A risk assessment of the infectious agent or toxin and the procedures to be performed is used to determine the appropriate containment facility, equipment and work practices that will promote the safe conduct of the research project. Important differences exist between risk assessment criteria for public health and worker protection, and requirements for animal, plant, and agricultural containment.
A risk assessment is a process used to identify the hazardous characteristics of a known infectious agent or toxin or potentially infectious agent, toxin, or material, the activities that can result in exposure to that agent, the likelihood that such exposure will cause an infection, and the probable consequences of such an infection. The importance of risk assessment cannot be overemphasized. The information identified through a risk assessment is used to guide the selection of appropriate microbiological practices, safety equipment, and facility safeguards that, when used properly, can prevent exposures and dramatically reduce the incidence of laboratory-acquired infections. Risk assessment is a common first step in an overall risk-management process.
The risk assessment process is also discussed in Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories.