The physical realization of an operational laboratory involves the construction of the laboratory, purchase of equipment and appointment of personnel. All these issues are related to the analytical work, and more specifically to the methods, that the laboratory intends to conduct. The choice of methods is therefore a critical step. This section starts with an overview of the analytical process and available methods, followed by their implications for construction or selection of buildings and facilities, purchase of equipment and putting in place an organizational structure with defined responsibilities for the personnel involved.
For the laboratory, the number of personnel and their educational and experience levels depends on the analyses to be offered, the methods chosen and the expected sample throughput. The first step is to create an organized structure for the laboratory and to define the activities to take place in the laboratory.
Technical staff may also be referred to as ‘Technicians’, ‘Analysts’ or ‘Scientists’.
The horizontal division of the laboratory into different sections depends on the type of analyses it intends to perform. Similar types of analyses, such as proximate or chromatography
(GC, HPLC) are grouped into one section. Ideally, a senior technician will be responsible for each area, such as proximate analyses, with 2 or 3 technicians to rotate around the various analyses within their ‘section’. This enables an overall knowledge to be gained of the working requirements for each area of the laboratory. It is important to keep the job interesting and challenging for staff and to avoid monotonous, repetitive work where ever possible. The vertical division of the laboratory reflects the different positions and responsibilities within the organization. As a guide, some typical positions can be identified:
⦁ The Laboratory Manager is responsible for the whole laboratory and the development of its strategic plan. A key part of this position is the external communication with clients and potential clients, as well as full responsibility for results reported to clients.
Management systems must be put in place to ensure reliable data are produced and that the reporting of this data is thoroughly checked prior to releasing reports.
⦁ The Quality Assurance (QA) Manager is responsible for quality assurance within the laboratory, and should have an independent position. The QA Manager may also have responsibility for Health and Safety Management, or Environmental Management.