Have you ever wondered what’s involved with samples once they are collected and received for environmental contamination testing? They are sent to one of our Envirolab scientific laboratories, but what processes and practices are involved?
Last week, Pamela Adams, Laboratory Manager of our Melbourne laboratory, was able to answer these questions when she hosted 19 students from Kangan Institute for a lab tour and presentation.
The students gained insight into the everyday operations of a commercial environmental testing laboratory.
Process for Sample logging and Ensuring Client Requirements Are Met
Following an introduction about Envirolab Group and our network of labs and offices, Envirolab Services, MPL Laboratories and LABTEC, located in Australia and New Zealand, the students went through the processes involved for sample testing or the “sample testing cycle.” This encompasses the completion of the Chain of Custody (COC), the receipt of the sample, sample preservation and the actual journey of the sample in the lab as testing is conducted and findings are reported.
A variety of methods may be involved to perform the vast range of tests needed or instructed by clients on the (COC).
Methods and Processes for Sample Testing
Laboratory methods are based on established scientific principles involving chemistry and biology and physics. Different departments may also be involved for analysis, including, but not limited to, Organics, Inorganics, Asbestos and Metals.
The students learnt that some methods are much more complicated, timely and labour-intensive than others, and may require varying degrees of knowledge and expertise. In some circumstances, more than one method may be required. Our dedicated team of scientists carefully follow step-by-step procedures until a test result is achieved.
Environmental laboratory testing is a highly regulated industry with strict and intensively monitored quality control systems in place. Compliancy with regulatory bodies and industry guidelines for testing methodologies ensure that we are up-to-date with procedures. For instance, our NATA Accreditation for various testing methods demonstrates to our clients, regulators and industry our high technical competence and an assurance that we can deliver a consistently reliable and impartial quality of service. At the same time, specifications are being met by safe and dependable operations and equipment.
Compliancy with Safety Practices
Pamela also explained to the students the importance of workplace health and safety (WHS), which is also referred to as Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).
In Victoria, OHS legislation is composed of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), which is the main workplace health and safety law in Victoria. It sets out key principles, duties and rights about OHS. The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, which was enacted recently on 18 June 2017, sets out how to fulfil the duties and obligations under the OHS Act.
This includes obligations by employers, like Envirolab, to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees. PPE is clothing and equipment that must be worn at all times by all staff and visitors in the laboratory to protect or shield their bodies from workplace hazards. PPE includes:
Foot protection - fully enclosed footwear covering the foot completely and having no holes to let any liquid in
Eye protection - safety glasses or safety over-glasses over prescription glasses, shields and visors
Skin and hand protection – lab coat, gloves, Full length trousers
Respiratory protection – disposable respirators, half or full face masks, filters and various other breathing apparatus
Hearing protection - ear muffs and plugs
PPE should not be used to compensate for an unsafe environment. They are used in addition to other methods of managing hazards and risks. Due to the nature of the activities involved in a laboratory, the students were informed about how Envirolab is required to ensure that equipment is compliant with Australian Standards. Envirolab Services also has certification for Health and Safety Management Systems (AS/NZS 4801:2001 and ISO 45001:2018) and Environment Management System (ISO 14001:2015).
Some Takeaways from the Tour
The tour of our Melbourne laboratory provided the students with the opportunity to experience the workplace environment, see the equipment and ask questions.
“We were all really impressed with the thorough processes that you have in place dealing with all aspects of your business and this has shown us the high standards that are expected within a competitive science industry,” said Dr. Neale Jackson, Laboratory Techniques Teacher, Food and Fibre Department, Bendigo Kangan Institute.
We wish all the students the best of luck in their studies!