Many factors can affect the outcome of data in a laboratory setting. Perhaps the most common factor is the contamination of lab samples. Contamination can occur during various points in the lab process. However, there are measures you can take and protocols you can establish to reduce this risk and avoid contamination in lab samples.
Automate the process
Perhaps the best way to avoid contamination in lab samples is by automating certain aspects of the process. Introducing automated liquid handling equipment into your laboratory can significantly reduce the risk of human error and cross-contamination of samples. You can equip these machines with additional attachments, such as specialized plate types and heater-shakers, to further automate the process. Additionally, the enclosed hood of these machines creates a contamination-free workspace within your laboratory. For more information regarding the benefits of automated liquid handling and it can help reduce contamination and human error in your lab, check out our helpful beginner’s guide.
Wear proper protective equipment
Regardless of the industry, most labs require individuals to follow certain protocols regarding personal protective equipment. This equipment mainly serves as a barrier between the individual and any potentially harmful materials they may be handling. However, it is also an effective mean of reducing contamination within lab samples. Lab coats will reduce the risk of introducing contaminants that reside on street clothes into the laboratory, while disposable gloves will reduce the risk of cross-contaminating samples. Personnel should never reuse disposable gloves and they should always change them when moving between samples to further reduce the risk of contamination.
Clean and sterilize equipment
Maintaining a sterile work environment is crucial to avoiding contamination. Be sure to thoroughly clean and sterilize every piece of lab equipment regularly. For some pieces of equipment, such as glassware, this may be as frequently as every day. For others, it may be dependent on the frequency of use as well as the materials used. In larger scale laboratories, the process of cleaning and sterilizing multiple pieces of equipment and glassware can be extensive and laborious. Utilizing automated equipment, such as a lab water purification system, can reduce the amount of time spent sterilizing equipment without sacrificing the degree of cleanliness. This equipment can produce highly purified water at an efficient and reliable rate which personnel can then use to thoroughly clean and sterilize glassware, effectively reducing the risk of contamination.
When establishing a protocol for reducing the risk of sample contamination, you may consider reorganizing the laboratory in favor of creating a more directional workflow. Creating a structured workflow within the lab will ensure that everything stays in the proper location, reducing the risk of accidental contamination. Establishing specific areas and designating specific equipment for each step in the laboratory process will reduce the risk of contamination and streamline the process, increasing productivity and efficiency.