Safety News

March 2017

Appropriate Controls - the Hierarchy of Controls

We all know that if there is a hazard in the workplace it has to be controlled, but for some it comes as a surprise that the approach is dictated by legislation.  The law requires that you consider controls in the following order:

1. Elimination

Eliminating the hazard is the most effective control. For example, if employees must work high above the ground, the risk of a fall from height can be eliminated by moving what they are working on to ground level.  This eliminates the need to work at heights.

2. Substitution

Substitution involves replacing something hazardous with something that is less harmful - for example, replacing a harsh solvent cleaner with a citrus-based alternative.

3. Isolation

Isolation means separating people from the hazard, and includes traffic barriers, machine guards, splash screens for liquids, cages around machinery, and acoustic enclosures around noisy plant.

4. Engineering

Can you design, build, or modify something to reduce the hazard?  Examples include electrical cut-out devices, anti-glare screens, fume hoods and ventilation systems.

5. Administration

Administrative controls are changes to the way people work. Examples include procedure changes, employee training, and installation of signs and warning labels. Administrative controls are not as effective as the higher controls, as they rely on people to

6. Personal protective equipment

PPE is the least effective means of controlling hazards because the person is still exposed, it just limits the potential for injury.  If PPE is not worn or maintained correctly, its effectiveness is further reduced.

Elimination must be considered first, and only once it is determined to be impracticable may you proceed down the list.  Both Administration and PPE are considered very low order controls, and should only be used:

(i) When all other control measures are impractical; or

(ii) In conjunction with other more effective, control measures.

This methodology is known as the Hierarchy of Controls, and you may be required to prove that you applied the hierarchy if requested by the regulator.