This week’s Safetip is about using interim control measures to protect workers until permanent controls are implemented.
It Takes Time to Implement Permanent Controls
When a workplace hazard that can lead to a risk of injury or illness is identified, a risk assessment must be initiated to determine the severity of the potential injury or illness, and the likelihood that an incident occurs based on the level of exposure to the hazard. The risk assessment also includes the determination of measures that either eliminate the hazard, or control the risk by reducing worker exposure to the hazard.
The entire process of conducting a risk assessment, and selecting and implementing the most effective control measures may take a long time, sometimes even up to a year. But the risk still exists during that time, which is why interim control measures should be implemented to protect workers, until permanent controls are developed and implemented.
Use NIOSH’s Hierarchy of Controls
NIOSH’s hierarchy of controls can guide you in the selection of interim controls:
For example, a permanent control may consist of an engineering solution that will bring physical changes to a manufacturing facility, equipment or machinery. These changes would eliminate the hazard, replace it with a less hazardous alternative, or isolate people from the hazard (the three most effective control methods). But it may take a long time to design the engineering solution, select the vendors from which the solution (or parts of it) will be sourced, and ultimately implement the solution.
In the interim, administrative controls or personal protective equipment can be used. Administrative controls can consist of limiting worker exposure to the hazard through shorter work shifts or job-rotation schedules.
But in some instances, even interim control measures may not provide adequate worker protection, in which case you should consider completely stopping the activity, if possible, until permanent controls are implemented, and not using interim controls.
Finally, evaluate the effectiveness of interim controls periodically. Because they will be used only temporarily until permanent controls are implemented, be careful not to become complacent and remember to verify if interim controls are working well.
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