Some people think printing sample labels in the field at the time of sampling is a waste of time. After all, most labs provide pre-printed labels for you, and some will even give you a mostly completed chain-of-custody. Why bother printing labels at the time of sampling if the pre-printed labels are free? The short answer is, Quality Control. The longer answer details are itemized below.
- Filling out the sampler’s name, date and time doesn’t seem like much effort unless you are filling up numerous bottles which means numerous labels. My record for sample bottles at one location is 17. Don’t even get me started on the time it took for the DUPS and MS/MSDs. That’s when it really becomes time consuming. Printing at the time of sampling means all labels have the correct user, date, and time, and it’s completed in just seconds, even the DUPS and MS/MSDs.
- Penmanship is a problem. Any lab login person can tell you that in many cases reading even the date and time can be problematic. Labs routinely have to adjust data after the fact because they couldn’t read the writing from the chain and/or the label and got it wrong. Printing in the field means everything is legible, including the sampler’s name, date, and time.
- It’s common that the wrong label gets put on the wrong sample bottle or the wrong pre-labeled bottle is used to sample the wrong sample location. It shouldn’t happen, but it does, and more often than you might think. Finding out and correcting these mistakes makes everyone look bad. If you print labels at the time of sampling, you only have those labels with the correct ID, date, and time printed, and there are no other labels to mix up locations with. Also, a proper label printing App, will compare official sample location GPS, to the device location GPS at the time of sampling, to confirm correct sample location.
- Printed sample labels with either a bar code, QR code, or both, allow the lab to log samples significantly faster than labels and COCs with handwritten data. The barcode/QR code has the data embedded saving time, effort, and mistakes.
- Field printed labels are thermally printed, meaning no ink that takes time to dry and/or can smear. With thermal printing, the text is literally burned onto the label with heat. Thermal labels do not smear, and if you use a poly label, which you should, the label can be submerged in ice water for days with no adverse effects. Handwritten data with a pen takes time to dry and will smear under common icing conditions.
If someone tries to tell you that printing labels in the field at the time of sampling is a waste of time, then I would question their commitment to accuracy and the collection of quality data. My guess is that they are probably trying to sell you something.
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