Ways to Conduct a Hazard Assessment

There are many ways to identify and evaluate safety hazards in a chemical laboratory. No matter what method or combination of methods you choose, they all help you achieve hazard identification, which will inform your risk assessment and control measures selection.     

Each of these methods helps you analyze potential hazards associated with materials and equipment you're using, the facility you're working in, as well as individual work habits and lab procedures. Select the method--or combination of methods--that create the most robust analysis of the hazards in your particular lab.

Note: You may choose to use more than one method in your laboratory hazard identification and evaluation assessment.

To conduct a thorough assessment you should:


Materials and equipment, your facility, and work habits and practices will reveal potential hazards.


Rank hazards by how likely they are to happen and how severe the outcomes would be.


Choose the best possible response to eliminate a hazard or lower its risk of occurring.  

What-if Analysis

A What-if Analysis is structured brainstorming to identify potential failures and their associated risks. It involves the generation of a complete list of "what-if" questions; assessing answers to those questions along with probability of occurence and consequences; and developing recommendations based on that assessment.


Checklists are a structured process to assess hazards and quantify risk. This is the most commonly-used, recognizable method used by researchers and safety professionals. It involves developing concise procedures and checklist items, as well as supplying allowable responses.

Control Banding

Control banding assesses and manages chemical risks in the research laboratory by focusing on a limited number of specific control measures. The assignment of these control measures is based on a group--or “band”--of the hazards present and their associated potential exposures.

Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)

A JHA identifies the hazard(s) associated with a particular job or task. A task or job must first be defined by a description statement (i.e., what is being done and why). Identify the steps/tasks; then identify potential hazards per step/task using accident and near-miss history, literature search, and organizational safety/EHS entities. (Includes physical hazards, such as moving parts and potential slips.)

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

An SOP is a comprehensive, structured approach to identify failure points of both individual hazards and combinations of hazards. Identify hazards and create process steps; evaluate the hazards and steps individually; and repeat evaluation for combinations of hazards and steps. Develop SOPs based on process results.

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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