Built-in laboratory safety: ELN system learns from past failures to warn scientists

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Laboratories operate under extensive rules and regulations in order to prevent hazardous accidents from occurring through chemical or biological experimental processes. Even with preventative measures and protective guidelines in place, the experimental nature of laboratory research means accidents are inevitable.

The challenge for scientists is how they can organize their data in a manner that allows them to learn incrementally from each accident that occurs. For humans to document the parameters that caused accidents and then distribute that information in an effective way to their peers is a daunting task. A solution developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb chemistry safety officers demonstrates how an electronic laboratory notebook enterprise network can be used to deliver automated warnings based off of historical data.

While traditional laboratory safety methods require researchers to pull information from various authoritative sources and guidebooks on safety recommendations, an automated safety system rigged within an ELN eliminates risks of human error and oversight by “pushing” safety parameters onto researchers.

The key to creating a safety system is realizing the important role the electronic laboratory notebook plays in experimentation: recording the experimental plan and parameters in the ELN is essentially the last step a scientist takes before carrying out an experiment. This allows the ELN to take on a gate-keeping role through the implementation of a safety net, drawing on historic accidents to warn scientists when experiment plans mimic past failures.

Not only does the safety system alert the primary researcher of a potentially hazardous experiment, the system can refer researchers to appropriate procedural guidelines and notify members of a laboratory’s safety committee that a potentially hazardous experiment may be imminent..

The ELN safety customization created at Bristol-Myers Squibb was recognized by the 2012 Bio-IT World Best Practices Awards competition. Other scientific organizations are now turning to Bristol-Myers Squibb asking for advice on how to construct their own ELN-based safety enforcements.

Read a detailed account of the Bristol-Myers Squibb solution here, which was developed on top of our E-Notebook® ELN: http://bit.ly/XMuzpF