Decommissioning the Lab

January 2, 2024

A laboratory must be decommissioned whenever it is vacated.

Decommissioning is the process of closing down and safely preparing a laboratory’s facilities, equipment and materials to turn over to the landlord or new tenant.

There are many reasons why you may have to vacate a lab space. Perhaps you are preparing for renovations to your lab, or maybe you have outgrown your space and are moving, or, while no one likes to think of it, sometimes research doesn’t yield the expected results and companies dissolve.

Whatever the reason, before you close that door, you must make sure that the space is properly decommissioned beforehand. This is to ensure environmental safety, prevent hazards and comply with regulations.

Here are some of the steps needed to decommission a lab:

  • Review your lease: You need to understand the contractual requirements for turning over the space. You may need to repair the space or leave behind specific pieces of equipment. There could also be documentation requirements for equipment maintenance or decontamination.
  • Make an inventory list: Create/update a list of all equipment and chemicals in the area.
  • Perform a safety assessment: A thorough safety assessment will identify any hazardous materials, chemicals or equipment that need special handling or disposal.
  • Develop the decommissioning plan: This comprehensive plan should outline the steps involved in decommissioning. It should also include things like timelines, responsibilities, any necessary approvals. It should also contain decisions about whether to save, store or dispose of samples and plans for freezer cleanouts and defrosting.
  • Secure funding: Ensure you have adequate funding to cover the costs associated with decommissioning, including disposal fees, potential renovation, decontamination or consulting costs.
  • Notify stakeholders: Communicate with and inform stakeholders including lab personnel, safety officers and facilities managers about the process and the schedule/timeline. Be sure to include your landlord and any sublessees.
  • Remove all hazardous materials: Safely dispose of or transfer any hazardous materials or chemicals following local regulations. This will require you to work with specialized waste management companies for proper disposal.
  • Clean and decontaminate: All areas of the lab must be thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated using appropriate methods. This may require disinfection, radiation deactivation and/or other specialized procedures, depending on the lab’s activities. Your landlord will likely require documentation that this has been done.
  • Close out permits: All permits held need to be closed out, including Flammable storage, DEP, MWRA, rDNA, etc.
  • Shut down and decontaminate equipment: Decide what to do with furniture, fixtures and unwanted equipment. Sell, donate, recycle or dispose of items based on their condition and usefulness.
  • Shut down equipment
  • Document everything: Maintain detailed records of the decommissioning process, including waste disposal documents, decontamination reports and any necessary permits obtained during the process. Your landlord will need a copy.
  • Inspect and certify: Conduct a final inspection and ensure that all decommissioning activities have been completed and are in compliance with safety regulations.
  • Secure the facility: Once the decommissioning process is complete, do a final walk-through with your landlord to ensure all turnover requirements have been met. Secure the lab facility to prevent unauthorized access and ensure safety.

Keep in mind that decommissioning a lab is a complex process that requires careful planning, adherence to regulations and engagement with experts and the appropriate authorities.

Venture Forward Partners is highly experienced in handling all aspects of laboratory decommissioning. Rely on us to ensure that your decommissioning project is efficient, compliant and well-documented.