, paint, lead, mold, and water. It protects the user from particles as small as 0.000039 inches (1 millionth of a meter or 1 micron) even after the material has been abraded. The material is tear resistant and thus tough enough for a broad range of activities. The only way to ruin a Tyvek suit is to tear it completely. Despite being disposable, the garment is able to be reused unless it is torn or exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Despite the material’s strength, Tyvek apparel was made with comfort in mind. Heat and sweat vapor pass out of the garment to make sure the user stays cool. The material allows for air to pass in and out of the suit while still protecting against particulates. Tyvek apparel is uniquely durable because the protection is the material itself. Microporous apparel utilizes a thin protective layer built in after the base of the garment is manufactured. This creates problems if the garment rips or if the thin protective layer is worn down. It is no wonder that Tyvek’s apparel is the industry standard.

How much does this protection cost? Tyvek’s garments are strong enough to use, but inexpensive enough to discard after each use. The sheer number of Tyvek garments such as coveralls, lab coats, aprons, smocks, and hoods help to keep costs down by allowing the consumer to buy exactly what they need.

What size should I buy?

If unsure, it is recommended to buy one size up. The user should be able to stretch comfortably and move about in their garment without putting stress on the material. This makes sure that the user is getting the most protection without sacrificing comfort.

Tyvek Coverall Size Chart:

Size Height Weight
Small 5’ – 5’6” 100 – 125 pounds
Medium 5’2? – 5’7? 125 – 160 pounds
Large 5’6? – 5’10” 140 – 200 pounds
XL 5’7? – 6’2? 155 – 220 pounds
2XL 5’11” – 6’4? 180 – 240 pounds
3XL 6’2? – 6’6? 240 – 280 pounds
4XL 6’4? – 6’8? 260 – 320 pounds
5XL 6’6? – 7? 320 – 370 pounds

Tyvek apparel size chart:

  • Tyvek Aprons: 28? Wide x 36? Long
  • Tyvek Hoods are “One Size Fits All”
  • Tyvek Sleeves are 18? Long

Tyvek disposable apparel is the industry standard for comfort and protection and with such a wide range of applications, it certainly has a place wherever personal protective equipment is needed.