Writing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

Prior to writing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), a Biological Risk Assessment must be conducted. 

General Guidelines

Every SOP Must Include

  • Date written, dates of revisions, name of person that wrote the SOP
  • Procedural methods/materials (detailed enough to allow someone to complete the procedure)
  • Risk identification
  • Exposure controls
  • Waste disposal
  • Spill procedures
  • Accident procedures
  • Any pertinent references
  • Any required record keeping

SOPs must be lab-specific. They should not consist of copies of manufacturer's inserts, manuals from other sources, or another lab's SOP (unless work is collaborative and carried out in the same research space). You may, however, wish to refer to other documents.

See sample SOP Template. Expand each section as needed. The template is for guidance only and is not meant to be all-inclusive or a required format. 

Steps to Writing a SOP

1. Review laboratory protocols and identify the potential hazards associated with the procedures performed in the protocols — Risk Assessment.
2. Determine the types of exposure risk to the identified hazards that each step could present.
3.  Develop an exposure control plan that workers must adhere to that will minimize the risk of personal exposure and prevent the release of infectious agents. The exposure control plan must include each exposure risk identified in Step 2. Include personal protective equipment and work practices in accordance with the Biosafety Level determined by completing the Risk Assessment process in Step 1.
4.  Identify the types of wastes that will be generated and plan for how they will be treated/disposed of.

Develop a lab-specific plan for how spills and accidental exposures will be handled. List emergency procedures including location of emergency equipment, emergency contact information with phone numbers, spill cleanup/decontamination methods, and when and how to seek emergency medical care. Include who the worker should notify in case of an accident and how to file an accident report.

Include routine cleanup procedures and materials in plan.

Completed SOPs Should Be

  • Brief, succinct, and usable
  • Used to train all new employees (remember to document training)
  • Reviewed with employees as part of their annual laboratory-specific safety update training (document training)
  • Reviewed annually for accuracy and completeness by supervisor and workers
  • Available in the laboratory for worker reference
  • Submitted with all IBC applications
  • Used as a lab-specific supplement to the department's Lab Safety Plan
  • Signed by supervisor if written by someone other than P.I. or lab director