The University of Iowa

SAFETYmatters: StOP: Read your protocols and standard operating procedures

Article published: January 2019

Before you begin work on a research project you should stop and read any associated protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPs). Principal Investigators and supervisors are responsible for training staff on protocols and SOPs related to their research projects; and laboratory staff are responsible for following the associated protocols and SOPs.


Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are often written as step-by-step instructions to train staff on a procedure and achieve reproducibility within an experiment.  However, SOPs may also contain information related to safety, such as use of a biological safety cabinet (BSC) for aerosol generating procedures or requiring specific personal protective equipment when handling hazardous material.  Principal Investigators are responsible for training research staff on SOPs related to their project.  Lab staff should always be made aware of SOPs in their laboratory and be able to access these documents at all times.

In addition to laboratory SOPs, protocols submitted to compliance committees, such as the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) often describe special handling and safety procedures that must be followed when conducting experiments.  Principal Investigators and supervisors must train laboratory staff on the special handling and safety precautions prescribed in their approved protocols. Trained staff are responsible for conducting their work according to the approved procedures; failure to do so can result in safety and/or regulatory violations and reportable incidents.

All staff listed as Co-PIs or technical/student personnel within an IACUC or an IBC protocol have view access to the protocol(s) through eIACUC or eIBC, respectively.  Staff should review the protocols for any special handling or safety/containment procedures and perform the experiments as described therein.