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Risk management blog

Hierarchy of Hazard Control: Part 1

- October 12, 2018 by Robert Harrington (View all posts by Robert)

Hierarchy of hazard control is used to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards. The controls are ranked by strength to help people make the best decision possible when trying to control hazards in the workplace. The controls include Elimination, Engineering, Administrative, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The control methods at the top of graphic are potentially more effective and protective than those at the bottom. Obviously, eliminating a hazard is the ultimate goal, but it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to do this. For example, I can’t eliminate forklifts from a warehouse nor can I keep a truck driver from driving. If I did, my business wouldn’t operate.

Effective controls can reduce or mitigate workers from injuries, sicknesses and incidents and assist employers in providing workers with safe and healthy working conditions. It’s common to combine controls, for example a noisy manufacturing plant has loud machines, employees wear hearing protection while working in the area for the hazards workers are also rotated out of the area during shifts to a quieter task in another area. This combines both administrative and PPE to assist in employee’s safety.

To accomplish the goal of using the hierarchy system, you’ll need to collect, organize and review the information with your workers to determine the types of hazards or potential hazards that may be present while completing each task. The best control will eliminate the hazard, but as I explained before, that’s not always possible. To find the most appropriate control you’ll need to evaluate the risk to each worker. 

Let’s look at this example – if I’m trying to eliminate my employee from cutting themselves on the machetes that I provided them for opening boxes, should I give them PPE or should I take away the machetes and replace them with safety cutters? An injury from a machete could be quite severe so should I risk them not wearing their PPE properly? No! As the danger increases, thus should the restraint method. In this case, I should eliminate the machete from the risk equation.

Stay tuned for my next blog in which I will lay out more examples of how the hierarchy can be properly applied to risk management.