The Importance of labels.
Labels are an integral part of any workplace. In a lab or medical environment, labels provide vital data and information that keeps things running smoothly. If this data is compromised due to poor labelling practices, it may lead to some consequences that could otherwise be avoided, costing time and money. In response, we have compiled a small list of common labelling mistakes you might already be making and how to avoid them.
1: Stop handwriting your labels.
A common labelling mistake that leads to errors is handwritten labels. It’s quick and easy to pick up a pen and write the information on a label. However, this relies on the reader being able to understand the handwriting, which can lead to misinterpretation of important information. There is also a chance the text will be smudged with improper handling or come into contact with a water-based hazard, requiring clarification or recreation of the label. This might sound obvious, but it is surprising just how many laboratories and workplaces still use handwritten labels.
The best solution is to simply print the labels. As specialists in the manufacture and supply of labels, we have provided hundreds of workplaces with the ability to print high-quality, durable labels in-house and on-site. We can provide the right printer and software so that data can be automatically processed and printed providing much clearer and concise information, unlike handwritten labels that can sometimes require an element of ‘second guessing’. Full colour, symbols and variable data can also be automatically inputted by the software upon printing, further saving time and increasing efficiency.
The benefit of handwriting labels is the convenience of being able to pick up a pen and write, but if the handwritten label is ineligible, the label is useless.
2: Using the wrong label for its application.
We can supply a durable label for almost anything and most laboratory-based applications have unique requirements that need to be met for optimal labelling performance. Using the wrong label can lead to a damaged, partially removed or ineligible label. Knowing these requirements and applying them is half the battle. Some extreme yet common examples of laboratory based label applications include:
- Labels that can withstand and bond in cryogenic temperatures.
- Special adhesive labels that can endure and maintain bond during cold chain transit.
- Chemical and water-resistant labels that don’t lose print after contact.
- Autoclavable permanent adhesive labels.
Including less extreme labels with their own unique requirements used for sample identification, clinical trials, genetic studies, clinical waste labels and much more. Each application has its own challenges a label needs to overcome. Some points to consider are:
- Longevity of the label. How long does the label need to bond and remain legible? Alterations in a labels design can reduce or extend its lifetime.
- Visual identifiers. Does the label need to be printed in colour for visual/colour ID?
- Conformability. Does the label need to wrap around a cylindrical surface, like a test tube or vial, with the labels information remaining protected?
3: Ignoring the power of the QR or barcode.
Barcodes can contain a wide range of information while only using a small area of the label. This makes them perfect for sample identification purposes. Simply scan the barcode to read, collect and share data electronically. A common type of barcode label is the self-laminating wrap-around label, present on test tubes and cylindrical applications, allowing you to wrap, seal and protect your labels data while the data remains visible.
Barcodes can be produced and printed on-site with a durable label printer, computer software will write the data within the barcode, which can be manually input or automatically generated based on predefined rules or variables. This can make it easy to label and ID a large range of samples or help share information across departments and laboratories using handheld/QR scanners.
There can be a lot to consider when choosing the right label for the job. That is why we advise you to speak with a labelling expert to get the right label for your application bespoke to your requirements. We hope this guide has helped. If you have any questions or you are ready to take your labelling to the next level, give us a call, freephone 0800 023 9277 or drop us an email.