Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are documents which describe in detail the necessary steps to perform a task (such as experimental or management procedures), so that the task is carried out correctly and always in the same way.
SOPs should include information about hazards and how they can be dealt with, as well as specify who is responsible for each of the steps within the task. SOPs should also be easy to follow, practical, short and be available where the task is carried out. The ideal SOP is a single page laminated and stuck on a clinic or laboratory wall.
SOPs are needed for the steps that, if performed in a different or wrong way, could impact the quality of the work performed, the validity and consistency of the data generated, the safety of the operator (or the participants in the case of a clinical trial) or the compliance with ethical standards.
Even though SOPs can (and should) be amended as processes or procedures change, they should also be reviewed periodically (annually or biennially for example) to ensure their appropriateness and that they remain up to date. It is important to keep track of the different versions by including the version number and date. A list of current SOPs, including the latest version number, should also be kept.
The team working at a laboratory should read the relevant SOPs to their work and sign that have done so. SOPs only hold their value if they remain useful tools, which help the staff and researchers in their daily activities and if they are implemented by all laboratory workers and enforced by the Principle Investigator.
There are some downloadable SOP templates on the right hand side of the screen here, including one generic and one for how to develop SOPs.
For other SOP related resources in the Global Health network, see these links:
The FAO provides another helpful resource that covers all aspects of SOPs:
If you have any suggestions for additional resources or guidance, please provide these below.
This resource was originally posted in Global Health Laboratories.