A modern analytical laboratory handles several hundred samples in a single day. Sample management plays a crucial role as without a sample management plan in place it will not be long before the laboratory presents a chaotic look with samples lying all around. Valuable time will be lost in trying to locate the required samples.
Proper sample storage and prevention of cross contamination are the main considerations after receipt of samples in the laboratory. Some suggested guidelines are provided here.
- Sample labels should be legible and include sample details. Such details should include sample name, batch number (if applicable), date of preparation or collection and recommended storage conditions.
- Ensure that sample container or pouch is properly sealed and there is no leakage of material
- Samples need not be stored in an alphabetical order. It may be easy to locate samples stored alphabetically but there are other better plans for sample storage such as storage on basis of priority in separate bins – most urgent, urgent or normal priority. This plan may involve movement of samples between different bins when priorities change.
- Make a manual/soft record on sample details such as sample name, code(if applicable) date and time of receipt , sample source, analysis requirements, promised result delivery date, actual date of delivery and finally sample status ,ie, pass or fail
- Light and temperature sensitive samples should be stored under the prescribed conditions
Technical details for sample disposal procedures are not part of this write-up and only general guidelines are provided. It is a good to keep in mind that samples after analysis should not be disposed off in washbasins or dustbins.
- Maintain record of disposal of samples similar to the ones maintained for samples before analysis
- Retain sufficient quantity of sample under recommended storage conditions for the purpose of retesting for verification of results in case of disputes or confirmation of results
- Engage special agencies in case of hazardous sample disposal
- Disposal of samples should not pose any hazard to other laboratory workers or visitors to the laboratory so it is absolutely essential to adopt recommended practices for storage and disposal of samples.
The general guidelines offered provide useful tips but you can devise sample storage and disposal plans based on nature of samples handled and daily workloads.