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4.1 Standard Operating Procedures

The OSHA Laboratory Standard requires that Chemical Hygiene Plans include specific elements and measures to ensure employee protection in the laboratory. One such requirement is Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) “relevant to safety and health considerations to be followed when laboratory work involves the use of hazardous chemicals.”

SOPs can be stand-alone documents or supplemental information included as part of research notebooks, experiment documentation, or research proposals. The requirement for SOPs is to ensure a process is in place to document and addresses relevant health and safety issues as part of every experiment. 

At a minimum, SOPs should include details such as:

  • The chemicals involved and their hazards.
  • Special hazards and circumstances.
  • Use of engineering controls (such as fume hoods).
  • Required PPE.
  • Spill response measures.
  • Waste disposal procedures.
  • Decontamination procedures.
  • Description of how to perform the experiment or operation.

While the OSHA Laboratory Standard specifies the requirement for SOPs for work involving hazardous chemicals, laboratories should also develop SOPs for use with any piece of equipment or operation that may pose any physical hazards. Examples include:

  • Safe use and considerations of LASERSs.
  • Use of cryogenic liquids and fill procedures.
  • Connecting regulators to gas cylinders and cylinder change outs.
  • Use of equipment with high voltage.

Etc…

SOPs do not need to be lengthy dissertations and it is perfectly acceptable to point laboratory personnel to other sources of information. Some examples of what to include as part of SOPs are:

“To use this piece of equipment, see page 4 in the operator’s manual (located in file cabinet #4).” “The chemical and physical hazards of this chemical can be found in the SDS – located in the SDS binder. Read the SDS before using this chemical.” “When using chemical X, wear safety goggles, nitrile gloves, and a lab coat.”

EHS can assist laboratories with developing general and specific SOPs. Due to the variety of research and the large number of laboratories on the Cornell campus, it is the responsibility of each laboratory, department and college to ensure that SOPs are developed and the practices and procedures are adequate to protect lab workers who use hazardous chemicals.

It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator and laboratory supervisor to ensure written SOPs incorporating health and safety considerations are developed for work involving the use of hazardous chemicals in laboratories under their supervision and that PPE and engineering controls are adequate to prevent overexposure. In addition, Principal Investigators and laboratory supervisors must ensure that personnel working in laboratories under their supervision have been trained on those SOPs.

Examples of Standard Operating Procedures and blank SOP templates include: