FAQ for Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a set of written instructions documenting a routine or repetitive activity followed for a specific procedure, analysis, or operation without loss of effectiveness. Examples include working with highly toxic chemicals, operations requiring prior approval, or working with hazardous laboratory equipment. 

What is the purpose of an SOP? 

The purpose of an SOP is to provide written documentation of laboratory-specific processes, operations or analysis that are to be conducted or followed within the laboratory. The development and use of SOP’s promote consistent execution of a process or procedure within the laboratory, regardless of temporary or permanent personnel changes. SOP’s ensure conformance to good laboratory practices, reduce work error, improve safety, data comparability, credibility, and defensibility. 

Why do I need SOP’s? 

The OSHA Lab Standard [29 CFR 1910.1450] states that a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) must include “standard operating procedures relevant to the safety and health considerations to be followed when laboratory work involves the use of hazardous chemicals.” [29 CFR 1910.1450 (e)(3)(i)]. This is especially important if your lab operations include the routine use of particularly hazardous substances, i.e., "select carcinogens," reproductive toxins, and substances which have a high degree of acute toxicity

Who should write an SOP? 

SOPs should be written by laboratory personnel who are knowledgeable with the procedure, analysis or operation. These individuals are essentially subject-matter experts who actually perform the work or use the process. A team approach can also be followed, especially for multi- tasked processes where the experiences of a number of individuals are critical. 

What information should be included in an SOP? 

SOP’s should be written with sufficient detail so that someone with a basic understanding can successfully reproduce the procedure or activity without supervision. They should be written in a concise, step-by-step, easy-to-read format and should not be ambiguous or overly complicated. The best approach to creating SOP’s is to write them, then test them. Generic SOP’s should be modified to accommodate your laboratory specific operational and procedural needs. SOP’s for particularly hazardous substances must include designated areas, containment devices, disposal of contaminated and waste materials and decontamination procedures. A generic interactive SOP template has been developed for use by the university research community.