A hidden benefit within a LIMS: Human Resource information for laboratory personnel

By Robert Benz, Sales & Marketing Director for Khemia Software

Many of the broader laboratory based benefits of LIMS are well known: LIMS track samples from entry into the laboratory (in some cases even the field data and collection) to final analysis and disposal; LIMS track and document reagent and standards usage within the laboratory; LIMS generate reports and electronic data deliverables (EDDs).  However, one important and often overlooked feature is that LIMS can also track and record human resource (HR) information.

First and foremost, laboratories must keep some basic personal information in regards to their employees both for business and regulatory reasons.  Within the security blanket of a LIMS, storing personal information while keeping it private to only those with the proper rights to view this information is a simple and well vetted process.  As can be seen from the example below, hire/left date, social security number (if required), a copy of the employee’s signature and whether they are active or inactive may be set, as well as assigning a password:

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In addition, database roles may be set to allow staff access to different sections of the LIMS.  For example, analysts typically do not have EDD administration rights and often do not need to mind the pricing of analyses to clients, however, many laboratories find it useful for their analyst to see vendor pricing and have access to linked files.  Similarly, office staffs that have little to do with the actual validation of data can have this restricted from their roles.  HR is often best utilized when first applied before an accidental overstep occurs.

While much of the personal information may need to be private, contacting various members of staff might be vital in certain situations – i.e. I still remember getting the call that a parr bomb had exploded in one of the ovens in inorganics at the laboratory as I was sitting down for dinner one evening.  While fortunately no one was hurt, as the inorganics manager, it was vital for me to know immediately upon its happening and return to the laboratory quickly.  Having a set of contact information readily accessible in the LIMS is ideal for this type of situation.  An example of viewable laboratory personnel details may be seen below:

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LIMS can also function as a great resource for recording training information. Training with proper documentation continues to grow in importance and within any good laboratory there are generally some training programs in place, whether internal or external.  What the training was about, when it was offered (date/time) and who attended is important to document and note for both the employee themselves and the laboratory.  The training course’s organizer/presenter, duration and frequency should at a minimum be recorded.  Ideally, any handouts or information provided should be linked to the training so that it may be accessed be staff as needed and documented by the laboratory.  An example of a page dedicated to logging this information may be seen below:

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In addition to training records, OSHA record keeping requirements for injury and illness, etc. may also be met simply by recording the vital information within the LIMS and linking/attaching the proper files.  This information is important for employers, employees and OSHA in evaluating the safety of a workplace, understanding industry hazards and implementing worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards.

On a lighter and simpler note, holiday schedules for laboratories are also extremely important. Laboratories routinely have to schedule short-hold time analyses and sampling events.  Many laboratories have to run around the clock with multiple shifts all year long.  Simply by making a record of the holidays upfront and apparent, as seen below, and by properly scheduling people to be in place can avoid much heartache and confusion.  I do remember some improperly scheduled events ruining my social plans as an analyst as well as ruining a number of employees’ plans as a department manager.  Most definitely a case of “a little planning goes a long way” towards employee happiness.

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Another major advantage within a LIMS for HR is employee evaluation.  Obviously an employee’s worth is not wholly tied to production, but it does certainly play a hand.  As many laboratory managers can vouch for, pulling old log books and seeing how many analyses and batches an employee ran is often a matter of making a good guess with some backing.  Within a LIMS, this can be done with a handful of keystrokes to give a true performance evaluation as all data going into and linked to the LIMS is linked to the employee via their log in credentials.

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Key performance metrics by department and by analyst may be pulled under a wide variety of time scales and other criteria from this management dashboard.  Often, from a management perspective, departments can be looked at based on total work completed, work completed late and work by an individual analyst to best judge what or what might not need to happen within a certain group.  Again, often with a little HR pre-intervention, HR issues can be laid to rest before they become realities that a laboratory has to deal with.

While HR in any organization is not necessarily straightforward, it does have some unique challenges in the laboratory world.  By simply using tools that already exist in a mature LIMS, HR’s grasp on the needs and needed controls may be largely gained without going well outside the box.

For any additional information, please contact Robert Benz (rbenz@khemia.com) at Khemia Software, Inc. (www.khemia.com).  This article may also be seen at on LIMSFinder (www.limsfinder.com) at http://www.limsfinder.com/BlogDetail.aspx?id=42315_0_2_0_C.

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See the following link to the TNI courses being offered in March 2017:  http://us14.campaign-archive1.com/?u=52d1e20b54514b5888bddd9dd&id=758d3dbfe8&e=a1218e022a

Basic Environmental Laboratory
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https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-01-13/pdf/2017-00697.pdf

 

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