5 steps to create a safer working environment

October is National Safe Work Month and the time for employers and employees to maintain their commitment to safe and healthy workplace practices. The theme this year is ‘think safe. work safe. be safe.’ We spoke to Carlos Colmenar, Category Manager for Health and Safety at Winc to discuss the Hierarchy of Controls and how to maintain a safe place of work for your employees.

What is the Hierarchy of Controls?

Developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) the Hierarchy of Controls was created to prevent or reduce occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities through prevention.1 Carlos shares, “the hierarchy of controls is essentially a ranking of safety strategies – those at the top are more effective than those at the bottom. However, it’s important to understand that all controls should work in conjunction with one another for the best results.”

Level 1: Eliminating hazards and risks

“The very first thing to consider when dealing with a workplace hazard is, can this hazard be eliminated altogether?” says Carlos. As the first line of defence, this control is the most effective in managing workplace risk. “For example, you can eliminate collision hazards in entrance ways by creating a pedestrian walkway that separates people from traffic,” shares Carlos.

Level 2: Substitution

The next step is substitution. “If the hazard can’t be eliminated, find a replacement that mitigates it. For example, substitute hazardous chemicals for substances with water or plant-based ingredients,” recommends Carlos.

Level 3: Engineering controls

“Engineering controls are about isolating hazards from people so that harm is less likely to occur,” Carlos informs. “Assess if the hazard can be engineered. For example, can you put speed limiters on mobile plant such as forklifts? Can you install barriers to separate people from mobile plant? As an extra safety precaution, can you put locking switches on gates to stop machinery from operating when opened?”

Level 4: Administrative controls

“Administrative controls change the way work is performed by limiting exposure to hazards. These controls are often associated with training, education, risk assessments, reviews, supervision and procedural changes,” says Carlos.

Level 5: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

“In line with legislation, PPE is the last resort in the hierarchy of control. Use PPE in conjunction with other elements in the hierarchy as an additional measure to help safeguard employees,” Carlos tells us.

“The type of PPE a workplace needs depends on the type of industry and nature of work. Suitability of PPE is relative to the task at hand. Head protection should be worn in environments where objects might fall from above or there is a potential for employees to bump their heads against fixed objects. Workers should wear safety goggles or specs, protective gloves and respiratory protection when dealing with chemicals or where airborne hazards exist. Having PPE equipment readily available is a must in the workplace – it becomes another line of defence for your workers,” says Carlos.

Winc can provide your workplace with a range of health and safety products including PPE to support the other elements in the Hierarchy of Controls and keep your workplace safe. View our full range online.


1McCormick, V., 2019, ‘NIOSH’s Hierarchy of Controls’, <https://www.nesglobal.net/nioshs-hierarchy-of-controls/>