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Risk Assessment Process

Integrated Safety Management

Integrated Safety Management is a framework developed by the U.S. Department of Energy for achieving its mission while maintaining the highest standard of safe operations. As adapted by UCLA, Integrated Safety Management is an iterative process consisting of five steps which are outlined in Figure 1 below. UCLA’s Risk Assessment Process will assist PI’s and their research groups in formalizing three of the five steps: assessing the risks, developing and implementing controls, and providing feedback.

Integrated Safety Management process

Figure 1: Integrated Safety Management process as adapted from Integrated Safety Management System Guide

Risk Assessment Process

Risk Assessment Process

EH&S will help your lab implement Integrated Safety Management through a 3-year cycle. This begins with an initial walkthrough of your laboratory designed to help you identify hazards and assess your existing mitigation strategies. EH&S will then meet with you and your research group and assist in the development of a Safety Management Plan specific to your laboratory and your research. A series of follow-up visits will be used to verify that your plan is effective, and provide opportunities for appropriate course-corrections as your research changes.



Assessing Risk in the Laboratory

EH&S will work with your research group to conduct a hazard assessment of your laboratory. This hazard assessment will identify the risks associated with your work. Once the risks have been identified, they can be assessed and prioritized for mitigation.

Many risk assessment models use “severity of consequences” and “probability of occurrence” scales to rate risks associated with laboratory experiments (Table 1 and Table 2). They are a tool used for a more comprehensive assessment that not only prioritizes certain laboratory operations for mitigation, but also assists in the evaluation of proposed mitigation strategies.

An important element of risk assessment is the consideration of impacts beyond those to the individual researcher or laboratory. Not only can major incidents result in death or serious injury, but they may require that institutional-level resources be marshalled in order for operations to resume, and may damage the university’s reputation for years.

Definitions for Determining Severity

Table 1: Definitions for determining severity of consequence

In addition to assessing the potential consequences of a given risk, the likelihood of those consequences occurring should also be assessed. The cumulative impact of minor injuries that occur on a regular basis may warrant prioritization over risks that may have greater consequences, but are very unlikely to occur.

Definitions for Determining Probability

Table 2: Definitions for determining probability of occurrence.

Using this kind of scaling, laboratory hazard risk rating is determined as follows (Figure 2):


Risk Rating = Probability of Occurrence x Severity of Consequences


Severity of consequences is scored in this model using a weighted scale. This ensures that any operation which could result in death or major disruptions are more highly prioritized and that significant steps will be taken to mitigate that risk.

Determining Risk Rating

Figure 2: Determining risk rating using severity of consequence and probability of occurrence values


Developing and Implementing Controls

Based on the assigned risk level, EH&S expects that PIs will take an appropriate response as described in Table 3.

Expectation of Response

Table 3: Expectation of response based on calculated risk level as adapted from Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories

Strategies for mitigating risk can be assessed using the Hierarchy of Controls framework (Figure 3). This approach is promoted by many safety organizations, including the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health. It organizes mitigation strategies, or controls, in order of effectiveness – from elimination of the hazard at the top, to personal protective equipment at the bottom. Under this framework, one should first consider the feasibility of the more-effective controls (e.g. substitution) before considering less-effective measures (administrative controls).

Hierarchy of Controls

Figure 3: The hierarchy of controls as reproduced from the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health


Providing Feedback

A successful Safety Management Plan will detail mechanisms for providing internal feedback and making adjustments. As research directions change, new hazards may be introduced to the laboratory. Personnel turnover is also an inherent fact of academic research, requiring that laboratory responsibilities be reassigned on a routine basis. Additionally, unanticipated risks may present themselves through observation of one’s experiments, especially in the form of lessons learned through incidents and near-misses.


View Sample Safety Management Plan

You can view an example plan here.


Read the Risk Assessment FAQ

Read the FAQ here.