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Standard Operating Procedures and Hazard Assessments


Standard Operating Procedures

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) establish the basis for safe laboratory operations.

A complete SOP includes information such as: health and safety information, waste disposal practices, decontamination and spill procedures, and emergency procedures. Each person using the SOP must have documented Training on that procedure. To Assist you in this a SOP template has been developed, which includes sections for all the required information.

In creating a useful and effective SOP, one the first steps is identifying the hazards involved. This is called a Hazard Assessment. More information is provided on Hazard Assessments below (scroll down).

Hazard Assessment

As you write an SOP an important component is Part II - the Hazard Assessment. You might be wondering what a Hazard assessment entails and for that a template has been developed to assist you. Now let’s talk about hazard assessments in greater detail.

First gather all the reference materials you will need. For example the SDSs, Lab Safety Manual, equipment manual, materials and methods and any written protocols you will be using. Next sit down as group with everyone who will performing the procedure and brainstorm about the hazards. Go through the process step by step and identify the health and physical hazards of the chemicals and materials you will be using. Don’t forget to consider other physical hazards involved including extreme temperatures, repetitive movements and sharps or sharp objects.

Ask the following questions:

  1. What are the hazards?
  2. What part of the body could be affected?
  3. How severe could the injury or exposure be?
  4. What can we do to prevent that injury or exposure?
  5. What can we do to prepare for accidents or an emergency?


Once you have looked at the hazards involved get into the practice of protecting yourself from those hazards. To do this you will use the hierarchy of controls.

The first control is substitution or elimination. Because if you can eliminate a hazardous chemical or task you have eliminated that potential exposure and its associated risk. Even if you can’t reduce the risk you can reduce the risk by substituting a less hazardous substance.

Unfortunately this isn’t always the case and some hazards just cannot be eliminated or substituted. If this is case the next step is engineering controls. Engineering controls are mechanisms that have been put physically in place to protect you from the hazard. Examples include the use of fume hoods that remove vapors, biological cabinets that filter particulates from the air, and interlocking devices that prevent you from accessing a hazardous component while it is in operation.

The third control is an administrative control.  This is often referred to as the paperwork controls. For example, a written SOP that says a procedure will only be done in designated area and performed by trained personnel, or that no one will work alone while performing the process. Another administrative control is a policy that says special training is required before using extremely hazardous substances.

The final control is Personnel Protective Equipment or PPE. PPE is the last line of defense between you and the hazard. Depending on your laboratory hazards, at a minimum a laboratory coat, eye protection and hand protection should be chosen to mitigate the hazards present. Appropriate footwear should also be chosen and closed toed, closed heeled shoes are required at all times.





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Emergency Procedures

Emergency Procedures Manual