University Chemistry Department Eliminates Recordable Accidents with Cintas Lab Coat Program

Jun 26, 2023   |   Cintas

University of Nebraska-Lincoln increases lab coat compliance in sophomore lab classes from 7% to 100% of students.

Cintas Lab Coat


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.”

“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.” The university is experiencing such a high level of compliance because students also like wearing lab coats and feel good in them. Students have shared that they like how crisp and clean the coats are, and that they feel more official and “like scientists” in the coats.

“Our students understand the importance of safety and appreciate feeling like they are cared for by the university,” Zohner said. With the new lab coat program from Cintas, staff also no longer have to police what students are wearing. The lab coat dispensing system ensures that every student is wearing a clean, safety-rated and approved coat. In other programs where students are responsible for purchasing and maintaining their own coats, there is no certainty lab coats are approved and properly laundered. “We’re able to protect students and take some of the burden off our faculty and grad students running lab classes,” Zohner said. “Our environmental, health and safety department is also thrilled with the program. It could be something that we implement in other areas of the university.”

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.

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With the new lab coat program from Cintas we’re able to protect students and take some of the burden off our faculty and grad students running lab classes.

– Leah Zohner | Lecturer UNL


UNL has experienced numerous benefits since implementing the lab coat dispensing system from Cintas, including:

• Experienced zero recordable incidents since program implementation.
• Lab coat compliance for sophomore undergraduates went from 7% to 100% of students.
• Students feel protected and “like scientists” in the clean and compliant lab coats.
• Gives faculty and graduate students confidence that students are wearing clean and approved lab coats every day.
• Parents, alumni and donors can see that UNL values research and students conducting science experiments safely.

“Cintas isn’t just selling a product, it’s a full service,” Zohner said. “We’ve been using the system for more than 6 months, and it feels like we have more contact now with Cintas than when we were trialing the system. Cintas values the relationship, and we’re appreciative of their responsiveness and outstanding support.”

OMNIA Partners & Cintas

For years, Cintas Corporation has been collaborating with the public sector to provide cleaning products, janitorial supplies as well as a variety of maintenance products and services. Our cooperative purchasing strategy with Cintas will help your agency lower costs while saving you time and resources. With OMNIA Partners, there is no extra cost to participate so you don't have to stress about hidden fees.