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Breaking Down the Hierarchy of Hazard Controls

Posted on January 28, 2022 in

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) created a hierarchy of hazard controls to protect workers from on-the-job dangers, lower workplace safety and health risks, avoid injuries and illnesses, and provide safe working conditions.

With these effective controls in place, employers can plan for, protect, and prevent hazards, as well as determine the most effective solution. Occupational hazards can be in the physical, chemical, biological, or psychosocial realms. 

The Houston explosion accident lawyers at The Doan Law Firm took a closer look into the inverted pyramid of the hazard control hierarchy, from the most effective to least effective control solutions.

Start the Elimination Round

The elimination hazard control sits at the top of the pyramid as the most effective of the controls. Why? Because it is usually the most simple and inexpensive – especially if the company’s safety plan is in the preliminary development stage. If the process is beyond that, it may require major changes in equipment or procedures to eliminate the problem.

Send In the Substitutes

The substitution hazard control is next and, as you can assume, involves replacing the problem with something that either eliminates the hazard or lessens the risks of the threat. Some examples could include substituting safer cleaning chemicals, paints, and filters for airborne dust in the workplace that could affect employees’ health.

A Degree of Engineering

The engineering hazard control aims to get rid of the hazard at the source before it comes in contact with an employee. While it tends to be more expensive for this higher level of protection, it can also be highly effective, and the long-term costs could save employers money. 

Administrative Controls: The Fourth Level

The administrative hazard control level is often used with existing company processes to manage any hazards that are not well-monitored. There are a few drawbacks with administrative controls: 

Administrative controls and PPE programs may be relatively inexpensive to establish but, over the long term, can be very costly to sustain. These methods for protecting workers have also proven to be less effective than other measures, requiring significant effort by the affected workers.

Get Personal

The PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) hazard control is the last line of defense, but also the least effective, given the higher potential for damage at this point. It is the hazard level that would involve the use of:

  • Gloves
  • Fire-resistant Nomex clothing
  • Overalls
  • Tyvek protective suits
  • Respirators
  • Hard Hats
  • Safety glasses
  • Safety footwear

At this stage, hazard control may also require physical examinations of employees to make sure the employees are medically cleared to use the PPE without risking their well-being and health. 

Come Up with a Plan

Employers need to strategize the most effective plan of hazard controls for their employees. A few tips for successful hazard prevention includes:

  • Involving those employees in the plan; they have the best, hands-on perspective of working conditions, what can potentially cause hazards, and a closer look into how they can be controlled. 
  • Keeping in mind that there should be protective measures within the plan for emergencies and non-routine activities.
  • Thoroughly evaluating the existing hazard controls in place and how effective (or not) they are.
  • Reviewing any new technologies in the industry that can provide more reliable protection within budget.