Risk Assessment & Risk Management

The Laboratory Supervisor/Principal Investigator is responsible for performing the first assessment of risk for biohazards handled in the laboratory.  This is important as those handling biohazards must be aware of the risks involved in the work and also understand why the control measures have been implemented.

Biosafety Risk Assessment, which helps to identify the probability and consequences of infection, is used to ensure that all people potentially exposed to biohazards have an awareness of the potential risk.  Only after a risk assessment has been conducted can an appropriate set of containment procedures be selected to protect those involved in handling biohazards.  Risk Assessment usually considers the health factors associated with the agent or pathogen, an evaluation of the procedures or tasks involved in the proposed work, and a review of the personnel who will be performing the work.

Biosafety Risk Management is the corresponding process of selecting appropriate containment measures to ensure that biohazards are properly controlled.

The entire Risk Assessment and Management process covers the initial procurement of a biohazard until it has been securely stored or inactivated upon completion of work; it identifies where and how the biohazard will be handled in between, and by whom.  Each step in the work process must be analyzed for potential risk to personnel.  The categories that must be covered by the PI are summarized below in a table that provides a very simple overview of Biosafety Risk Assessment and Risk Management.

The 6 P’s of Risk Assessment and Risk Management (after Fontes, 2008)

RISK ASSESSMENT RISK MANAGEMENT
Pathogen
What are the risks associated with the biohazard?
Practices 
Good microbiological work practices reduce the risk of exposure.
Procedures
How do the proposed manipulations affect possible exposure?  How will you handle a spill?
Protective Equipment
Use proper protective clothing and engineering controls or containment equipment.
Personnel
Who will handle the biohazard?  Do they have the proper training and experience?
Place
Review the work location where biohazards will be handled.  Ensure that other users of the space will not be at risk for exposure.