Proper chain-of-custody procedures allow sample processing and handling to be traced and identified from the time containers are initially prepared for sampling to the final disposition of the sample. A chain-of-custody record (Figure 11.5.1) should accompany each group of samples from the time of collection to their destination at the analytical laboratory. Each person with custody of the samples must sign the chain-of-custody form, ensuring that the samples are not left unattended unless properly secured.
Within the laboratory, security and confidentiality of all stored material should always be maintained. Analysts should sign for any sample removed from a storage area for performing analyses and note the time and date of returning a sample to storage. Before releasing analytical results, all information on sample labels, data sheets, tracking logs, and custody records should be cross-checked to ensure that data are consistent throughout the record. Gummed paper custody seals or custody tape should be used to ensure that the seal must be broken when opening the container.
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