By: Dana Ray, Global Market Manager at Brady Worldwide for Lab and Medical
When was the last time you lost your license or ID card? For most of us, it’s been a long time, if at all. Identification is one of the things we know is vitally important for us to function in our lives so we tend to keep really close track of where it is at all times. Driving a car (legally), boarding a plane, cashing a check, buying beer – all rely on having ID available. So keeping tabs on that plastic card is critical because we know that if we lose our ID… we’re screwed.
So ID is crucial to our lives. But do we feel the same about the ID of our lab work?
Who has time to worry about labels?
In the lab, few people spend time thinking about the specimen label when they are setting up their sample identification protocol. Most efforts are spent determining which information needs to be added to the sample and how it will be tracked. But we don’t necessarily consider how the ID will survive for as long as the sample itself is in existence.
Losing a sample’s identification can have the same detrimental effect as us humans losing our personal ID. Here are just a few examples:
- Time lost relabeling samples
- Repeating tests
- Patient misdiagnosis
- Lost research
A lost sample label can result in millions of dollars of waste annually in the lab. In fact, in 2005, the cost of identification errors was estimated at $280,000 per million specimens. No doubt it is much higher now.
Where labels can fail
Selecting the right method to identify your samples should be a critical element of your identification protocol, given harsh temperatures from -196°C to 121°C and chemicals like, ethanol and xylene, used in the lab for sample prep, testing and storage. It is just as important as how the samples are handled, the type of information on the sample and how the resulting data will be stored and used.
Because a lost sample ID is the same as not having a sample (or the resulting data) at all.
Fortunately, ensuring you have the right sample identification solution is easy when you follow these tips:
- Know your environment! Think about the environment the sample will live in through its entire life cycle. For example, if samples will be incubated during processing but ultimately stored at -80°C, make sure you select a label material that survives both temperature extremes.
- Dump the marker! Handwriting is the least durable and most unreliable way to identify a specimen. Not only is chemical exposure a big challenge for that type of ink (aka “the dreaded ethanol drip”) but you also have to deal with your lab mate’s illegible handwriting. Always print your specimen identification – I recommend thermal transfer printing for the most durable print.
- Look for evidence! You’re a scientist so you should love this part! Find a label supplier who has developed labels specifically for the lab and has the technical information readily available to prove performance for the label and print.
- Test, test, test! Last step…No supplier can recreate your specific lab environment so ask for samples and test in your lab to confirm performance. Reputable label suppliers will provide test labels for free.
You wouldn’t do things to risk losing your personal ID so don’t put your work at risk with an inferior sample ID protocol. Now let’s go grab a beer – don’t forget your ID!
For more on best lab labeling practices, lab solutions, and Brady label samples, contact Coridian at 952-361-9980 (option 3) or firstname.lastname@example.org.