Standard Operating Procedures or SOP’s lay down guidelines for carrying out the different tasks in any work establishment. Establishments range from testing laboratories, commercial organizations, offices, airlines, railways, workshops, manufacturing industrial units, etc.
The role played by SOP’s in testing laboratories assumes greater significance as there are several major concerns. Firstly it is the upkeep of quality of services that guarantee continued customer confidence and support and secondly it is safety of operations as a laboratory poses potential hazards due to presence of toxic, highly flammable, poisonous and corrosive chemicals. An earlier article titled ‘High time to rate your standard operating procedures‘ requested you to review your existing SOP’s to introspect on the available SOP’s for their coverage on the activities in your laboratory. Hopefully you could spare some of your precious time and propose some new ones that are not covered under the available SOP’s or offer your suggestions for review of existing SOP’s.
Laboratories evolve their standard operating procedures based on analysis requirements and nature of materials routinely handled. Mention was made on activities which are common with majority of testing laboratories. Some other areas where SOP’s
Need to be laid down include:
- Safe handling and movement of compressed gas cylinders and heavy instruments
- Sample receipt and disposal
- Disposal of laboratory waste
- Cleaning of glassware
- Safe handling and storage of hazardous materials
- Dress code and conduct of employees in laboratories.
The list of topics is unlimited and more areas often emerge through experience which could have been overlooked in the past or present a scope for improvement. On receipt of inputs and suggestions the laboratory quality manager drafts the SOP or modifies it in the prescribed format after consulting senior management and circulates to colleagues for their comments.
Importance of adherence to SOP
It can be argued that there is always more than one possible approach to conduct laboratory tasks and achieve the desired results. Some of the approaches will offer benefits in terms of safety, cost reduction, simplicity of analysis, time saving, etc. However, the finalized SOP is a sacrosanct document which is evolved under a period of time through deliberations of experienced professionals based on their expertise and past experience. The guidelines of the SOP’s cannot be violated on individual whims and fancies unless they are authenticated by an authorized person. The changes are made by the authorized individual after deliberations with concerned group of experts and intimated to the quality manager for updation of records.
An elaborate thought processes is involved in generation and review of SOP’s. Non-adherence to the procedures can lead to generation of non-validated results, loss of customer base and even serious accidents. On the other hand adherence to established procedures contributes to streamlining of operations and running of lab with greater efficiency.