Published 12.19.23

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

UNL increases lab coat compliance in sophomore lab classes from 7% to 100% of students.


The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) department of chemistry is at the forefront of chemistry education and research. It immerses its students in research as both undergraduates and graduates and is dedicated to establishing a culture of safety.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) included gloves and goggles for all students. Lab coats were only available for juniors, seniors and graduate students, and some sophomore students in organic chemistry. This meant that only 7% of sophomore students had access to lab coats.

“Safety is a priority and something we take very seriously,” said Leah Zohner, lecturer, UNL. “Lab coats are a big part of establishing a culture of safety. It is a precautionary piece that when the inevitable happens, we have an extra level of protection for students.”

However, outfitting nearly 800 students a semester with lab coats can be a daunting task. From managing inventory to laundering lab coats to outfitting students before every class, extending the lab coat program to that many students would require a level of time and effort UNL could not expend.



To make lab coats available to all sophomore undergraduate Students, UNL needed a system that was easy to implement and manage. It therefore chose to utilize the Cintas cooperative contract available through OMNIA Partners for its lab coat dispensing system. Cintas installed automated dispensers stocked with lab coats, ensuring that hygienically cleaned coats, in the right size, are readily available for students.

Students simply swipe their student ID cards to dispense a coat prior to lab, and again when they return it. Activity is saved and monitored proactively by Cintas to ensure coats are being dispensed and returned correctly and that the program is running smoothly.

“We have 15 minutes before class to get lab coats to as many as 150 students at a time,” Zohner said. “We didn’t
believe we’d be able to get students coats in that short period of time, but Cintas delivered a solution that was simple and could be implemented on a large scale.”

UNL went from having lab coats available for 7% of its sophomore-level chemistry students to 100% of students. The department can now outfit upwards of 780 students a semester with lab coats. This level of compliance is already paying dividends. UNL’s chemistry department has experienced no recordable accidents since implementing the program.

“The lab coat dispensing system has dramatically improved our safety program,” Zohner said. “With lab coats, we are
covering approximately 70% of students’ bodies. Having this extra piece of PPE provides students full protection.”