The Hierarchy of Hazard Controls: Understanding the Roadmap to Workplace Safety 

December 20, 2023 • Previsor

A structured approach to identifying and mitigating hazards is key to ensuring workplace safety. The Hierarchy of Hazard Controls is a widely accepted framework that helps organizations prioritize and implement strategies to protect their employees. Developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), this hierarchy provides a clear roadmap for minimizing workplace risks. 

The Hierarchy of Hazard Controls 

The Hierarchy of Hazard Controls consists of five levels. Each offers a different approach to managing and reducing workplace hazards. These levels, in order of priority, are:

1. Elimination

The most effective way to control a hazard is to eliminate it entirely. This involves identifying and removing the source of the hazard from the workplace. While it’s not always possible, it should be the first consideration when evaluating safety measures. For example, replacing a ladder with a mechanical lift, or automating a task to remove the need for human exposure, are ways to eliminate hazards. 

2. Substitution

If eliminating the hazard isn’t possible, the next best approach is substitution. This means replacing the hazardous process or substance with a safer alternative. For instance, replacing a corrosive cleaning agent with a non-toxic one or using a less dangerous piece of equipment for a specific task.

3. Engineering Controls

Engineering controls involve modifying or redesigning the workplace to minimize the exposure to hazards. These physical changes make it harder for accidents to happen. Examples include installing machine guards, using ventilation systems to remove harmful fumes, or implementing noise-reducing measures.

4. Administrative Controls

When engineering controls aren’t enough, administrative controls step in. These measures focus on changing the way people work or interact with hazards. Examples include implementing work procedures, training, and job rotation to reduce exposure. While helpful, administrative controls are often less reliable because they rely on human behavior.

5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is the last line of defense in the Hierarchy of Hazard Controls. When all other control measures have been exhausted or are not feasible, employees should wear personal protective equipment. This includes items like safety glasses, gloves, respirators, and hard hats. While PPE can effectively reduce the risk of injury or illness, it should not be the primary means of control, as it relies on individuals’ proper selection, use, and maintenance. 

The Hierarchy of Hazard Controls is a fundamental tool for promoting workplace safety. By following this systematic approach, employers can minimize risks, protect their employees, and create a safer and more productive work environment. The ultimate goal is not just compliance with regulations, but also a genuine commitment to the well-being of your workforce.  

December 20, 2023
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