What it is
The result of the SOP method is a comprehensive document that outlines processes in the lab and identifies hazards and controls to eliminate or mitigate the risks.
Principal investigators and senior lab workers oversee the SOP process, but everyone working in the lab should contribute and participate.
When to use
Scenarios where hazardous materials, equipment, or processes have been identified but could be streamlined for simple experiments, well-tested experiments, or those that are unchanging.
Principal investigators and senior lab workers should lead SOP development. All lab workers at all experience levels should participate in SOP development, review, and updates.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) work well for designing experimental protocols in general. It provides an opportunity to identify risks and hazards at each step of an experimental process. An effective SOP analyzes potential hazards associated with a number of factors ranging from the types of materials the experiment requires, to the people working in the lab. Based on the identification of these hazards and risks, SOPs help predict what could go wrong and assess the impact of a safety failure.
Learn more about hazard identification factors to assess.
SOPs are typically developed for repetitive procedures known to have associated hazards, such as injury, property loss, or loss of productivity. The SOP outlines written steps that can be followed to safely execute the procedure. Each step of the experiment can be analyzed separately to identify failure points. After each step is analyzed for potential dangers, the whole experiment process should be examined from beginning to end to determine if combinations of the factors could impact safety.
The lab worker uses the hazard matrix to review the risks associated with the use of hazardous materials, hazardous processes, and hazardous equipment. They also measure impact of conditions including: adequacy of facilities, worker knowledge and experience and proposed hazard mitigation measures.
When writing an SOP, make sure the appropriate research was performed to understand the hazards and identify safety measures including a review of past incidents.
Consult with coworkers, vendors, or other experts.
They may point out hazards you hadn’t considered or known about. For example, compressed gas vendors can explain appropriate handling. Include warning or trouble signs and what to do to prevent a lab accident. Submit the SOP for review by a supervisor and other laboratory workers.
Review literature and other guidance materials.
Prepare for the experiment.
Identify unsafe conditions
This collection of methods and tools for assessing hazards in research laboratories is based on the publication, Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories. The guide was published in 2015 by the Hazard Identification and Evaluation Task Force of the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Chemical Safety in response to a recommendation from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.