10 Mistakes New Lab Managers Make – And How to Avoid Them

Lab management is a difficult, sometimes tedious task. There are many things to remember and keep track of that can be easy to miss, especially for new lab managers. Common mistakes new lab managers make such as forgetting to inventory items before ordering more, not following safety protocols or keeping up with changes in the law like OSHA regulations- but don’t worry! We’re going to talk about how you can avoid these common mistakes, so your lab runs smoothly and efficiently.

1. Setting up a lab in the wrong location

One mistake new lab managers make is setting up the lab in a location that isn’t conducive to their needs. When designing your lab, you’ll need to take into account how much space it takes up-do you have enough room for everything? You should also think about accessibility and safety when selecting an ideal place for your lab.

If possible, find a location away from busy roads or dangerous chemicals so no one has access but those with clearance; this way, if there are any leaks or accidents, they will be limited in scope and won’t endanger others outside of the building. Once you’ve chosen where to set up your lab, start by ensuring all of the utilities necessary- like electricity, water/sewer connections and gas lines – are in place.

2. Forgetting to budget for safety equipment and chemicals

If you are managing a lab, the safety of your staff is one of the most important things. However, it can be normal for beginners to forget that certain equipment and chemicals have varying degrees of danger- especially if they’re not common items in everyday life like an acetone spill or radioactive waste disposal.

The best way to make sure no mistakes happen is to keep up with changes in laws on laboratory safety, read regulations carefully before you order anything, and take inventory- either by counting each item individually or using software for this purpose – every time you receive new materials. For instance, to keep the air quality clean, you will need to invest in high quality laboratory fume hoods, as well as a lab coat and safety goggles for each staff member.

3. Not training your lab staff on procedures, safety, and inventory management

You cannot expect lab staff to know how to do a task if you have never trained them on it. Furthermore, it is the manager’s responsibility, not lab technicians or lab assistants, to train everyone in safety procedures and inventory management for hazards like spills. Hence, you need to ensure that lab staff is trained on how to use emergency equipment, like fire extinguishers.

4. Following outdated procedures

Avoiding mistakes means always updating your knowledge – just because you were trained one way, that does not mean it’s the best way now! If there are updated regulations that apply to your industry, don’t hesitate to take classes from experts who can give you the most up-to-date information. Then make sure everyone else has access as well, so they know what needs to be done if something goes wrong.

5. Not following safety protocols

Lab managers should always follow OSHA regulations. This includes wearing appropriate protective gear when handling hazardous materials such as radioactive substances, working with acetone fumes, and more. In addition, all common laboratory accidents such as chemical burns are covered by these guidelines. To be on the safe side, lab managers should make sure they are aware of all the relevant regulations that apply to your lab’s industry.

6. Doing inventory before ordering

One mistake many new lab managers make is forgetting to do an inventory when ordering products for their laboratory. This can lead to confusion about what substances are on hand and where things go in a busy laboratory setting. It’s important for lab managers to keep track of this information so they know how much product needs reordering- especially if there are strict deadlines involved, such as with clinical trials or research projects.

7. Forgetting about new equipment purchases after they’ve been delivered

You may think you’ll remember that one machine but then get so busy ordering reagents for your own experiments that you forget about what came into the warehouse last week. Make sure you have a system set up to track new inventory coming in, and that lab managers are responsible for checking the newest equipment before it’s put into use.

8. Failing to plan for how you will use your lab space

If you have room for a dedicated lab but don’t know what to do with it, this is probably your problem. Allocating space isn’t just about arranging equipment and labelling the fridge- think about where you want people to store their coats or how many chairs can fit in that break area so when new staff come on board, they won’t be left standing around without somewhere to sit.

9. Neglecting to maintain a good relationship with suppliers

A lab manager needs to work well with suppliers as a team, and the best way to do that is by showing appreciation for them. It’s important not only to follow up on orders but also to be in contact when you want something special or different, so they know what your expectations are. Contrarily, if you fail to maintain a good relationship with them, they may not want to work with you.

10. Overestimating order quantities

lab space

A common mistake is overestimating how much time will be available during experiments or thinking there’ll be more time than there really is before running out of chemicals. It is easier to run out of something essential like sodium bicarbonate–so double-check your inventory and order accordingly; this way, you won’t find yourself scrambling just to get the right product.

Make sure you know what your lab is capable of and set expectations for what they can produce or how much time there will be before running out of something needed. Lab requirements are one thing to clarify upfront, but it’s also important to manage other expectations like turnaround times on requests when making a purchase order.


We feel these tips have given you a head start on avoiding some of the most common lab management mistakes.