Hazard and Risk Analysis

Graduate students should be exposed to the hazard analysis tools commonly used by practicing chemists. Several ways to conduct a hazard assessment are summarized here.

For  more detailed information about the methods and tools referenced on this page, visit the Hazard Assessment section of this site.

Control Banding

Within a Control Banding method, Chemical Safety Levels (CSL) 1 to 4 are assigned to hazards that are found in the laboratory.

  • CSL 1 applies to relatively benign materials or processes, such as consumer products or working with dilute aqueous solutions. Typical PPE usually includes a laboratory coat, lightweight eye protection, full-length leg covers, and closed-toe shoes.
  • CSL 4 refers to high hazard chemicals or procedures, such as the transfer of pyrophoric and highly toxic materials. Training and a standard operating procedure are required, working alone is disallowed, engineered controls such as fume hoods or glove boxes are required, and activity-specific PPE such as eye protection, a flame-proof laboratory coat, and activity-specific gloves are specified.

Job Hazard Analysis

Job Hazard Analysis focuses on the relationship between the researcher, the task (or job) to be done, the tools needed to complete the task, and the work environment. The method can be used to identify the hazard(s) associated with a job, a task, each reaction, or complex situations. Potential failures, contributing factors, consequences, and the likelihood of those failures are identified.

  • A task or job is first defined by a description statement – what is being done and why.
  • Next, the job or task is divided into steps, and the potential hazards for each step are identified.
  • Then, these potential hazards are researched and analyzed for risk using data from accident and “near miss” history, literature searches, and organizational safety documentation.
  • Once the hazards are identified, controls are suggested that mitigate the risk.

What-if Analysis

A What-if Analysis is a structured way to anticipate what might go wrong, and then judge the likelihood of occurrence and the harm that might result from each possible scenario. This technique can be used to analyze existing or new processes or procedures. The analysis team will often divide the problem into human error and process failures.

What might happen if the material is too concentrated, is too dilute, or is present in the wrong amount, if a valve is not opened or is opened in the wrong sequence, or if a purge gas is omitted?

What might happen if there is a loss of electrical power, purge gas, laboratory temperature control, or ventilation?

After risks are identified, solutions such as automatic shutdowns or adding emergency power circuits might be suggested and evaluated.


Checklists have been implemented in many fields. For example, in the health care profession, implementing the relatively simple checklist of washing your hands, cleaning the patient’s skin, using sterile clothing and drapes, and checking to see whether a sterile dressing was in place after the procedure decreased the 10-day infection rate from 11% to zero within a year.

Checklists can be simple or complex. Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories [PDF] has a checklist for making checklists.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Developing Standard Operating Procedures for high hazard materials or processes involves identifying hazards, assessing risks, conducting literature surveys, and developing strategies to minimize risk.

Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories [PDF] provides a template for developing SOPs, and Internet resources contain SOPs for thousands of substances and processes. Online material varies widely in quality and must be analyzed with as much care as if the procedure were being developed for the first time.

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