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I have three lab coats, two with long sleeves, and one with short sleeves. I saw that the concepts about lab safety vary from country to country; in some places it looks like the short-sleeve coat aren't allowed or they tell you to avoid it.

I'm a little confused about it: When should I use long-sleeves and when should I use the short-sleeve coat?

Are the short-sleeves really wrong in a chem lab?

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The short sleeve has no place in a chemistry lab.

Considering the coats purpose as personal protective equipment (PPE) is to reduce or eliminate the potential or risk of exposure to materials then the long sleeve coat would be the correct PPE to wear in a chemistry laboratory along with extra PPE which should have been assessed prior to performing the procedure.

Even in a microbiology or molecular biology lab, where a lot of the solutions might not seem harmful, the cellular material in suspension is classed as a bio hazard, which the long sleeve will provide better protection.

Hazardous chemicals are still commonly used in these labs, too, and will most likely be present whether you using them or not. It's not just for chemical exposure either also for general protection.

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To add to @Joel's excellent answer, one of the reasons that short-sleeved lab coats are even used at all, is according to a HealthCare Business and Technology article Short-sleeved lab coats just as germy as long-sleeved, due to

Some hospitals (and individual health pros) have switched to short-sleeved lab coats under the belief that the reduction in the amount of fabric would also lead to a drop in the amount of bacteria picked up during the day — and potentially passed on to patients and co-workers.

However, based on the Journal of Hospital Medicine paper Newly cleaned physician uniforms and infrequently washed white coats have similar rates of bacterial contamination after an 8-hour workday: A randomized controlled trial, has found that there is

no statistically significant difference between the amounts of the bacteria on the long- or short-sleeve coats.

So, asides from the protection to your arms from chemical or biological splashes, glass splinter etc, there is no additional protection from the spread or pickup of bacteria with short sleeve lab coats.

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At my university we are all required to wear long sleeve coats in chemistry labs. It simply protects more of your body compared to a short sleeve coat.

As an example, in one of my labs a guy had his sleeves rolled up and then he decided to rest his forearm on the fumehood while he was working with sulfuric acid. It turned out he spilled some acid earlier so he ended up with a burn all along his arm. This could also happen if pouring chemicals - if you spill some, your arm won't be covered.

Long sleeves are also important when handling liquid nitrogen with cryogenic gloves. You need to have your sleeves going over the ends of the gloves, to prevent any liquid nitrogen falling into the gloves where it can't evaporate easily off the skin and could cause burns.

I suppose one hazard with long sleeves is that spilling a chemical on your hands could cause it to roll down your sleeves and increase the contact time of the chemical with your skin as you then need to take the time to remove your lab coat before you wash your arm, but ideally your coat will be tight at the cuffs to minimise this risk.

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