Hierarchy of Safety Controls

Hazards, physical conditions that cause injury, take many forms in the workplace. Often
the hazard can be controlled in a number of different ways. However, the goal is to seek
to best treatment technique that ideally eliminates the hazard or reduces it down to
lowest possible level. The lowest possible level is where it would be extremely remote
for the hazard to cause an injury. In the OSHA Standards and in safety education,
controls of hazards usually fall into one of two categories: Administrative Controls and
Engineering Controls. The Hierarchy of Safety controls incorporates those techniques
in the pursuit of reducing the hazard to the lowest acceptable level.
First priority to reduce hazards is to eliminate the hazard.
Elimination of the hazard approaches seek to remove the hazard through changes in
the process that creates the hazard. This is the best approach to prevent injuries
because you have removed the injury causing hazard totally from the work
environment. For example, a certain chemical requires the use of respirators to prevent

illness. The application of engineering controls is to replace the chemical with a non-
hazardous one to avoid the hazard or isolate the process to prevent employee exposure.

The second priority is to physically reduce the hazard through the design and
implementation of engineering controls. This can be accomplished with modifications
to the work process, the plant or the materials being received. Some examples are to
perform job design changes or install mechanical equipment, such as a conveyor.
Engineering controls would be used to redesign the elements of the hazard.
Engineering controls do not require human intervention to reduce or eliminate a hazard.
For example, in a warehouse dry goods operation, employees repeatedly complain of
headaches and nausea. With a little investigation it is determined that the Forklift fuel
source is not appropriate for warehouse use as it is gas burning and gives off carbon
monoxide. So, the Risk Manager purchases forklifts that burn clean fuel, such as
propane and the exposure to CO2 is eliminated. Understand less effective controls
could have been attempted such as increasing ventilation or requiring employees to
wear respirators. Obviously, changing the equipment is the best most effective method
as it eliminates the root source of injury cause.
Another example would be in an plant with high noise exposure. An engineering
control would be to enclose the machine or install noise absorption baffles in the
machine area.

The third priority is to apply safety technology to reduce the risk of injury.
Administrative Controls are those policies, procedures, work rules and training put
into place to prevent the hazard from causing injury. An example is the use of a grinder
causes the hazard of flying particles with an injury source of eye injuries; the
administrative control is to require employees when using the grinder to wear eye
protection. That requires a certain behavior on the part of the exposed employee. For
that reason Engineering controls are preferred to administrative controls. Hazards have
a hierarchy of safety controls, that is, the first steps to be taken to eliminate the hazard
should be performed first and followed down to the least preferred method. Examples
of applying safety technology include safety training, instructions and warning
Fourth priority is to use Personal Protection Equipment. PPE is the use of such
equipment as eye protection, fall protection, hard hats, gloves and other items,
Sometimes this is the only safety control that is feasible. This is the last resort
to hazard elimination. The reason it is last is because it requires safety education.
Education requires comprehension and application of the message. That is, safety
education, once delivered, requires employee behavior.
The point of this article is to get the reader to think in terms of hazard control by trying
to first eliminate the exposure. If elimination of the hazard is not feasible to apply, then
other forms of hazard control should be introduced to achieve an acceptable level of