A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of written instructions that describes, in detail, how to perform a process safely and effectively. Farms, greenhouses, laboratories, and shops must have written SOPs when using hazardous materials (chemical, radioactive, and biological) or physical hazards. All personnel must have documented training on applicable SOPs provided by the PI or other experienced personnel. SOPs must be reviewed at least annually and updated when necessary. 

SOP development

Principal Investigators or supervisors are responsible for ensuring that accurate SOPs are developed and implemented in their workspaces. For assistance, review the frequently asked questions below.

SOP templates

EH&S created a template that includes all required categories for a SOP. It is recommended to use the template, but not required, so long as all the necessary information can be located in the SOP.

Frequently asked questions

You can use the following steps during SOP development.

1. Conduct a hazard assessment. A hazard assessment aims to identify and evaluate all chemical, biological, radiological, and physical hazards associated with laboratory operations and describe safety precautions necessary to avoid employee exposures and injuries.

2. Develop site-specific SOPs for all hazardous tasks listed in your assessment. 

  • Individual Hazardous Chemicals such as arsenic, benzene, hydrofluric acid, etc.
  • Chemical Hazard Class such as corrosive, flammable, oxidizer, etc.
  • Processes such as chromatography, distillation, synthesis, analysis, decontamination, etc.
  • Equipment such as centrifuge, rotovap, hot plate, autoclave, power tools, compressed gas cylinders, freezers, incubators, sonicators, etc.
  • Special Procedures involving carcinogens, reproductive toxins, teratogens, highly toxic substances, explosives, controlled substances, select biological agents, radioactive materials, radiation-producing devices, and lasers. 

3. Include these topics in each SOP:

  • Health and Safety Information: Briefly describe the hazards associated with the materials and/or equipment OR include/reference your hazard assessment.
  • Hazard Control Measures
    • Engineering - Methods built into the design of a worksite, equipment, or process to minimize, eliminate, or contain the hazard.
    • Administrative - Work practices that provide an acceptable way to work around the hazard.
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards. 
  • Methods/Protocol: Include step-by-step instructions detailing the process.
  • Waste Disposal: Include all waste disposal requirements. Hazardous materials must never go down the drain or into the garbage.
  • First Aid: List first aid procedures for all potential incidents or accidents. Report any incidents, accidents, or near misses to the ISU Incident Portal.
  • Spill/Release Containment, Decontamination, and Clean up: List actions to take to contain, decontaminate, and clean up any spills or releases of materials.
  • The EH&S SOP template (doc) contains sections for the necessary health and safety information:
    • Health and safety information for materials/equipment used
    • Hazard control measures
    • Waste disposal procedures
    • Decontamination/cleaning procedures

4. Train and document personnel on SOPs.

5. Review SOPs and hazard assessments annually or when procedures and hazards change. 

  • Spill/release containment measures
  • First aid procedures

The SOP Template Guidance Document (PDF) provides additional guidance and helpful examples.

More information on SOP requirements can be found in the  Laboratory Safety Manual (PDF).

A hazard assessment is part of developing an SOP. It documents the hazards of your work and how your group will mitigate and control them.

The Hazard Inventory Form is submitted to Occupational Medicine. It lists the hazards of your work but does not provide any countermeasures or controls.

A hazard assessment documents the hazards personnel may encounter and specifies the controls in place to mitigate the risks of those activities. The PI must approve all SOPs and hazard assessments, and all personnel must have documented training on the SOP and hazard assessment before beginning work.

To learn more about completing a hazard assessment, check out these resources:

Visit the Hazard Inventory Information page for assistance in submitting your form.

SOP library

EH&S has created a collection of general SOPs for chemical, biological, and radioactive material laboratories and shops. These SOPs can be downloaded, modified, and added to your laboratory's SOP file. ISU researchers can use SOPs in the online SOP library to develop their own SOPs. Since each laboratory is different, researchers must edit the SOPs with information specific to their laboratory operation. 

Browse all SOPs

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