Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a valuable tool and worth the preparation time. SOPs go beyond the basic "cookbook" procedural description of materials and methods and also provide details about the appropriate precautions.

Here are some examples of topics that lend themselves well to the SOP format:

Inventory procedure for stock/reference cultures
Laboratory Security
Disposal of hazardous materials, including sharps, chemicals and biological materials
Surface decontamination
Operation and maintenance of equipment such as the centrifuge, BSC, and autoclave
Transportation of hazardous materials between facilities

In general, SOPs force a person to think through a procedure step by step and to standardize the materials and methods. The exercise of writing the SOP is valuable and the SOP itself is a useful training tool and a reminder to staff of the correct procedures. In some situations, SOPs may be required for compliance with regulations

The best approach to writing an SOP is to do it, write it, and test it. Be brief and succinct; the shorter, the better. Anyone - student, support staff, post-doc or principal investigator, can prepare them. The SOPs should be available in the laboratory, not filed away in an office drawer.

A typical SOP contains the following elements:
A Header which shows the Title of the SOP, Original Issue Date, Revision/Review Date, number of pages contained in the SOP, who wrote the SOP, and the Approval Signature.

purpose and scope
materials and equipment needed
safety concerns,
who is responsible
step-by step procedure with identification and emphasis of "critical steps"
records to be kept
copies of forms to be used

SOPs should be reviewed annually at a minimum.


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