Whether one is putting together a home office or a professional laboratory, people need an organizational system. Without a cohesive and synchronized system, one will likely lose important documents and samples that are vital to the success of their scientific endeavors. In the end, this could skew results or pose frustrating challenges down the road.
If you are a lab manager with a penchant for systematic thinking, then you should take advantage of this mindset. If you aren’t one of the organizationally gifted, then you must find a few tactics to make do with what you have. Here is why an accurate labeling system matters in a lab setting.
What Is a Labeling System?
A labeling system is the go-to method for organizing laboratory information. Labels are the lifeblood of a well-planned work system. Without them, important information will become lost in the ether.
The art of labeling may sound simple, but there is much more to developing a coherent and effective labeling system than leaving a pen on the table. All labeling systems rely on the concept that a shorthanded keyword phrase will convey critical information to the reader.
When it comes time to discern the information, the label should serve as a central hub of all relevant data. If the label lacks sufficient information, it is ineffective. That is why a labeling system is necessary for the standardization of label making.
When using a labeling system, your writing implements matter greatly. Lab settings often require special storage conditions with highly volatile substances. If you use a type of ink that dissolves when in contact with the sample chemical or fades at low temperatures, then you will have an ineffective labeling system.
The same practical considerations apply to the kind of paper or sticker you use. You need to check if the adhesive will hold up through various temperature extremes and whether it will last over time. The last thing one wants is to place a vial rack in the freezer and come back the next week to find all the labels frozen off the glass and littered at the bottom of the shelf.
Where Do You Use One?
In laboratory settings, technicians utilize analytical scientific instruments to manipulate samples and draft conclusions for clients. Labeling systems, in general, are helpful in all spheres of life, but professionally, few places benefit from them as much as scientific settings. With an accurate labeling system, any technician can focus on their work and streamline the data collection process.
Why Do Labeling Systems Matter?
Developing and using a labeling system may sound like an unnecessarily tedious process. However, it is a multifunctional tool that saves time, data, and even lives. Because many laboratories deal in healthcare treatments, it is not a long shot to assert that labeling systems guarantee safety.
A Laboratory Is a Business
The first thing every laboratory manager and technician must ask themselves is how they want to organize the space. Laboratories are technically businesses with a scientific focus. They need all the same organizational methods and means to implement them.
In a laboratory setting, the labeling system will extend far beyond simple file cabinet folders. Chemical storage, patient samples, freezer organization—labels help facilitate these essential business functions. Whether you are a lab tech, lab manager, or accountant, a labeling system will drastically improve business functions.
Losing Data Is Devastating
It is every scientist’s worst nightmare to lose their hard-won data. At the end of a long period of trials and data collection, to lose the culmination of months of labor is devastating. That is why labeling is critical at every step of the process. If samples become misplaced, thrown out as unlabeled trash, or incorrectly recorded, the technician loses the integrity of the information. As a result, the team may need to restart the trial phase or the project altogether.
Hazardous Materials Are Dangerous
Labeling is not just about operational efficiency. You need labels to notify your staff about hazardous materials. When a dangerous chemical or poisonous substance is in storage, everyone must be able to discern it from the other items. Otherwise, you could end up with an injured employee on site.
Prioritize Patient Safety
Laboratories are not just purely scientific businesses that perform research. Many labs work in tandem with medical facilities to process bloodwork and collect data for patient treatment. A labeling system is vital to have in place so staff members can correctly describe and track samples through the process.
As a lab working directly with patients, few things matter as much as patients’ physical safety. If you mislabel a patient’s bloodwork and they receive incomplete results or someone else’s results altogether, the doctor will treat patients incorrectly due to the misinformation. Prioritize patient safety with a coordinated effort to streamline and standardize your labeling system.
How Do You Implement a Labeling System?
It is one thing to understand the centrality of a labeling system in your laboratory. It is quite another to know how to implement one. Here are all the best tips and tricks to implement a labeling system in your laboratory, regardless of your specialty or practice.
The Team Effort
The truth of the matter is that no labeling system gets off the ground without everyone on board. When you organize a filing cabinet, all those who use it must follow the system. Otherwise, your hard work will quickly erode in the face of disorganized or disinterested employees.
It is truly a team effort to ensure organizational success when it comes to your labeling system. If anyone is not sure how to make the system work, you must train them on the technicalities so they can handle the system on their own. As the old saying goes, “Give a person a fish, and they eat for a day; teach them to fish, and they eat for a lifetime.” Getting everyone up to speed on the system will save you time in the future and prevent issues down the road.
Knowing why an accurate labeling system matters in a lab setting will help every lab manager avoid costly mistakes. If you need help implementing laboratory technology and solutions, our team at GenTech Scientific is here to help.