Standard Operating Procedures

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be written for all materials and procedures that pose a potential risk to the health and safety of laboratory personnel.  SOPs should include exposure control measures and safety precautions that address both routine and accidental chemical, physical, biological or radiological hazards associated with the procedure.  SOPs should be implemented as a primary means to inform and educate laboratory personnel about hazards in their work place. The Principal Investigator (PI) or Laboratory Supervisor is ultimately responsible for the development of SOPs and should review the information to determine if it is correct and adequate.

The Role of the Risk Assessment

All SOPs should be written by someone who has sound knowledge and experience with the material, equipment, and related procedures. Before writing an SOP, the author should think through all steps of a procedure and perform a risk assessment. This process allows for standardization of materials and methods, as well as identifying safety issues associated with the procedure. Not all risk assessments need to be written. However, it is important to become familiar with all aspects of hazard identification and how such information should be used as the basis for SOP development.

Related Resources:

Biological Risk Assessment
Although the focus is infectious material, Section II from Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) 5th Edition provides an excellent overview of the principles of risk assessment.

Risk Assessment for Chemical Experiments
The worksheet provides a step-by-step approach through the process of risk assessment for experiments involving chemicals.

Safety References for Writing SOPs

The Safety Library at the DRS website provides guidance documents on safety-related topics. Information in these guidance documents, as well as other respected sources (Prudent Practices, eEROS, textbooks, etc.) can be incorporated into hazard and laboratory-specific SOPs.

SOP Format

An SOP template is provided, but SOPs may be written in different formats that better suit the procedures and information/training needs of the laboratory group. The level of detail of an SOP is dictated by the level of complexity of the procedure as well as the hazardous nature of the material or equipment involved. In some cases, experiments or procedures that have common risk elements and require similar or identical safety precautions may be covered by a single SOP. Sometimes an existing guidance document (see Safety References for Writing SOPs above) can serve as an adequate SOP with little augmentation or customization. Elements common to all SOPs are as follows:  

  1. Scope/Synopsis – This is a short summary of the applicability or purpose of the SOP. Any limits to the procedure should be written here. This is used to determine if a previously written SOP can be used for a future experiment.
  2. Hazard Identification/Risk Assessment Summary – This section includes a summary of hazardous materials and conditions, in addition to engineering controls and personal protective equipment required for the procedure that have been identified through a risk assessment.
  3. Procedure/Techniques –This section describes the procedure step-by-step. It is important to provide significant detail so that lab personnel can operate under the most ideal conditions and perform the procedure safely.
  4. Disposal and Cleanup –This section should have detailed disposal guidelines (waste compatibility, quench techniques) along with proper shut down procedures for equipment or experiments.
  5. Emergency Response –This section should include any emergency response procedures that are different or in addition to from general emergency response outlined on the DRS website or in theLaboratory Safety Guide.
  6. Training Documentation – A means for documenting training on the SOP must be developed – seeTraining Checklist page. This can be either a paper-based or electronic method of record-keeping.

Related Resources:

SOP Template

SOP Example

Last Update: 5/21/2014