Let’s “BAND” together

Hazard banding is a method for quickly identifying physical properties, hazard classes,
and toxicological information of chemicals found in the workplace.

It categorizes every substance according to its toxicological potency and the effect exposure to it has on human health.


Historical Note:  Hazard banding was first used in the pharmaceutical industry to assess the risk of exposure to therapeutic drugs, and agree on a consistent system of control measures for safe dosages for drugs within the same occupational exposure bands.

The use of hazard banding increases the effectiveness of R.A.C.E.


R.A.C.E. is the step-by-step process used by organizations to make workplaces safer based on our knowledge of similar substances.

R.A.C.E. has been adopted by organizations to maximize employees’ overall health and safety, not just with regards to chemicals.
It consists of the following actions:

1. Recognizing the Hazard
2. Assessing the Risk
3. Controlling the Hazard
4. Evaluating the Controls

Diagram illustrating the steps in the Recognize, Assess, Control and Evaluate process

Some chemicals have already been categorized through other methods and have an established occupational exposure limit, but most have not been assessed this thoroughly. Health and safety representatives, along with employers and workers, are required to manage hazardous substances in their daily jobs, grouping each hazard into a risk category requiring appropriate control measures, sometimes with little information.

Categorizing a chemical into a hazard band means considering factors like measures of toxicity, exposure potential, the type and duration of the work being performed and physical characteristics of the chemical.

When a chemical has been put into a hazard band, and its risk evaluated, adequate control measures can be implemented. These measures can include better ventilation, personal protective equipment, containment, safe handling precautions, replacement with a safer alternative, etc.

For greater effectiveness, hazard banding tools are used alongside the R.A.C.E. protocol.

Following are corresponding hazard banding information sources for each step of R.A.C.E.:

Icon of an exclamation mark inside a triangle representing the concept of a hazard

Recognize the Hazard

Hazard Banding source: Chemical Hazard Assessment and Prioritization
(CHAP) Tool 

Icon of a clipboard with an exclamation mark depicting reporting of a problem

Assess the Risk

Hazard Banding source: CHAP-Risk Tool

All Hazards: HazardAssess 

Indoor Air Quality: AirAssess

Icon of an upside down triangle depicting control methods

Control the Hazard

Hazard Banding source:
COSHH Essentials e-Tool 


Icon of a clipboard with a checkmark in the centre, representing strategies and best practices

Evaluate the Controls

Investigate if the action plan is implemented.

Investigate if the controls working as intended.

Investigate if the risk is lower:
re-apply a risk matrix or the CHAP-Risk tool.

Occupational Exposures

Some hazard banding products result in an occupational exposure band.
Examples of these include:

COSHH Essentials e-Tool 
The COSHH Essentials e-Tool only requires a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and is easy-to-use.

NIOSH Occupational Exposure Banding e-Tool
This tool has three tiers, which allows for complex analysis using physical and toxicological properties.

Occupational exposure banding is just one type of hazard banding, applied when controlling the hazard.

Occupational exposure bands can only be applied to chemicals that do not have Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs).
Exposure limits for workplaces are available both provincially
 and federally.

Legislation in Canada recognizes the “precautionary principle,” meaning that “Employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker (Ontario OHSA S. 25(2)(h)  in provincially regulated workplaces,” and ”Employers must ensure that the health and safety at work of every person employed by the employer is protected (Canada Labour Code Part II, S. 124) in federally regulated workplaces. OHCOW strongly recommends workplaces exceed the minimum legislated OELs to ensure an optimal level of workplace protection.

Additional Resources

The following resources provide additional information on Hazard / Control Banding:



Canada’s National WHMIS portal – providing tools, guidance, information and resources presented by Jurisdiction and Audience.

Making It All Easier: Knowledge Mobilization & Tools Webinar

November 24, 2022 • With Thomas Tenkate, School of Occupational and Public Health; Angela Wheeler MSc, CIH, CRSP and SDS Registered Author, Dr. Joel Moody, Chief Prevention Officer and more.

Occupational Exposure Limits (OEL) Adjustment Tool

An effective tool for the calculation of the adjusted workplace exposure limit, for an unusual or extended work shift, recognizing the importance of the precautionary principle in occupational exposures.

Workplace COVID-19 Risk Management (Control Banding) Matrix


Highlighting the effectiveness of “higher order controls” as compared to personal protective equipment.

Tools and Action – How You Can Prevent Occupational Disease

October 2020

Marni Tivy, Policy Advisory, MLTSD
Daniel Drolet
Melanie Gorman-Ng, BCCSA
John Oudyk, OHCOW Occupational Hygienist


July 8, 2021

Part of the OCC-COVID Webinar Series

The Role of Infectious Dose and the Hierarchy of Prevention (Controls) for COVID-19

Hierarchy of Prevention (Control Banding) for COVID-19

June 26, 2020

Kevin Hedges, OHCOW