Scope and Assemble Your Team


Scoping is a way to prepare for the hazard assessment, get organized, and carefully think about everything from who's involved to what you will need.   

Here are some things to think about when scoping in preparation for hazard assessment in your lab:

  •  What steps need to be performed to complete the experiment?
  •  Who will be actively participating?
  •  What type of equipment is needed?
  •  Where will it be done?
  •  What materials are needed to complete the experiment?
  •  What is known about this experiment from literature or previous experience?

Collect Appropriate Background Information

The analysis team will need appropriate background information, including:

  • Equipment diagrams
  • A list describing common hazards associated with chemicals and gases
  • A list of the equipment’s chemical and gas compositions, operating pressures, flow rates, run times, and other applicable parameters
  • Potential health and physical hazards of equipment (e.g., ionizing or nonionizing radiation, high temperature, high voltage, or mechanical pinch points)
  • Equipment safety features (e.g., interlocks)
  • Physical access to equipment, as necessary/possible

Safety Data Sheets can include a lot of this information.

Rules of Engagement

Any hazard assessment should begin with a team briefing to establish guidelines, including:

  • Be inquisitive;
  • Learn and implement lessons from any incidents and near-misses;
  • Be open to discussion of potential event scenarios;
  • Value the expertise of others;
  • Call on others for help, as appropriate.

Assemble Your Team

Everyone should be involved in hazard assessment, regardless of experience level or title in the lab.

Everyone is responsible for familiarizing themselves with appropriate controls for the hazards discovered in the lab.

Everyone is responsible for participating in hazard analyses (checklists, Job Hazard Analysis, and What-if Analysis) and the updating of the lab’s Standard Operating Procedures. This is also a good time to review accidents, incidents, and near misses and collectively brainstorm ways to prevent these events in the future.

More experienced members of the team should lead risk assessment activities and assign risk ratings to the materials and processes in your lab.

Learn about the roles and responsibilities of various people in the lab.

Working Alone in the Lab?

The National Research Council defines “alone” as being beyond visual or audible range of another individual for more than a few minutes at a time.

The stakes are high. If a person is working alone when an accident occurs, his or her ability to respond could be severely impaired, possibly resulting in injury, death, and catastrophic facility damage.

PIs or lab managers should define rules for working alone in their lab. Here are some policy statements on working alone to consider:

  • Undergraduate students are not permitted to work alone in teaching or research laboratories.
  • Graduate students and postdoctoral students may work alone in the laboratory only after completing all required safety training and when performing experiments approved by the PI or lab manager. A telephone must be immediately available to the individual working alone.
  • Working alone with pyrophorics, air, and water reactives; high hazard materials; high voltage or high power lasers; and machine tools is not allowed.
This collection of methods and tools for assessing hazards in research laboratories is based on the publication, Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories [PDF]. 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.

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