From: McGrath Edward J <Edward.McGrath**At_Symbol_Here**REDCLAY.K12.DE.US>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Draft lab risk assessment video comments requested
Date: Tue, 1 May 2018 19:48:43 +0000
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Message-ID: CY1PR03MB2250161648B46301EB3314CD96810**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <3BC03B4E-8E33-40B1-9066-753A6F8B279C**At_Symbol_Here**>

Hi everybody:


I'll have to see the video at home, since Vimeo is blocked by my school district.  However, Daniel Kuespert's post grabbed my attention, and this issue of severity and probability comes up in my district all the time. 


I usually illustrate the distinction with a hazard analysis of books in a library.  There are several hazards, but the ones I illustrate are


Paper cut




A paper cut has an extremely high probability—it's going to happen sooner or later!  But the severity is low enough that a first aid kit (with band-aids and possibly a disinfectant) is an appropriate safety action.


A fire is unlikely without an ignition source—low probability.  However, if a fire happens, the severity is extreme—property damage, loss of life.  So, as low as the probability is, the severity warrants an ABC fire extinguisher to be present.



We in the K-12 world run into trouble when administrators only consider probability without considering severity in risk assessment.  As a result, the phrase, "we haven't had a problem with that in all the years I've been around, why am I going to spend money on…(eyewash, smaller class size, removal of legacy chemicals, take your pick)?"


And the problem doesn't happen.  Until the day it does.


Occasionally, we get the administrator who says, "we haven't had a problem, and I intend to keep it that way," and shells out the money for safety equipment, training, and hazardous waste disposal.


In 24 years, I have yet to hear such an administrator express buyer's remorse.  I've heard several tell me they sleep better at night though.


Eddie McGrath


Edward J. McGrath

Supervisor of Science

Red Clay Consolidated School District

1502 Spruce Avenue

Wilmington, DE  19805


(302) 552-3768


We did not inherit the Earth from our parents.  We borrowed it from our children.


From: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU] On Behalf Of Daniel Kuespert
Sent: Tuesday, May 01, 2018 1:44 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Draft lab risk assessment video comments requested


Excellent video. Describing a risk assessment as a kind of "prioritized" hazard assessment is a great way to make it understandable. 


I do take a little issue with describing risk as essentially a measure of probability alone. Not to be pedantic about risk = F(probability, severity), but I think there are situations when thinking of risk solely as probability or likelihood might lead people astray. Really bad outcomes, even if extremely unlikely, should have measures taken to prevent them. For one thing, the history of catastrophic incidents indicates that people tend to underestimate the probability of such incidents, or let their layers of protection gradually degrade until the probability becomes higher.


Just my $0.02.





Daniel Reid Kuespert, PhD, CSP

11101 Wood Elves Way

Columbia, MD 21044


On May 1, 2018, at 07:40, DCHAS Membership Chair <membership**At_Symbol_Here**DCHAS.ORG> wrote:


With the support of the ACS's Innovative Project Grant program for technical divisions, DCHAS has been working with Timothy Gallagher of the University of Bristol and a video artist to develop a short video on the the topic of laboratory risk assessments and maintaining situational awareness as work proceeds. We are nearing the end of the editing process; the current draft is available for viewing at
with a password of: lab

I'd appreciate any comments or questions DCHAS members have about the video by Thursday of this week.

Let me know if you have any questions about this.

- Ralph

Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO

Membership chair
American Chemical Society
Division of Chemical Health and Safety

For more information about the DCHAS-L e-mail list, contact the Divisional membership chair at membership**At_Symbol_Here**
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