General Hierarchy of Control Measures | Step By Step Process

  • Reviewed By: Waqar Ali (Industrial Hygienist, ASP)

Welcome to our blog on the General Hierarchy of Control Measures, a crucial framework for managing workplace safety and ensuring the well-being of employees. Organizations must prioritise safety in today’s fast-paced work environments by identifying and mitigating potential hazards. The Hierarchy of Control Measures is a comprehensive guide that helps employers and safety professionals create a safer work environment for everyone involved.

In this blog, we will explore the five levels of the Hierarchy of Control Measures, emphasizing their importance and providing real-life examples to help you understand how they can be applied effectively. From the most effective measures, such as elimination and substitution, to the least effective yet still essential personal protective equipment (PPE), we will cover all aspects of this vital safety framework.

So, whether you’re a safety professional, a business owner, or someone interested in understanding workplace safety, this blog will provide valuable insights into the Hierarchy of Control Measures. Stay tuned as we delve into each level, equipping you with the knowledge and tools to create a safer and more productive work environment for all.

Hierarchy of Control Measures – Definition & Importance

The Hierarchy of Control Measures is a systematic approach to minimising or eliminating workplace hazards and associated risks. This approach categorizes various control measures in order of their effectiveness, from the most effective to the least effective. By understanding and applying this hierarchy, employers can create a safer work environment and protect the health and well-being of their employees.

In the workplace, hazards may arise from various sources, including machinery, chemicals, and physical and human factors. Employers must identify these hazards and implement appropriate control measures to ensure worker safety. The Hierarchy of Control Measures is a valuable tool in guiding the selection and implementation of these measures, ensuring that the most effective solutions are applied.

The Hierarchy of Control Measures comprises five levels, in decreasing order of preference and effectiveness:

  1. Elimination
  2. Substitution
  3. Engineering Controls
  4. Administrative Controls
  5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

As we move through each level of the hierarchy, the control measures become less effective in mitigating risks. Therefore, the goal is to implement solutions as high in the hierarchy as possible. However, it is essential to understand that the most effective solution may not always be feasible or practical, and a combination of control measures might be necessary.

In the following sections, we will delve into each level of the Hierarchy of Control Measures, providing a clear understanding of each step and its importance in creating a safer workplace. By the end of this article, you will have the knowledge to effectively identify hazards, assess risks, and implement the most suitable control measures for your work environment.

Hierarchy Of Control Measures – Five Levels

The hierarchy of control measures is a system that outlines the order in which control measures should be implemented to minimize or eliminate workplace hazards. There are five levels in the hierarchy of control measures, listed in order of priority:

Hierarchy of Control

1. Elimination – The Most Effective Control Measure

Elimination is the highest level in the Hierarchy of Control Measures, and it involves completely removing the hazard from the workplace. This means the hazard is no longer present, and no control measures are necessary. Elimination is the most effective control measure as it eliminates the risk of exposure to the hazard, ensuring that workers are safe from harm.

Examples of elimination may include:

  • Replacing a hazardous substance with a less hazardous alternative.
  • Automating a task that requires workers to be exposed to a hazardous environment.
  • Removing a piece of machinery or equipment that poses a safety risk.

Benefits of elimination as the most effective control measure:

  1. Complete elimination of the hazard: Elimination eliminates the hazard from the workplace, ensuring that workers are not exposed to any risks associated with the hazard.
  2. Cost-effective: Elimination is often the most cost effective solution as it reduces the need for other control measures, such as engineering controls or personal protective equipment.
  3. Reduced liability: Elimination reduces the risk of accidents and injuries, reducing an organization’s liability for compensation claims and legal action.

Strategies for implementing elimination:

  • Identify the hazard: The first step in implementing elimination is to identify the hazard in the workplace. This may involve conducting a hazard assessment or consulting with safety professionals.
  • Consider alternatives: Once the hazard has been identified, consider alternatives to completely eliminate the hazard from the workplace. This may involve finding less hazardous alternatives or redesigning processes to remove the need for hazardous substances.
  • Implementation plan: Once an alternative has been identified, plan for its implementation. This may involve working with suppliers or redesigning processes to ensure the alternative suits the task.
  • Monitor and review: Finally, monitor and review the elimination strategy to ensure it is effective and sustainable. This may involve regular testing or inspections to ensure that the alternative works as intended and that workers are not exposed to new hazards.

Elimination is the most effective control measure in the Hierarchy of Control Measures. By identifying hazards and considering alternatives, organizations can eliminate hazards from the workplace, ensuring worker safety and reducing liability. While not always feasible, elimination should always be the first option when implementing control measures.

Hierarchy Of Control Examples

2. Substitution – A Highly Effective Control Measure

Substitution is the second level in the Hierarchy of Control Measures, and it involves replacing a hazardous substance or process with a less hazardous alternative. This means that the risk of exposure to the hazard is reduced, but the hazard is not entirely eliminated, as in the case of the elimination control measure.

Examples of substitution may include:

  • Replacing a hazardous chemical with a less toxic alternative
  • Replacing a manual task with an automated one
  • Using non-slip flooring in place of slippery flooring to reduce the risk of falls

Benefits of substitution as a control measure:

  • Reduced risk: Substitution reduces the risk of exposure to hazardous substances or processes by replacing them with less hazardous alternatives.
  • Improved health and safety: By reducing exposure to hazards, substitution improves the health and safety of workers.
  • Cost-effective: Substitution can be a cost-effective solution, as it often reduces the need for other control measures, such as engineering controls or personal protective equipment.

Factors to consider when selecting substitutes:

  1. Chemical properties: When selecting substitutes for hazardous chemicals, it is essential to consider their chemical properties, including toxicity, flammability, and reactivity.
  2. Performance: Substitutes should be evaluated for their effectiveness in performing the same or similar tasks as the hazardous substance or process.
  3. Compatibility: Substitutes should be compatible with existing equipment, processes, and procedures in the workplace.
  4. Environmental impact: It is essential to consider the environmental impact of the substitute, including its potential for creating new hazards or environmental pollution.
  5. Cost: The cost of the substitute should be considered, including any costs associated with training, installation, and maintenance.

Substitution is a highly effective control measure that involves replacing hazardous substances or processes with less hazardous alternatives. By considering factors such as chemical properties, performance, compatibility, environmental impact, and cost, organizations can select suitable substitutes to reduce the risk of exposure to hazards in the workplace. While not as effective as elimination, substitution is an essential control measure in creating a safer work environment.

Understanding Hierarchy of Controls

3. Engineering Controls – Effective Hazard Reduction Through Design

Engineering controls are physical or mechanical systems designed to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards in the workplace. They are the third level in the Hierarchy of Control Measures and include measures such as process controls, enclosures, and ventilation.

Examples of engineering controls may include:

  • Installing barriers or shields to prevent contact with moving machinery parts
  • Using ventilation systems to remove hazardous airborne particles
  • Implementing ergonomic workstation designs to reduce physical strain on workers

Types of engineering controls:

  • Process control: This type of engineering control involves modifying the work process to reduce or eliminate exposure to hazards. Examples of process controls include using automated machinery to eliminate the need for manual tasks or implementing job rotation to reduce repetitive strain injuries.
  • Enclosure: Enclosures involve using barriers, enclosures, or other physical means to isolate the hazard from the worker. Examples of enclosures include fume hoods, glove boxes, or machine guarding.
  • Ventilation: Ventilation systems use air movement to remove hazardous substances or contaminants from the workplace. Examples of ventilation include local exhaust ventilation systems, which remove airborne contaminants at the source, and dilution ventilation systems, which remove contaminants by mixing them with fresh air.

Benefits:

  • Effective hazard reduction: Engineering controls are highly effective in reducing or eliminating exposure to workplace hazards.
  • Long-term solutions: Unlike administrative controls and personal protective equipment, engineering controls are permanent solutions that require less ongoing maintenance and monitoring.
  • Improved productivity: Engineering controls can also increase productivity by improving the work environment and reducing worker fatigue and strain.

Limitations:

  • Upfront costs: Engineering controls can be expensive to install initially, requiring significant upfront costs.
  • Limited application: Engineering controls may not be applicable in all work environments, and some hazards may require multiple engineering controls to address effectively.
  • Maintenance and upkeep: Engineering controls require ongoing maintenance and upkeep to ensure they work effectively.

Engineering controls are a highly effective control measure in the Hierarchy of Control Measures. By designing physical or mechanical systems to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards in the workplace, organizations can create a safer work environment for their employees. While upfront costs and ongoing maintenance can be a limitation, the long-term benefits of engineering controls in reducing workplace hazards and improving productivity make them a valuable investment.

Hazard Hierarchy Of Control

4. Administrative Controls – Managing Workplace Safety through Policies and Procedures

Administrative controls focus on changing work practices or policies to minimize the risk of exposure to workplace hazards. They are the fourth level in the Hierarchy of Control Measures and include measures such as work practices, training, and maintenance.

Examples of administrative controls may include:

  • Implementing a policy for working alone in hazardous areas
  • Providing training on safe work practices for handling hazardous materials
  • Implementing a maintenance program to ensure that equipment is properly maintained and inspected regularly

Types of administrative controls:

  • Work practices refer to how work is performed to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards. Examples of work practices include safe lifting techniques or requiring the use of personal protective equipment.
  • Training: Training provides information and instructions to workers on how to perform work safely. Examples of training include hazard communication training or emergency response training.
  • Maintenance involves keeping equipment, machinery, or facilities in good working condition to minimize the risk of exposure to hazards. Examples of maintenance include regular inspections, repairs, and replacements.

Benefits:

  • Flexibility: Administrative controls can be implemented quickly and easily, making them a flexible and adaptable solution for managing workplace hazards.
  • Low cost: Administrative controls can be implemented at a lower cost than engineering controls or personal protective equipment.
  • Improved worker participation: Administrative controls often involve workers developing policies and procedures, increasing worker participation and engagement.

Limitations:

  • Limited effectiveness: Administrative controls may not always minimise or eliminate exposure to hazards, as they rely on human behaviour and compliance.
  • Dependence on training: Administrative controls’ effectiveness depends on effective training, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
  • Maintenance and monitoring: Like engineering controls, administrative controls require ongoing maintenance and monitoring to ensure effectiveness.

Administrative controls are important in the Hierarchy of Control Measures. Organizations can manage workplace hazards by changing work practices or policies, providing training, and implementing maintenance programs. While administrative controls may not be as effective as elimination or substitution, they can be a flexible and cost-effective solution for managing workplace safety.

General Hierarchy of Control Measures

5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – The Last Line of Defense

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the fifth and last level in the Hierarchy of Control Measures, and it includes clothing and equipment designed to protect workers from workplace hazards. PPE is considered the last line of defence against hazards and is only implemented when elimination, substitution, engineering controls, or administrative controls are not feasible or insufficient to ensure worker safety.

Examples of PPE may include:

  • Eye protection, such as safety glasses or goggles
  • Hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs
  • Respiratory protection such as respirators or masks
  • Protective clothing such as gloves, aprons, or full-body suits

Types of PPE:

  • Eye protection: Eye protection protects the eyes from hazards such as flying debris, dust, or chemicals. Examples of eye protection include safety glasses, goggles, and face shields.
  • Hearing protection: Hearing protection is designed to protect the ears from loud noises that can cause hearing damage. Examples of hearing protection include earplugs and earmuffs.
  • Respiratory protection protects the lungs from airborne hazards such as dust, fumes, or vapours. Examples of respiratory protection include respirators, masks, and air-purifying respirators.
  • Protective clothing protects the skin from physical, chemical, or biological hazards. Examples of protective clothing include gloves, aprons, and full-body suits.

Selection, use, and limitations of PPE:

  • Selection: The selection of PPE should be based on the type of hazard and the degree of protection required. The PPE should be appropriate for the task and provide a comfortable fit for the worker.
  • Use: PPE should be worn correctly and consistently to provide the necessary protection. Workers should be trained on the proper use, care, and maintenance of PPE.
  • Limitations: PPE has limitations and may not provide complete protection from hazards. It can be uncomfortable and may limit mobility, vision, or communication. PPE must be inspected regularly to ensure it is in good condition and functioning effectively.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the last line of defence in the Hierarchy of Control Measures. While not as effective as elimination, substitution, engineering, or administrative controls, PPE can provide valuable protection against workplace hazards. Proper selection, use, and maintenance of PPE are essential to ensure its effectiveness in protecting workers from harm.

Implementing the Hierarchy of Control Measures in the Workplace

The Hierarchy of Control Measures is a systematic approach to managing workplace safety and reducing exposure to hazards. To implement this approach effectively, employers must follow several steps, including identifying hazards and assessing risks, selecting and implementing appropriate control measures, monitoring and reviewing their effectiveness, and continuously improving and updating control measures as needed.

Identifying hazards and assessing risks:

The first step in implementing the Hierarchy of Control Measures is to identify potential hazards in the workplace. Employers should conduct regular hazard assessments to identify and assess risks associated with workplace hazards. The assessment should consider the likelihood and severity of harm and identify who may be affected.

Selecting and implementing appropriate control measures:

Once hazards have been identified, employers should select the appropriate control measures based on the Hierarchy of Control Measures. Employers should aim to implement the most effective control measure possible, such as elimination or substitution. If these measures are not feasible, employers should move down the hierarchy and implement engineering controls, administrative controls, or personal protective equipment (PPE). Employers should also consider the control measures’ effectiveness, feasibility, and cost and consult with safety professionals to ensure they are selecting the most appropriate measures.

5 Levels Of General Hierarchy of Control Measures

Monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of control measures:

Employers should regularly monitor and review the effectiveness of control measures to ensure they function correctly and reduce the risk of harm to workers. This may involve regular inspections, maintenance, and testing of control measures. Employers should also review incident reports and hazard assessments to identify areas where the control measures need improvement.

Continuous improvement and updating control measures as needed:

Finally, employers should continuously improve and update control measures as needed. This may involve updating procedures, implementing new technologies or equipment, or providing additional training to workers. Employers should also stay current on regulatory requirements and industry best practices to ensure their control measures are effective and compliant.

Conclusion

The Hierarchy of Control Measures is a systematic approach to managing workplace safety and reducing exposure to hazards. The approach involves eliminating or reducing hazards by selecting and implementing the most effective control measures, ranging from elimination and substitution to engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The importance of the Hierarchy of Control Measures lies in its effectiveness in reducing the risk of harm to workers. By systematically selecting and implementing control measures, employers can create a safer work environment and protect the health and well-being of their employees. Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements related to control measures is also essential to ensure that employers meet their obligations and responsibilities to provide a safe workplace.

Employers and employees must work together to create a safe work environment. Employees should be encouraged to report hazards and participate in hazard assessments, and employers should provide the necessary training, equipment, and support to implement control measures effectively. Collaboration between employers and employees helps create a workplace safety culture, promoting worker engagement and reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.

In conclusion, the Hierarchy of Control Measures is a valuable tool for managing workplace safety and reducing exposure to hazards. By implementing control measures systematically, complying with legal and regulatory requirements, and promoting collaboration between employers and employees, organizations can create a safer work environment and protect the health and well-being of their workers.

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Author

Abdul Rauf

Abdul Rauf is an esteemed Safety Specialist with over 12 years of experience in the construction industry, currently making significant contributions in New Zealand. His extensive background is vital in a sector known for its challenging environments and the inherent risks associated with construction activities. Abdul's expertise lies in developing and implementing comprehensive safety strategies that are tailored to meet the specific needs of each construction project.