Carrying out a procedure for the first time
If you are about to attempt a procedure that is new to you, read it through carefully first. Discuss it with someone who has experience of the method and make sure it is fully understood before entering the lab. All standard laboratory procedures should already have a risk assessment form associated with them. Copies are kept with the Laboratory Supervisor. These should be read and signed and if necessary counter-signed by your supervisor. If it involves a particularly hazardous chemical or procedure, arrange for an experienced worker to be present the first time you do it (and on subsequent occasions if you are not fully confident). Plan your work in advance; find out where things are kept; make sure there are sufficient stocks of the chemicals you are going to use - this will save you wandering around with contaminated gloves, lab coat etc. when you run out of something half way through a prep!
If the risk assessment gives details of protective clothing, you must wear it. Make sure you are aware of all emergency procedures and disposal methods involved – you will be signing a risk assessment that gives details of these; ensure you have read it thoroughly.
13.1 Introducing a new method
If you have decided to try out a new method or are proposing changes to an existing method, this must be discussed with your supervisor (if you have one) and the lab supervisor before any work is carried out.
No new methods are to be carried out until the following is done:
- Provide the lab supervisor with a draft copy of the method. Preferably this should take the form of a word document so that the method can be added to the lab web pages easily. The method should include any references that are available.
- Carry out a full risk assessment. This can be done with assistance from the lab supervisor or your own supervisor. If chemicals are involved, a COSHH assessment will also need to be included.
- Make a list of requirements. If the method involves any chemical or equipment that is not a “stock” item, an order will have to be placed to obtain them. Please note that some items will not be readily available from suppliers, so this may have to be done well in advance of work commencing. When ordering items for a new procedure, a grant code must be available so that the order may be charged against it. If any additional safety equipment is necessary for the procedure (safety screens, gloves of a particular chemical resistance etc), please ensure that these are included on the list. These will have been identified in the risk assessment.
- Book lab time. Ensure that time has been booked in all the rooms required and that all equipment required is available – this will include balances, centrifuges, ovens etc. Always allow plenty of time for developing new methods. You will normally need to carry out the method using standards and duplicate samples several times before the method is “officially” introduced into the lab. Allow time for repeating samples and for clearing up. It is better to over book time than to run out of time half way through.
- Ask for help. If you have little or no experience of the methods or chemicals you are using, find out if there is someone who has. This can save time and prevent accidents. If necessary and available, ensure you have received suitable training in techniques you are about to try.
Once this has all been done, then you can try out the method.
- Next... revise the method. If any revisions are made to the method as you go along, you may also need to revise the risk assessment accordingly. A final copy of the method and the risk assessment should be given to the lab supervisor, along with the references and a list of any procedural problems that will help any future user. Please make the methods as detailed as possible, including any observations - “it went pink when I added this…”, “it boiled over if you added this too quickly….”. It is also useful to include details of the time taken at each stage of the procedure to enable people to book adequate lab time should they wish to use the method.