Lab coat dispensers a perfect fit for OSU researchers

OSU scientists and student researchers will benefit from improved lab coat management practices thanks to a new lab coat dispenser program implemented by Environmental Health and Safety. The dispensers and return units are located on the first floor of Linus Pauling Science Center and in Gleeson Hall, Room 109.

EH&S has had a lab coat program in place for over five years but was experiencing challenges with tracking coats and ensuring the correct type of coat was being used for each situation. Lab coats come in three styles – standard, barrier or flame/chemical resistant – and a wide range of sizes from XS to 3X. The existing system made it difficult for EH&S to see who was using the coats, when they needed to be laundered and which type of coat users were wearing. The process was also creating cost inefficiencies. At times, faculty and students struggled to find the lab coat type and size that they needed to perform their work safely.

As a solution, EH&S coordinated the purchase and installation of two Cintas lab coat dispensers and return units. Laboratory Safety Officer Jenette Paul said that EH&S chose the LPSC and Gleeson Hall locations to provide easy access on the east and west sides of campus and with certain other needs in mind – mainly fire safety regulations regarding space, areas that did not require keys and access to power sources.

To check out a lab coat, students or faculty members start by sliding their OSU ID card at the dispenser. Next, they choose the size and type of coat needed. The coat will drop out of the dispenser, much like a candy bar at a vending machine.

The image shows a close-up of the lab coat dispenser touch screen.

A lab worker chooses a coat using the dispenser touch screen.

To return a used coat for laundering, the user brings the coat back to the return unit and slides their OSU ID card again. A hatch in the return unit opens and the used coat is placed inside. The user closes the hatch and the coat drops into a bin inside the return unit.

Because an OSU ID card is required to check out a lab coat, EH&S can easily track the type and location of each coat being used. And each user must return the coat they have before they can check out new coat, which means that fewer coats will be lost.

“The overall goal of the project was to ensure the sustainability of the lab coat program, offering lab coats free of charge to the OSU research community, while ensuring everyone gets the correct type and size of coats with continued laundry service,” Paul said. “My hope is that lab coat users will find the dispensers easy to use and that the program will encourage use of the lab coats and more frequent laundering.”

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