Safetip #142: Train Workers on the Hierarchy of Controls

September 26, 2018

This week’s Safetip is about training workers on the hierarchy of controls to encourage them to think about the most effective control measures.

Train Workers on Hazard Identification and Controls

An occupational safety and health (OSH) program also includes training where workers learn more about the OSH program and their responsibilities under it. The training program educates about safety concepts, procedures to follow, how workers can perform their jobs in a safe manner, how to report incidents, and the tools and resources available for assistance.

The training program must also cover hazard identification and controls. Workers must learn how to recognize hazards and understand the implemented control measures. This allows them to be actively involved in the process of identifying hazards. As part of this component of the training program, educate workers on methods for controlling hazards, especially NIOSH’s hierarchy of controls:

Hierarchy of Controls

The hierarchy of controls helps to determine how to implement feasible and effective controls. Control methods at the top of the graphic (elimination, substitution, and engineering controls) are more effective and protective than those at the bottom, but they can also be potentially costlier and more difficult to implement.

Another effective way to remember the hierarchy of the controls is through the ERICPD acronym:

  • Eliminate
  • Reduce
  • Isolate
  • Control
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Discipline

Encourage Workers to Identify the Most Effective Controls

The goal of training workers on the hierarchy of controls is not just to give them a greater knowledge about it. It’s also about making sure that workers have the right reactions when a new hazard is identified, in order to make sure that the most effective controls are identified. Here are some examples:

  • Before thinking about controlling exposure to a hazard, assess whether it is feasible to completely eliminate the hazard.
  • If a hazard cannot be eliminated, determine if it’s possible, for example, to replace the hazardous chemical or equipment with a safer alternative. Be careful not to “trade” one hazard for another.
  • If there is no way to eliminate or substitute (replace) the hazard, reduce exposure to it through an engineered solution as much as possible (e.g. ventilation systems, modifications to an equipment, more automation).
  • There will be cases where administrative controls or personal protective equipment will be the most realistic solutions. But these two control methods should be considered as a last resort and only after the three more effective methods were looked at.

Finally, like any type of safety training, be sure to provide refresher courses so workers have constantly the hierarchy of controls on their minds.

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