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Death and Taxes

Government regulations, like death and taxes, are an inescapable part of today’s laboratories

Pamela Ahlberg

Government regulations, like death and taxes, are an inescapable part of today’s laboratories. Critical to personnel safety, sample quality assurance and control, and environmental protection, lab managers have a major responsibility to ensure that their labs stay compliant—whether it be OSHA, EPA, NELAC, ISO, NFPA, NIOSH standards or others. A very tall order, but one that, if neglected, can result in a failed inspection and subsequent damage to business and reputation. In this month’s cover story, managers and others from a variety of disciplines share their insights into navigating the complex world of government regs.

HACCP is a specific set of guidelines that impact food and beverage industry laboratories. In this month’s Business Management article, “Becoming a Productivity Partner,” author Matt Grulke looks at how a LIMS can help managers keep those labs in compliance as well as improve productivity. “While labs fulfill a critical data management role when it comes to regulatory compliance, from ISO 22000 to HACCP, at the heart they are part of a production process where even small oversights or inefficiencies can lead to diminished productivity and profit loss,” says Grulke.

As more businesses rely on global relationships for their growth and success, managing such far-flung teams remains a challenge. While improved online tools and resources make it simpler, technology alone cannot replace all aspects of effective management. Turn to this month’s Leadership & Staffing article, “Managing from a Distance,” (page 24) for tips on how to better facilitate laboratory operations and team communications remotely. One suggestion is to create a collaboration plan that “acts as a ‘prenuptial agreement’ with expectations on how often to meet, what communication tools to use, and other cooperative guidelines.”

This month’s Industry Insights articles look at two very timely topics. The first, “Insights on Next-Generation Sequencing,” (page 34) looks at the role this technology is playing in the move toward medical diagnostics and personalized medicine. The second, “Insights on Trace Metal Analysis,” (page 37) examines ICP-MS as the tool of choice for analyzing trace amounts of metals in a variety of environmental applications.

Speaking of environmental applications, our “Labs Less Ordinary” feature this month (page 16) introduces us to the Biotron Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where 45 environmentally controlled rooms can simulate almost any climate on Earth. “People are starting to realize that we need to know more about how the organisms—plants or animals—and materials will do going forward if we have different temperature-humidity scenarios,” says Biotron director Hannah Carey.

Of the various technologies discussed in this issue, “GC Troubleshooting,” (page 42) offers some particularly helpful tips for keeping your GC system up and running. From detectors to columns, manufacturers share their expertise in how best to maintain this important piece of laboratory equipment.

With winter behind us, I hope you are happily anticipating the promise of spring.


Pamela Ahlberg