Hierarchy of Control for Your Workplace Hazards
Hierarchy of control simply refers to the preventative measures, in order of priority, of reducing risks to the lowest reasonably practicable level. It begins with measures perceived to be most effective and descends to those considered least effective. Read on to learn the different steps to take when determining the most effective control measures to control and minimise hazards in your workplace.
Elimination is the first and best control measure for any risk assessment. You need to prioritise eliminating the risk entirely. However, this may not be practically the case; it may work theoretically but might not be good for your business. Therefore, work on eliminating unnecessary risks, especially at the design or planning stage of a worksite, process, or product. It’s much easier and convenient to incorporate risk control measures during the early phases that are compatible with the functional requirements. When working at height, for instance, consider using raising and lowering equipment to eliminate the high level of risk for your workers.
Some risks may not be eliminated completely. Which brings us to the second-best control measure, substitution. This control measure aims at reducing the risks through replacement of the materials, substances, or processes with something less dangerous. For example:
● Substitute a hazardous chemical with a safer alternative.
● Replace ladders with tower scaffolds.
● Change high-level vibrating equipment with one with less vibration exposure.
3. Engineering Controls
This is the third control measure which usually involves fixed temporary or permanent controls. Engineering controls could be individual (protecting a single user) or collective (protecting all workers). Prioritise on having collective over individual engineering controls. For example:
● Install fall protection posts and guard rails to fall hazards.
● Enclose dangerous items of moving parts and machinery.
● Use extraction machines to remove hazardous fumes from the air.
4. Administrative Controls
Administrative controls are very essential for any workplace. They include systems and rules to follow when carrying out a particular task safely. You need to establish safe work practices and appropriate work procedures in your organisation. For instance:
● Schedule routine maintenance and housekeeping procedures.
● Limit the time workers are exposed to potential hazards by adopting job rotation strategy.
● Prohibit the use of mobile phones in hazardous sites.
● Prohibit lifting operations and work at height in bad weather.
● Conduct a risk assessment in your workplace.
● Place warning signs of hazards in strategic places.
5. Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPEs are a worker’s last line of defence against workplace hazards. Yes, it may not be the first option for controlling risks, but can provide added protection for risks not eliminated, or when the other controls fail. Examples include:
● Use lanyards and harnesses where there’s a fall risk.
● Use of ear defenders when operating noisy equipment.
● Wear hard hats where there’s a risk of tools or materials overhead falling.
However, while PPEs can limit exposure to harm from hazards, they’re only effective if worn and used correctly.
The Bottom Line
In a situation where a risk cannot be eliminated completely, you can use a combination of the other four measures to control the risk. Make sure to include the controls in your risk assessment and communicate them to your workers. Regular review and maintenance of the controls are also important to ensure they remain effective.