What's the difference between a hazard and a risk?
PIs and lab personnel should continually assess exposure risks, especially when agents, personnel, experimentation, location and/or instrumentation change as research evolves.
Below is an example of one type of strategy for conducting a risk assessment.
By conducting an effective risk assessment, the researcher will be able to identify all hazards associated with a research project and understand all risks for each hazard.
Yet, identification and understanding of the hazards and risks is just half of what is required to maintain a safe research environment. If a risk is determined to be unacceptable in the above flowchart, the steps below can be taken to lower the risks, or eliminate the risks all together.
Eliminate the hazard – to completely eliminate the hazard from a research project you also remove all associated risks of the hazard. Often times a safer equivalent is sought for experimentation as a way to lower the overall risks of the project and increase researcher safety.
Engineering alternatives – determine if there are steps that can be taken to the overall engineering of the research area that can lower the apparent risks or isolate the hazard from the researcher completely. Often times the engineering alternatives involve hazard isolation or limiting the means of researcher exposure.
Administrative controls – determine if there are certain administrative controls that can be put into place to control researcher exposure and exposure of bystanders. These controls can include limited access to hazards or access granted only by a qualified individual.
Personal Protective Equipment – PPE is often times thought of as the first thing a researcher can do to protect themselves from exposure to hazards, when in actuality, PPE should be used as a last line of defense from hazardous exposure. PPE is designed as a protective barrier only after all other safety avenues has failed.
Personnel Training – Training of personnel is a vital part of any safety plan. All other steps listed above should be considered before training of personnel is undertaken as to understand the correct training strategy for the staff. Dartmouth EH&S has a full line of training modules adequate for all research levels on campus.