How To Close A Laboratory Facility

January 30, 2020

By: Beau Crowley, Director of Decommissioning

Running a safe, compliant laboratory can be challenging enough. But what if you need to quickly learn how to close a lab? Decommissioning a working laboratory is far from simple. Numerous factors must be considered, from mitigating liability and facilitating regulatory compliance to providing for laboratory decontamination, if needed. Of course, many of your decisions will be guided by your ultimate goal. Does your site closure plan represent the end of the operation, or will you be moving existing instruments, reagents, samples, equipment and personnel to another facility? 

Time is almost always of the essence, but decommissioning a laboratory should never be rushed. In some instances, you may be moving to another facility. In others you may be closing your facility permanently. In either case, attention must be paid to inventory, devices, potentially hazardous chemicals and samples (and how to properly dispose of them), and decontamination of the facility.

How to Close a Lab

We suggest starting by forming a closing team and developing a road map for how you will proceed. Steps should be outlined carefully and followed stringently, in proper sequence, to ensure a smooth, safe lab closure process. Obviously, you will be guided in your mission by certain variables, such as the target closure date and whether or not assets will be sold, redeployed elsewhere within your organization or simply moved to a new facility.

Your closing team should ideally consist of stakeholders familiar with key aspects of your facility. This might include security personnel, maintenance managers, environmental safety experts and even representatives from accounting. These individuals should have intimate knowledge of the lab, its equipment and history. To the extent possible, avoid attempting to work within a short timeline. Doing so will probably do more harm than good. Your site closure plan requires careful consideration and adequate time for implementation.

Step by Step

Begin with a thorough inventory of existing assets followed by a plan for disbursement of those assets. If they will be sold off, you will need a marketing and transfer plan. If equipment and other assets will be moved, you will need a plan for decontamination and safe transport, as well as setup at the new facility.

Depending on the nature of the research and/or development undertaken in the lab you are decommissioning, you may need to take a number of steps to ensure the proper, compliant decontamination and documentation of various assets. Obviously, any potential biohazard materials, as well as radioactive or chemical contaminants, must be handled with proper care.

Conforming to regulatory requirements can be an especially daunting aspect of lab closure. At TSS, we have decades of experience working with laboratories of all types to safely decommission, decontaminate and document compliance. Examples of relevant legislation includes the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA or the "Superfund Act").

Let Us Help

Closing down a laboratory facility can be stressful. We can help. We have the knowledge, experience and personnel to help you accomplish a smooth, compliant, safe closure. For more information, contact us at 800-877-7742.

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