Engineering Controls in the Hierarchy of Controls
Organizations need to determine the most feasible and effective solutions that control exposures to occupational hazards. The hierarchy of controls can be used to select the preferred control method. Here’s a visual representation of it from NIOSH:
At first glance it may look like engineering controls are not the best control methods. It is indeed true that elimination and substitution are more effective methods because they completely remove or replace the hazard. But these methods can be difficult and costly to implement, which is why engineering controls often are favored.
Engineering controls are more effective than administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) for controlling exposures to workplace hazards because they prevent contact between the hazard and the worker through changes to a plant, equipment or process. Examples include the installation of a ventilation system to remove hazardous air contaminants, and the use of equipment with electric motors instead of gas or diesel ones to eliminate exhaust emissions.
Share Engineering Controls Through a Central Database
For organizations with multiplies sites, the same workplace hazards may be present at more than one site. If a site has successfully mitigated risks of incidents by implementing a specific engineering control to address a specific hazard associated with a specific equipment or process, other sites with a similar equipment or process can benefit from the information. For this reason, it is helpful to have a single, unified and central database of all engineering controls throughout the enterprise, that is accessed by everyone at all sites. The database should include the following information for each engineering control:
- Equipment or process affected.
- Hazard addressed by the engineering control.
- Residual risk, if any.
- Engineering control technology or product used.
- Manufacturer of engineering control technology or product.
- Sites where engineering control is implemented.
- Contact person to obtain more information on the engineering control.
Finally, it’s important to maintain the database always up-to-date. If an engineering control was evaluated to be ineffective and a better one was implemented, the information must be promptly updated to make sure that all sites apply the same level of control regarding the same hazard.
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