Hazard And Exposure Control Strategies Within The “Hierarchy Of Controls”
Hazard Control Strategies
The top strategy areas (elimination, substitution, and engineering controls) attempt to control hazards. Controlling hazards is always preferred to controlling behavior, and that’s why these strategies are at the top of the hierarchy. After all, if you can eliminate the hazard, there’s no need to control the exposure – there isn’t any.
Elimination removes the source of the hazard. This strategy totally eliminates the hazard in the workplace. This should be the top priority for all safety professionals, including industrial hygienists. An example of this strategy includes replacing a hazardous chemical with a totally non-toxic, safe, “green” chemical.
Substitution reduces the hazard. This strategy should be used if it is not feasible to eliminate the hazard. The idea is to replace the hazard with a less hazardous substitute. An example would be to replace a hazardous chemical with a less hazardous one. There would still be a need for protection like personal protective equipment, but the exposure hazards would be less severe.
Engineering controls remove/reduce the hazard through design. This strategy involves designing or redesigning tools, equipment, machinery, and facilities so that hazardous chemicals are not needed or that exposure to those hazardous chemicals is not possible. Examples include using equipment that does not require using hazardous chemicals in a process or cleaning. Enclosing work processes or installing general and local ventilation systems might also be used.
Exposure Control Strategies
These strategies attempt to control employee behaviors to eliminate or reduce exposure to existing health hazards when hazard controls are not adequate. Naturally, it’s more challenging to control behaviors than hazards because we’re dealing with human behavior. Exposure controls work only as long as we behave (comply).
Warnings to raise awareness of exposure to hazards. Warnings include signs, alarms, signals, labels, placards, cones, and other methods to help employees to be aware of the hazards.
Administrative controls eliminate/reduce exposure to hazards. This strategy helps to reduce exposure by developing and implementing practical training, policies, processes, procedures, practices, and safety rules. Examples include scheduling production and worker tasks in ways that minimize exposure levels. The employer might schedule operations with the highest exposure potential during periods when the fewest employees are present.
Administrative controls also eliminate/reduce exposure through safe work practices. Following safe procedures, while operating production and control equipment, good housekeeping, and safe practices like not eating, drinking, or smoking in regulated areas are all good examples of work practice controls.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) eliminates/reduces exposure through personal barriers. This strategy is generally used in conjunction with other strategies to reduce exposure.
When effective elimination, substitution, and engineering controls are not feasible, appropriate PPE such as gloves, safety goggles, helmets, safety shoes, and protective clothing may be required. To be effective, PPE must be individually selected, properly fitted and periodically refitted, conscientiously and adequately worn, regularly maintained, and replaced as necessary.
It’s important to note that administrative/work practice controls and personal protective equipment are the primary control strategies used by IHs to control exposure to health hazards in the workplace.