What it is
Structured process for hazard/risk assessment. The most commonly-used method.
Should include both professionals and technical staff in a collaborative process.
When to use
Can be used to evaluate processes and/or behaviors.
No formal training required. Verify users understand the intent of each checklist item.
A checklist attempts to compensate for potential limits of hazard recognition, human memory, and attention to specific details. It helps to ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task from an individual, within a work group, or across an institution. There are two basic types of checklists: process-based and behavior-based. Sometimes, process- and behavior-based checklists are combined.
These address safety hazards associated with a specific, well-defined work task. They establish a set of steps for the checklist user to implement.
To be successful, checklist developers must be able to identify the critical workflow for which the hazard assessment is based. Relevant safety protocols are then established and explicitly integrated into the checklist.
These are designed to assess new or undefined tasks. The “cause-and-effect” concept identifies potential high-hazard, high-risk work practices.
To be successful, checklist developers must have knowledge of the spectrum of hazards and the activities conducted in the category of work area. An appropriate set of hazard assessment criteria are established for evaluation in the checklist.
Checklists don't have to be strictly process-based or behavior-based. Sometimes, a process-based checklist may incorporate behavior-based checks, and vice versa.
Often, a behavior-based checklist may be conducted for a higher-level risk assessment. If activities are then identified as higher risk, a process-based checklist can be developed to mitigate those risks.
Use of checklists tends to come naturally to researchers and safety professionals. Most are comfortable with the checklist concept, and it doesn’t typically take much time to implement and complete a basic safety checklist. A basic checklist asks specific questions that the user confirms upon completion of a task, availability of an item (inventory) or applicability. Most lab managers and senior lab staff should be able to answer these questions with moderate training.
Aspects of a Job Hazard Analysis, What-if Analysis, or Standard Operating Procedures can be incorporated into a more structured checklist to help guide the user in completing a risk assessment and identifying the appropriate exposure control measures.
It is recommended that a principal investigator, laboratory manager, senior laboratory staff member who is familiar with the overall operation of the lab develop the more comprehensive laboratory safety checklists that incorporate risk assessment, such as:
A common expectation—and potential pitfall—of checklists is to limit the scope or assessment to the questions on the list, rather than a holistic hazard analysis for the process being evaluated. So, when developing a checklist, it is critical to define the scope and to understand the audience and checklist user(s).
Understanding the audience and checklist user supports knowledgeable collaboration and institutional support.
Consider the following critical factors to develop an effective checklist.
Source: Gawande, A. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right; Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company LLC: New York; 2009.
This collection of methods and tools for assessing hazards in research laboratories is based on the publication, Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories. The guide was published in 2015 by the Hazard Identification and Evaluation Task Force of the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Chemical Safety in response to a recommendation from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.