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How Clean Is “Clean”? Regulations and Standards for Workplace Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment

Sirianni, Greg MS; Borak, Jonathan MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 2010 - Volume 52 - Issue 2 - p 190-196
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181cc55e1
Original Articles

Objective: To compile current regulations and advisory recommendations on cleanliness of worker clothing and personal protective equipment and to evaluate the adequacy of criteria for determining whether cleanliness has been achieved.

Methods: Systematic review of information provided by federal agencies (eg, OSHA, MSHA, and NIOSH), nongovernmental advisory bodies (eg, ACGIH, AIHA, and ANSI), and manufacturers of protective clothing and equipment.

Results: We identified an array of terms describing “cleanliness” and the processes for achieving “cleanliness” that were almost never defined in regulations and recommendations. We also found a general lack of criteria for determining whether cleanliness and/or sterility have been achieved.

Conclusions: There is need to harmonize cleanliness-related terminology, establish best practices for equipment cleaning and sterilization, implement a signage systems to provide equipment-specific cleaning instructions, and adopt objective criteria for determining what is “clean.”


From the Department of Fire Science and Professional Studies (Dr Sirianni), University of New Haven, West Haven, Conn; and Departments of Epidemiology & Public Health and Medicine (Dr Borak); Yale University; New Haven, Conn.

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Address correspondence to: Greg Sirianni, MS, 234 Church Street (#1100), New Haven, CT 06510; E-mail:

©2010The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine