Hazard control measures occur at the very end of your safety program development process. This process starts with an assessment of hazard risk—and control measures are only identified and implemented later. These are followed by evaluation and continuous improvement of your risk control measures to maintain an up-to-date, effective safety program.
What Are Hazard Control Measures?
Control measures include actions that reduce risk from hazard exposure by removing the hazard or reducing exposure to it. Control measures also include substituting less hazardous materials, introducing physical barriers to the hazard, changing work processes to limit hazard exposure, and providing your workers with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Depending on the hazard and how often a worker is exposed to it, the risk of injury will vary. Likewise, control measures vary in effectiveness. Controls dependent on workers applying the control consistently are less successful, given the human tendency to forget. Conversely, controls independent of human action are most effective. The trick is choosing the most effective control measure that’s feasible to implement while also considering its impact on your workflow.
Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
Let’s start at the beginning, with the process of hazard identification and risk assessment. There are different methods of hazard identification. The most common is an inspection of the job site, looking for obvious hazards. If you do this type of hazard identification, also look for hazards posed by machinery and tools.
Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) is a method that examines the actions your workers perform to accomplish each job. This is a more comprehensive approach that analyzes every action a worker does and identifies whether there is an associated hazard.
JHA also engages your workers as active participants in your safety program, as they help you identify which duties of their jobs are the most hazardous and contribute their ideas about realistic, practical, and cost-effective control measures that will keep them safer at work.
Once you’ve identified the hazards of your job site or those associated with specific tasks your workers perform, you have to assess the degree of risk each of these hazards pose.
What is risk? It’s a combination of a hazard and how often a worker is exposed to it. Remember, your safety program goal is to reduce the risk of injuries. So, you either can reduce or eliminate the hazard, or you can limit a worker’s exposure to the hazard. Hazards that pose the greatest risk are your first priority for elimination, reduction, or control. This, then, is the point where control measures enter the picture.
The Hierarchy of Hazard Control Measures
OSHA has developed a Hierarchy of Controls pyramid, either upright or inverted, that links the type of control measure to its effectiveness. The most effective control measure, elimination of the hazard, is always shown at the top. The other control measures become less effective as you move down the pyramid, as follows:
- Elimination: Remove the hazard.
- Substitution: Replace the hazardous substance, machine, or tool with a safer one.
- Engineering Controls: Create a barrier between workers and the hazard.
- Administrative Controls: Change the way workers do their jobs to minimize exposure to the hazard.
- PPE: Provide PPE as a last defense to protect workers from the hazard.
Does it seem odd that PPE is considered the least effective control measure? Your workers are human. They forget to wear their PPE or they deliberately refuse to wear it because it limits their mobility, reduces their manual dexterity, or is just plain uncomfortable. Inappropriate or unused PPE is completely ineffective.
As shown in the hierarchy of controls, the effectiveness of control measures decreases if a worker is required to do or wear something. This is why you always start at the top of the hierarchy of controls pyramid, with the most effective type of controls, and work your way down. Some hazards will require a combination of controls. Watch this video to learn more:
Control Measures Apply in Any Work Setting
If your worksite is an industrial environment, many of your control measures will be physical hazard control measures, where you physically eliminate the hazard or substitute some other physical aspect of the job, such as the substances, machinery, or tools being used.
For instance, if your workers use utility knives or box cutters on the job, the hazard is laceration injuries. By substituting a safer tool, such as the Slice 10503 Auto-Retractable Box Cutter or the 10554 Auto-Retractable Utility Knife, you can reduce their laceration injury risk. Read more here about choosing the safest safety knife.
In office environments, many of the hazards relate to the ergonomic positioning of your workers’ bodies while sitting and using computers or other office machines. Consequently, many of your control measures will be ergonomic hazard control measures. Make sure that chairs support correct body alignment, that computer monitors are positioned to avoid neck strain, and that your workers take stretch breaks periodically.
No matter your work environment, creating and maintaining a comprehensive and effective safety program requires that you conduct a hazard identification process, followed by a risk assessment. Once you know the inherent dangers at your worksite, you’ll be ready to involve your workers in identifying and implementing appropriate hazard control measures.