1 How to write a risk assessment The University has a Duty of Care by ermalos


									                             How to write a risk assessment

The University has a Duty of Care for its staff, students and visitors. To comply with this
Duty of Care and current health and safety regulations, it is necessary to make a risk
assessment for all of our activities. The University’s Safety and Risk Office and School
Web pages contains forms, which will be useful in making the risk assessment. A
proforma is included as Appendix 1. An example of a risk assessment for
microbiological research (Appendix 2) is attached. A more specialized risk assessment is
needed for some work, such as genetically modified organisms (see Dr. P.C. Morris).

Essentially, it is necessary to consider and document the hazards associated with the
work, determine the level of risk associated with these hazards, itemize procedures taken
to minimize/control the risks, document any training needs, consider the level of risk
after instigating control measures, and determine the nature of any further action needed.

A consideration of hazards would include:

   1. Pressure vessels – these could explode
   2. Burns/scalds – from autoclaves, equipment with heating elements, hot water and
       Bunsen flames
   3. Micro-organisms - these could cause infections
   4. Chemicals - these could be toxic, inflammable or explosive when used single of
       in mixtures
   5. Radionuclides these could lead to long term health problems
   6. Trips and falls – from items left inadvertently on floors.
   7. Electrical hazards – electric shocks
   8. Cuts/injections – from broken glass, sharps, needles
   9. Explosion hazards – from mixtures of chemicals
   10. Centrifuges. – these could fail leading to an explosive release of the head.
   11. Other equipment
   12. Display screen equipment. – could lead to eye strain and/or repetitive strain
   13. Fire – from equipment, solvents or chemical reactions.
   14. Manual handling – could lead to back injuries

This list is illustrative, and it is accepted that the actual hazards in the workplace may be

Then, it is necessary to list those individuals considered to be at risk. These individuals
should be signatories to the risk assessment.

The level of risk is usually categorized as “Low”, “Medium” or “High”, and will reflect
the likelihood of exposure to the risk (see Appendix 2).

This section will describe the means by which the risks associated with the various
hazards are reduced. Control measures may include the adoption of a different (safer)
technique, a reduction in the exposure to the hazard and/or the use of personal protective
equipment, e.g. laboratory coats/disposable gloves. For examples see Appendix 2.

Then, it is appropriate to consider the risks after taking means to prevent or reduce the

Any training needs must be documented in a separate section.

This could include investigating alternative (safer) procedures or medical surveillance.

                         APPENDIX 1Proforma

                  RISK ASSESSMENT






LEVEL OF RISK: Low/Medium/High









DISTRIBUTION:   Personnel; Work place; File copy

   APPENDIX 2 Example (A Risk Assessment for microbial pathology research)

                       RISK ASSESSMENT
REFERENCE NUMBER: (to be added in School Office)

TITLE: Research in microbial pathology


The nature of the work reflects research into the pathogenicity of bacteria associated with
the aquatic environment and with diseases. The work involves the manipulation of
bacterial cultures, preparation and use of bacteriological media, and a limited amount of
biochemistry involving the isolation and characterisation of purified sub-cellular
components associated with pathogenicity and/or enzyme activity. The work is not
regarded as being especially hazardous, but staff and students MUST exercise care and
attention to minimise risks of contamination both to themselves and others in the

  1. Pressure vessels. Use of portable autoclaves operating under high pressure
       (typically 121oC for 15 min). These autoclaves are used for approximately 1-2
       hours each working day. The hazard reflects the presence of hot steam under
       pressure, which could lead to scalds. In addition, there is an explosion hazard.
  2. Burns/scalds – from autoclaves, hot water (such as from the hot water tap) and
       Bunsen flames
  3. Micro-organisms (COSHH, 2002; Advisory Committee on Dangerous
       Pathogens). This is the major area of concern in the laboratory. Personnel use a
       range of Category (Hazard Group) 2 pathogens including Aeromonas spp.
       (predominantly A. hydrophila and A. salmonicida), enterics (including Yersinia
       ruckeri), Listeria monocytogenes, and Vibrio spp. (including V. anguillarum, V.
       parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus). Also, unknown isolates may be received for
       identification. The problem with the cultures is that of the development of
       disease. This may result from accidental ingestion, inhalation or self-injection
       leading to clinical disease.
  4. Chemicals (COSHH, 2002)
  Antibiotics and other pharmaceutical compounds (chloramphenicol, furazolidone,
  nalidixic acid, oxolinic acid, oxytetracyline, nitrofurantoin and sulphonamide are
  present in 1-20 g quantities in the refrigerator in the laboratory) could lead to skin
  irritation (following direct skin contact), respiratory distress (following inhalation)
  and in extreme circumstances to severe allergic type reactions (predominantly by
  inhalation). The hazard concerns exposure to the pure compounds by direct contact
  with the skin or via the air (uptake via the respiratory route).
  Aryl methane dyes, i.e. crystal violet that is present in the laboratory, are used in
  biological stains. These compounds may be regarded as carcinogenic (the most likely

   risk is by skin absorption). An additional concern involves inhalation of the
   powdered dye and the possible development of respiratory distress.
   Solvents. One-litre quantities of absolute ethanol, 95% methanol and acetone are kept
   in screw capped glass bottles within a metal solvent cupboard. One hundred millilitre
   quantities of these solvents are contained in glass bottles, and used for decolorizing
   biological stains and for chemical extractions. The most likely hazard stems from fire
   and explosion.
   Disinfectants. Sodium hypochlorite, in 5 litre containers, is stored in the laboratory,
   and used as a disinfectant. Small (200 ml) volumes of diluted (0.1% v/v) Chloros is
   contained in open polypropylene containers, as disinfectant. Direct contact with the
   skin or eyes could result in (chemical) burns.
   5. Trips and falls – from items left inadvertently on floors.
   6. Electrical hazards (Electrical at Work Regulations, 1989) – electric shocks from
       sockets; problems (electric shocks) from unsafe equipment
   7. Cuts/injections – from broken glass, sharps, needles
   8. Explosion hazards – from the inadvertent mixing of chemicals; solvents.
   9. Centrifuge. There is the possibility that an improperly balanced centrifuge could
       fail, causing the centrifuge head to become detached and released explosively
       from the machine leading to severe injury.
   10. Display screen equipment. Two computers are available for use by the staff and
       students. Separate risk assessments have been made, and for the staff eye
       examinations are arranged on a rolling three-year programme. The hazards
       concern eyestrain, headaches and repetitive strain injury.
   11. Fire – from solvents, chemicals and paper (ignited by Bunsen flames and
       spontaneous self-ignition).

       a. Staff and students who use the laboratory.
       b. Visitors.

  1. Low (this assumes that the autoclave is used strictly according to the
     manufacturers instructions; fortunately, the electric autoclave has sufficient
     automatic fail safes to reduce further any concerns).
  2. Moderate (due to the regularity that staff and students use hot water, autoclaves,
     and Bunsen burners, it is considered that there is a moderate risk of minor burns
     and scalds despite the presence of warning notices).
  3. Low (the cultures used in the laboratory are not harmful pathogens, and the risk of
     harm resulting from their use is considered to be “low”)
  4. Low (The quantities in the laboratory are low, and with current practices observed
     during the assessment and the irregular use of these chemicals, a realistic risk of
     harm is “low”).
  5. Low
  6. Low (high voltage items are not present; all electrical items, i.e. computers,
     printers, refrigerators, deep freezers, centrifuges, mixers and spectrophotometers)

       have current PAT testing stickers, and providing that the items are handled
       sensibly then the risk of a problem occurring is deemed to be extremely low)
   7. Moderate (with care, cuts or self-injection should not occur, but it is realized that
       minor cuts/grazes may possibly occur)
   8. Low (this is extremely unlikely to occur given the nature and quantities of the
       chemicals contained in the laboratory, and the regularity of their use).
   9. Low (the proviso is that the equipment is handled properly).
   10. Low (the level of use of the two computers is <1 hour daily).
   11. With current practices, the level of risk is deemed to be low.

Current control measures are deemed to be adequate. In terms of the specific hazards:
   1. Before attempting to use the autoclaves, staff and students must familiarize
       themselves with the instruction manual and receive training from the technician in
       charge of the laboratory. The work necessitates the use of autoclaves, all of
       which are regularly tested, and have current certificates (for pressure vessels) and
       electrical safety (PAT testing). The risks associated with autoclaves reflect burns
       caused by individuals who touch the outside of the vessel. Personnel need to
       regularly reminded that there is not any need to feel an autoclave. The gauge
       provides the necessary information about temperature. The message is to keep
       hands off the surface of the autoclave! A second problem is concerned with
       scalds caused by venting the autoclave rapidly when it is under pressure. This is
       unacceptable, and must not occur! Also, personnel must not try to open the
       autoclave when it is under pressure. The gauge provides the information about
       whether or not the autoclave is under pressure and/or cooling. However, it is
       virtually impossible to open modern autoclaves when they are under pressure but
       it is essential that personnel do not try! A third potential problem reflects the
       explosion of glass bottles upon removal from the autoclave. This happens when
       filled bottles (of ≥50 ml volume) are tightly sealed, and the sudden difference in
       pressure causes them to fracture and even to explode. This risk may be
       minimized by ensuring that the caps of all bottles are loose; and after autoclaving
       ensuring that the liquid inside the bottle is not bubbling prior to removal of the
       bottle. In any case, wear heat resistant (autoclave) gloves, and keep bottles at
       arms length. Previously, there has been injury and death caused by explosion of
       autoclaves. Also, severe injuries have resulted from the explosive release of the
       lid when the autoclave is under pressure. Modern autoclaves – including those in
       Room S13 – are safe if used properly.
   2. Hands must be kept away from autoclaves (there is no need to feel the surface –
       the temperature gauge will provide the necessary information). Heat resistant
       (autoclave) gloves must be worn when lifting/moving containers of hot/boiling
       water. Keep hands away from the hot water tap (these taps have now been
       labeled to indicate the presence of “very hot water”– if you see the water
       steaming, it can be reliably assumed that the temperature is ≥60oC. The biggest
       problem for burns is undoubtedly unguarded Bunsen flames. The risk may be
       minimized by extinguishing the flame when finished with the work; minimizing
       the height of the flame (most work with the Bunsen burner involves sterilizing

   inoculating loops – a small flame of ≤10 cm works just as well as a large flame;
   and adjusting the air hole on the Bunsen burner so that the flame may be seen (if
   the air hole is completely open, the flame is virtually invisible). It is good
   practice to ensure that there is a clear space around Bunsen burners, which MUST
   be kept well away from colleagues and overhanging shelves.
3. The cultures could cause disease following infection by injection, inhalation, or
   orally. The procedures for Category 2 pathogens, as detailed in the Safety
   Booklet MUST be followed. A synopsis of the regulations taken from the HSE
   Regulations Governing Work with Pathogens has been included in Appendix 1.
   In all work with microorganisms, person protective equipment (PPE), namely a
   properly fastened microbiological laboratory coat must be worn. If contamination
   is suspected, the contaminated object should be placed in an autoclave bag and
   sterilized at 121oC for 15 minutes. Surface spills may be disinfected – 0.1% (v/v)
   Chloros is effective but a contact time of one minute is necessary. To protect the
   individual, household style rubber gloves should be worn. The disinfected
   surface/object will then need to be washed carefully with tap water to remove the
   Chloros, which is a powerful bleach. The rubber gloves may be washed in
   flowing tap water to remove the residual disinfectant.
4. Data sheets MUST be consulted for each chemical if there is doubt about its
   safety. There are two classes of compounds that could pose problems, i.e.
   pharmaceutical compounds (principally antibiotics) and stains (particularly aryl
   methane dyes). Skin absorption may be prevented by wearing PPE, i.e.
   disposable gloves (this is especially recommended if it is known that the
   individual has an adverse reaction to any given compound). Thereafter, the used
   gloves must be placed in the autoclave bags for sterilization and disposal with the
   standard bacteriological waste. Also, the compounds should be weighed (and
   used) in laminar airflow cabinets. If a compound does come into accidental
   contact with skin, wash thoroughly with tap water. On no account should any
   compound be brought into contact with the mouth. By use of gentle techniques,
   manipulations in the fume cupboards/clean air cabinet, airborne dispersal of a
   chemical may be eliminated – do not deliberately breathe in any dust produced
   during weighing or mixing procedures.

   Disposable gloves must not be worn outside the laboratory. If the gloves are
   contaminated then there is a risk that the contaminating material could be
   transferred to door handles, and therefore, other individuals could become

   To reduce any risk associated with the use of solvents, it is essential that they are
   stored in the appropriate solvent cupboard. Solvents must never be used in the
   presence of naked flames (solvent vapours could all too easily ignite). Also
   solvents must not be mixed, unless there is good chemical evidence that such
   mixtures are not potentially dangerous (causing explosions or increased amounts
   of potentially flammable vapours). Small quantities or ethanol, methanol and
   acetone may be disposed down the laboratory sinks providing that disposal is
   accompanied by copious quantities of tap water. Although there was no evidence

   in the laboratory for the presence of ethers, these compounds are extremely
   volatile and disposal is by means of collection in designated Winchester bottles
   and transfer to the School stores for later removal by a contractor.

   Although there was not any evidence for the presence of strong acids or alkalis,
   workers are reminded that work with such chemicals poses extra risks that must
   be considered if use is contemplated.

5. Items must NOT be left on the floor for others to trip over. Personnel need to be
   aware of any items, which could be left on the floor.
6. Electrical items must not be used if they have not been tested or the test is out of
   date (there should be a sticker on the plug). If an electrical item is seen with an
   out-of-date sticker, the technician in charge of the laboratory must be informed.
   The item will either be electrically tested or the plug removed before placement in

    Hands/fingers must be kept well away from electrical sockets and well away from
    the conducting pins on the plugs
7. Broken glass or glass fragments must not be picked with bare hands. Damaged
    glass objects should not be used. Sharps and razor blades are inherently sharp, so
    to minimize the risks of cuts/stab wounds these items should NOT be left on
    benches/floors or other surfaces. When changing the blade, the use of forceps is
    recommended. In short, THERE IS NO NEED TO TOUCH SHARPS/BLADES.
    Broken glass, needles, syringes and sharps must NEVER be discarded into the
    black general refuse sacks. Instead, these items must be placed into the
    designated container. Needles – self-injection is mostly a problem when the
    cover is being replaced. Minimize any risk of self-injection by keeping fingers
    well away from the tip of the needles, and by placing the needle (without first
    replacing the cover) directly into the discard bin.
8. Mixtures of chemicals/solvents may become explosive or poisonous. In essence,
    chemicals must not be mixed unless you are certain of the result. Solvents must
    always be used/kept well away from sources of ignition, particularly naked
    flames; the solvent containers must be kept well sealed and stored in the
    designated solvent cupboards. Chemicals must not be disposed of down sinks
    without first verifying with the safety sheet that the procedure is an acceptable
    means of disposal.
9. The manufacturers instructions must be followed before use of the centrifuge.
    Also, the user must ensure that he/she is familiar with the instrument. The
    technician in charge of the laboratory will give instruction. To minimize any risk,
    it is essential that the centrifuge head is properly fastened, the centrifuge tubes are
    properly balanced, the lid properly fastened, and speed of operation kept within
    the manufacturers guidelines, i.e. the centrifuge must not be used at speeds in
    excess of 4,000 r.p.m.
10. Use of the computers has been assessed separately. The height, angle and
    brightness of the screen need to be adjusted to suit each user. Also, the chairs are

       of adjustable height and angle to suit the users. Footrests are available. Users are
       encouraged to take regular breaks, but the current usage is very low.
   11. Solvents must be kept well clear of any source of ignition, specifically Bunsen
       burners. A clear zone must be kept around Bunsen burners, which should be
       positioned on heatproof tiles. Bunsen burners must be kept clear of shelves,
       papers, and all chemicals.

   1. Low
   2. Low
   3. Low
   4. Low
   5. Low
   6. Low
   7. Low
   8. Low
   9. Low
   10. Low
   11. Low

None identified for the current personnel.

       • The draft University’s Lone Working Policy will impact on some
          activities of some personnel, especially research students. Consideration
          will need to given to this policy as soon as the contents are revealed.
       • Any further activities not covered by this risk assessed must be assessed

PREPARED BY:          Professor B. Austin
DATE:                 June 25, 2004

DISTRIBUTION: All laboratory personnel; notice board; safety file.


DATE TO BE REVISED: June 25, 2005

APPENDIX 1 (synopsis of the regulations governing work with Category 2 pathogens).
  1.    Microbiological pattern laboratory coats, properly fastened, must be worn in the
        laboratory. They must be removed before leaving the laboratory - on no account
        should laboratory coats be worn in tea rooms, offices, the library or other public
  2.    Laboratory coats should not be worn outside laboratories and never in a room in
        which eating, drinking or smoking is permitted.
  3.    Laboratory coats should not be modified in any way.
  4.    Laboratory coats should be autoclaved at 121oC for 15 min if contamination is
        suspected and routinely before sending to the laundry
  5.    Always work on the assumption that the organisms you are dealing with are
        pathogens and observe appropriate precautions.
  6.    Smoking, eating, chewing, drinking, applying cosmetics, storing of food and
        drink must not take place in the laboratory. Keep fingers, pens, pencils etc. away
        from your mouth
  7.    Mouth pipetting must not take place
  8.    Hands must be washed with soap and water when contamination is suspected,
        after handling potentially infective material and before leaving the laboratory.
  9.    Work in a tidy manner ensuring that no unnecessary equipment or glassware is
        left lying around.
  10.   All contaminated articles not suitable for flaming should be discarded into
        disinfectant of which 0.1% (v/v) sodium hypochloride, eg. "Chloros", is effective
        for Category 2 pathogens.
  11.   Petri dishes containing cultures should be placed in Sterilin bags for autoclaving
        at 121oC for 15 minutes). A spore strip (obtainable from Oxoid) should be
        included to verify inactivation of the micro-organisms.
  12.   Do not lick labels (moisten them with water from the tap) or touch your mouth
        with finger, pen or pencil.
  13.   Do not bring bags, clothing or other personal effects into the laboratory since
        they may become contaminated.
  14.   Do not mouth pipette cultures of micro-organisms: use a safety bulb with a
        pipette plugged with cotton wool.
  15.   Access will be limited to authorised personnel and other workers with a
        legitimate reason for access.
  16.   The door should be kept closed when work is in progress and an appropriate sign
        "Containment Level 2 work in progress" displayed.
  17.   Bench working surfaces if not of an approved type must be covered with
        "Benchkote" and this must be replaced when damaged.
  18.   Outdoor clothing, handbags, briefcases, etc must not be brought into the
  19.   During normal working care must be taken to minimise production of aerosols
        e.g. capped tubes should be used for mixing and centrifuging.
  20.   Bench working areas must be disinfected with dilute sodium hypochlorite after
        spillages and routinely at the end of each working day.
  21.   Waste materials must be disposed of safely. In particular, contaminated materials
        must be totally immersed in disinfectant or autoclaved before disposal. If

       contaminated materials are to be transported to another laboratory for autoclaving
       they should be placed in an autoclave bag.
   22. Accidents including minor cuts and abrasions must be reported and appropriate
       action taken. e.g. minor cuts should be cleaned and covered with a waterproof
   23. A copy of the code of Practice has been posted in each microbiology laboratory
       and must be brought to the attention of personnel involved.

Further information on work involving microorganisms, may be obtained from
"Guidelines for Microbiological Safety" issued by the Joint Co-ordinating Committee for
the Implementation of Safe Practices in Microbiology.


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