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Hierarchy of Hazard Control: Part 2

- October 22, 2018 by Robert Harrington (View all posts by Robert)

In my last blog, I introduced the concept of a hierarchy of control. In this blog, Let’s look at each control method in more detail:

Elimination (includes substitution)

Remove the hazard from the workplace, by either the removal of the hazard or by changing the process or by outsourcing the hazard altogether. Substitute a hazardous material or machine with less hazardous ones. An example is to substitute a pesticide for a natural, non-hazardous pesticide. Another example is the use of a water jet cutter vs. hand torch cutting. It’s safer for operators and the environment as it produces no vapor or smoke and any dust particles produced by the erosion process is trapped in the water and is filtered out safely later.

Engineering Controls

This includes designs or modifications to plants, equipment, ventilation systems and processes that reduce the source of exposure. This can be done by using a sand blasting box instead of blasting in the open.  Or the use of adjustable guards, light curtains and two hand tripping devices as machine guarding alternatives.

Administrative Controls

This involves using controls that alter the way the work is done, including timing of work, new policies, and work practices. Tactics for implementing administrative controls can include training, improving housekeeping, formalizing equipment maintenance, and encouraging personal hygiene practices.  A common administrative control to help reduce cumulative trauma injuries is job rotation. In a manufacturing plant or at a construction site, when people rotate their duties through the day, they lessen the stress on their body from repetitive motion. Administrative controls can be as simple as reducing the weight of a load by using smaller containers

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

This includes equipment worn by individuals to reduce vulnerability, such as exposure to chemicals, noise, flying sparks, etc. Using PPE can be an easy way to reduce a hazard, but PPE does not eliminate the hazard. Personal protection equipment is a form of physical protection to reduce exposure to various risk factors. PPE should be considered the last resort for employers and their employees. PPE is at the last resort choice because it is designed to protect the employee after the hazard is present.

PPE also relies on the human factor.  Even though employees may be properly trained in its use, often employees don’t wear PPE or wear it incorrectly so it’s not effective or they wear it when only when they know leadership is around. Here’s an example of when PPE might be the only option. A plumbing contractor working on a drainage pipe issue. The pipe must be handled in order to replace the broken piece; the pipe is contaminated. The plumber must then pick up the pipe using his neoprene gloves and possibly additional personal protective equipment to use as a barrier to keep them from coming into contact with the contaminant.

Using the hierarchy of control method to eliminate or reduce risk is a great way to make your workplace safer. Employing effective risk reduction measures from the appropriate part of the hierarchy of control, can assist your organization reaching your area of the acceptable or tolerable level of resulting risk.

So, now you know something about the ‘hierarchy of controls’ it’s time to apply it to mitigate and reduce your risks. If you need further assistance your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant can help.