The regulatory scene is changing. It's becoming more global in scope with comparable, more universal regulations being introduced worldwide such that R&D and production processes must adhere to safe, clean operations and products. More regulations are being introduced that require detailed reports of chemical/material location, volume, content, storage, and disposal. Regulations, such as REACH, are beginning to focus on what those chemicals are and whether a green, less toxic alternative can be substituted. All this information needs to be tracked, managed and reported to a myriad of regulatory agencies, from the local to the federal and now often global regulatory body: a herculean task that is virtually impossible without an informatics solution.
Getting a handle on what to report, when, and to whom means not just assembling the report, but ensuring that the methodology used is accurate and quick to perform. Automation is the only way to go. To that end, the European Lab Automation congress in Hamburg, Germany from May 30-31 will highlight and showcase the latest in automated instruments and workflows. In particular, the track for Informatics in Automation will address emerging techniques and technologies, cloud computing, Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), and other methods for automating laboratory information and streamlining associated workflows.
One of the most significant regulations affecting laboratories is REACH, which will have a major impact on the worldwide chemical industry. Launched in 2007, REACH (which stands for registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals) is intended to protect consumers and the environment from hazardous chemicals. It shifts the responsibility of safety from governments to companies–including all producers and importers of chemicals into Europe–which are now required to demonstrate the safety of their products. The objective is ultimately to phase out or ban the most hazardous chemicals from Europe. From May 24-25 in Helsinki, Finland, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will host the third Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF 2012) to highlight the current status of the REACH roll-out.
Chemical management starts in the lab, since most R&D laboratories have some 5,000-10,000 chemical containers (and different size containers have different handling and storage requirements) on site to conduct their research and analyses. Sometimes the informatics capabilities available with the LIMS can manage this information, but often the regulatory reporting falls outside the lab's purview and into the realm of the organization's Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) professional who must work closely with the Lab Manager to ensure the accuracy of the regulatory reports. Staying current on the requirements of managing a lab well isn't becoming any easier: get thee to a conference!