Legal Chain of Custody (CoC) Protocol – “Bullet proof your work.”
(With support and inputs from Dr. Court Sandau, PhD, Chemistry Matters Inc.)
For those of us involved in Emergency Response and Environmental Forensic work we often come across situations where Legal protocols need to be followed – thus a Legal Chain of Custody (CoC) comes into play.
Tips from the Field:
Note taking – Document meticulously – take before and after pictures of your samples, write neatly, use Rite in the Rain (waterproof) books with waterproof pens.
Seal the coolers with Legal tape (ask the lab) for some and put non tampering measures in place. Sign and date when you do it. YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF THE SAMPLES!
Once you have the samples packed – do not under any circumstance let the samples out of your possession, they need to be in clear view and under your control. I always use the Dad rule “keep the cooler 1 arm lengths away.” I recently slept with coolers by my bedside to ensure protocol was kept up – this is serious business, do not underestimate your responsibility and the responsibility to your Client.
Be cautious with using Couriers or other 3rd party as this could start to cause problems (temperature control, mishandling). Sometimes driving them yourself is just a better idea so you maintain Chain of Custody.
Drop off at the lab and have the samples temperature checked right away, take pictures of the hand off, check every sample in and have the lab double check with you before you sign off. Make sure the samples are locked and secured (I always ask to follow the samples in the lab until they are under lock and key). The labs all have really good and strict processes here so they know their routine.
Lastly, confidentiality is the key – put up firewalls with your teams, limit who can access information. We name all our Legal projects randomly so there is no way for anyone to know a location, LSD, facility, etc. This is a potential litigious environment so Bullet proof it all along the way.
About the author:
Don Wood is the Director of Strategic Business Development and Director of Ridgeline Response.