Slippery surfaces, working at heights, dangerous chemicals and sharp objects are all examples of common workplace hazards which could lead to serious injuries. Workplace hazards can be mitigated in a number of ways, but how do employers determine the most effective solutions to safeguard their employees? We spoke to Mike Verheyen, Head of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) at Winc about the Hierarchy of Controls and providing a safe place of work.
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 Mike tells us, “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 Mike. 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,” says Mike.
Level 2: Substitution
The next step is substitution. “If the hazard can’t be eliminated, find a replacement that mitigates it. For example, substituting hazardous chemicals for substances with water or plant-based ingredients,” says Mike.
Level 3: Engineering controls
“Engineering controls are about isolating hazard from people so that harm is less likely to occur,” Mike 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 Mike.
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,” Mike 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 task. Hard hats 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 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 Mike.
Winc can provide you with all your health and safety needs. Speak to one of our Health, Hygiene and Safety (HHS) specialists for tailored advice on the best solutions for your workplace or to find out more information about our full range of products.
1McCormick, V., 2019, ‘NIOSH’s Hierarchy of Controls’, <https://www.nesglobal.net/nioshs-hierarchy-of-controls/>