Standard Operating Procedures


Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are designed to facilitate safe laboratory work by providing general instructions on handling hazardous materials. Cal/OSHA mandates the establishment of standard operating procedures for any work involving hazardous chemicals. This requirement is outlined in Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, also known as the Laboratory Standard, which falls under the Chemical Hygiene Plan.

SOPs serve as essential documentation, detailing laboratory-specific procedures for the safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous chemicals.
The responsibility of creating relevant SOPs for health and safety regarding laboratory activities involving hazardous chemicals lies with principal investigators and laboratory supervisors.

Principal Investigators

Principal Investigators (PIs) have the role of supervisors and are responsible for ensuring the safety of work assignments and workspaces, assigning safety training, supplying safety procedures and equipment, addressing hazards, investigating the root causes of incidents, and taking preventive measures to avoid similar occurrences. 

Contact the EH&S office by phone or email with your name, title, department, mailing address, and description of your lab.

Creating an SOP

The details of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document will vary greatly depending on the laboratory, with the Principal Investigator being responsible for ensuring the SOP effectively covers all procedures relevant to each specific hazard. In general, SOPs tend to include these basic elements:

  1. Header: The documents title, identification number, and version. Relevant keywords and activities should be defined here as well.
  2. Purpose: A few sentences defining the intent of the document.
  3. Scope: Defining to whom or what any particular set of procedures applies. Ensure that very little is left up to interpretation.
  4. References and Related Documents: Include links and citations required to effectively execute and understand the defined procedures. 
  5. Definitions: Make sure that relevant terms, abbreviations, and acronyms are clearly defined. 
  6. Roles and Responsibilities: Define the different roles involved in your laboratory's procedures.
  7. Procedure: Ensure that the steps of the procedure are clearly defined, with individual steps within each major step included.
  8. Approval Signatures: Have all relevant supervisors sign off on the SOP before it can become official.

For reference, view this example of an SOP for Acutely Toxic Chemicals.

Keep in mind that every SOP is different and has different requirements, and not every section will be used in every SOP. All procedures should be approved and validated for use based on the unique situation in which the SOP applies. For more information, please review OSHA's guidelines regarding exposure to hazardous chemicals.