A laboratory is a room or place equipped for conducting scientific experiments and observations. Laboratories can be in the form of independent structures that serve as testing and experimentation centers, or rooms in various facilities where scientific testing and analysis are needed. Schools and educational institutes often have laboratories for student experimentation in science classes. Fields in which laboratories are prevalent include biology, medical or clinical, and food production. Laboratories can be used for the purposes of research and development, diagnostic testing, and quality assurance, among others.
Laboratories and lab equipment are typically kept as sterile as possible. A laboratory needs to be free of contaminants to not compromise the quality of testing samples. Any sample contamination can adversely affect test results and give an inaccurate answer to a hypothesis or experiment. A false test result due to contamination can be severely detrimental in diagnostic testing labs in the case of a patient's health condition. Scientists and lab workers usually wear lab gear while testing to keep the sample free of outside contaminants and to protect themselves from chemicals or other harmful substances that might be present. This gear is called personal protective equipment, or PPE. Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, employers must provide appropriate PPE to employees working in hazardous conditions. Common PPE gear includes aprons, lab coats, and coveralls, to protect against contamination from outside clothing; goggles and face shields, to guard the eyes from chemicals or debris; and gloves, for chemical protection and sterility. It is also recommended, and sometimes required, that lab workers wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and closed-toe shoes.
Equipment often found in a laboratory includes microscopes, test tubes, beakers, pipettes, and Bunsen burners. As there are all types of laboratories that test different things, not all laboratories are stocked with the same materials. A chemistry or biology lab is likely to have those common pieces of equipment, while a physics lab has a number of measurement tools.