Chemical Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

What is a Standard Operating Procedure?

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) describes how your lab will safely handle a hazardous chemical, including the amount and concentration you will use, how you obtain or create the working solution, and special handling procedures, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment.

What is a chemical safety guideline?

OESO provides chemical safety guidelines to summarize general guidance for safe handling of chemicals in a specific hazard class, such as flammable and combustible liquids or oxidizers. These guidelines do NOT include specific lab procedures, the amount and concentration used, etc. In some cases the safety guidelines will provide enough information for labs to work safely with all chemicals in that class. In other cases (with particularly hazardous or high risk chemicals or procedures), additional lab-specific written procedures are required.

Where do I find chemical safety guidelines and information about creating SOPs?

An SOP Template, chemical safety guidelines, older hazard-class SOPs, and a selection of chemical-specific guidelines are found on our Chemical SOPs and Guidelines page.

When is an SOP required?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires standard operating procedures covering health and safety considerations for any work with hazardous chemicals in laboratories. The Chemical Hygiene Plan, SOPs and chemical safety guidelines describe safety and health considerations for many chemicals used in labs. Many of these documents can be used in the format provided without modification by the lab. Requirements for laboratory-specific SOPs are indicated below.

When is a laboratory-specific SOP required?

Laboratory-specific, customized SOPs must be created for chemicals or procedures that pose unique hazards, including all chemicals meeting OESO’s criteria for particularly hazardous and high risk chemicals. OESO’s GHS lookup tool can be used to identify chemical hazards as well as provide information on necessary actions that need to be taken to safely work with a chemical. More specific requirements for customized SOPs are included in Chapter 5 of the Chemical Hygiene/Safety Section of the Lab Safety Manual.

Is a specific format required?

No, but your SOP must include any relevant information from all of the sections included in the SOP template. Your SOP may reference one or more of the chemical safety guidelines for relevant hazard classes.

If I have a written protocol describing the steps of my experiment, can I simply incorporate the important safety information into that document?

Yes. In fact, OESO encourages investigators to incorporate safety procedures into their experimental protocols. As long as the protocol includes information for all of the relevant sections from the SOP template in a user-friendly format, there is no need for a separate safety SOP unless it is useful to the lab for training purposes.

What resources are available to help me complete the SOP?

The Laboratory Chemical Safety Summaries in PubChem offer an excellent compilation of safety information for several thousand chemicals. Safety Data Sheets also provide good background information.

Additionally, we recommend that each lab have access to Prudent Practices in the Laboratory, published by the National Research Council. The full contents of the book are available online or you can download a PDF version of the book free of charge. (Note that you can “Search This Book” for a particular chemical of interest, but important safety information is included throughout the book). A hardcover print copy can be purchased for your lab.