A laboratory log book is a tamper proof record of laboratory activities related to use of testing equipments, environmental conditions in laboratory and consumption of critical standards and supplies.
Difference between a laboratory log book and laboratory note book
To start with it is important to understand the difference between a laboratory log book and a laboratory notebook. A laboratory log book maintains details, generally in a tabulated format on use of equipments, users, time of use, purpose of use and observed remarks, if any. On the other hand a laboratory note book contains complete experimental details adopted for analysis, observed readings, calculation of results along with supportive data such as graphs, spectra or chromatograms.
Types of logbooks
A laboratory can maintain different sets of logbooks depending on the nature of activities being carried out. Such records essentially serve the requirements stipulated by regulatory bodies and help ensure smooth trouble free operations. The present article discusses some logbook requirements and outlines their benefits.
National Standard bodies certify laboratories on the basis of competence and skills to conduct specified tests and generate analysis reports. Similarly, international standard bodies such as ISO certify laboratories for compliance with universally accepted quality standards. All such bodies mandate that log records either in physical or software format are maintained. Failure to do so can result in revocation of registration or certification granted by such bodies.
Maintenance, Calibration and Servicing of instruments
The useful service life of an instrument depends on its periodic maintenance and calibration. Logs of such activities validate that such activities were actually performed as per claims. Calibration reports and supportive data further authenticate that such activities were actually carried out.
Sample Receipt and disposal
Sample Management is an important contributor to efficiency of laboratory operations. This includes sample receipt time and date, sample details, assigned analyst, date of start and date of completion of analysis and date of sample disposal. Further the log record helps track the sample throughout the analysis cycle and helps eliminate bottlenecks in the analysis sequence.
Laboratory Environmental Records
Some analysis results are sensitive to changes in environmental conditions in a laboratory. Environmental factors include temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and exposure to light. Observation logs of readings on such parameters help take timely corrective actions and ensure greater confidence on reported results.
Weighing Balance logs
Weighing balance calibration and usage records are critical for any laboratory. An analytical balance is the most used device in any laboratory and essential precautions need to be taken for its proper functioning. Typically balance logs provide date, name of person calibrating or using the balance, quantities weighed, substance weighed and remarks, if any.
It is important to bear in mind that auditors believe only in documentary evidence and no amount of verbal convincing helps. Laboratory logs serve the required purpose during audits.
Legal and client disputes
Laboratory notebooks and logs serve as evidence in such situations and can help authorities take appropriate decisions.
Registration of patents
Patent registration requires evidence that the research activity was actually carried out by the applicant. User logs support research activities, methods employed, experimental conditions and other defined parameters maintained during experimental studies.
Training & Development
A research laboratory, government regulatory laboratory, industrial laboratory or a commercial testing laboratory can sustain its high standards and competence through training and development activities to improve the skills and knowledge of laboratory staff. A typical training log lists out the topic of training, date and time, name of trainer and trainees and effectiveness of training activities.
Utilization of facilities
Today sophisticated laboratory instruments cost a fortune and therefore it is essential to maintain a log on usage of such facilities. This data helps justify the capital spent on such procurements.
Similarly maintenance costs can be high for some instruments. Usage log helps establish their utility so as to justify the purchase decisions. Maintenance and servicing logs should also include dates of installation of major additional accessories and software upgrades.
Usage of certified reference materials and working standards
Usage logs of CRM’s and working standards helps confirm that analysis and calibration activities were performed as per claims. Secondly it also helps evaluate usage patterns of such items and helps take purchase decisions based on consumption patterns.
Authorized usage of instruments and facilities
A usage log gives information which helps establish usage by authorized persons only as specialized instruments require special training on operation and safety of use. Unauthorized users can release results with lower reliability and can also lead to accidental mishaps.
A user log is useful in diagnosis of faults in instruments. The servicing engineer can inspect the logs and arrive at the correct diagnosis after discussing the problem with the last user. This contributes to lab productivity as well as saving the engineer’s time.
It goes without saying that maintenance of user logs and other records plays a vital role in streamlining of laboratory operations for higher productivity, minimization of operational costs and greater reliance on reported results.