Hierarchy of hazard controls

This commentary is a basic discussion of the WHS ‘hierarchy of hazard control’ methodology. Codes of Practice and Regulations often apply this (or other) methodology to specific hazards and should therefore be reviewed if you have a specific hazard covered by a Code of Practice or Regulation. With any hazard, it is best to try and eliminate the risk. For example, by reorganising the way a job is done, using a different chemical, work process or equipment. If a risk can’t be eliminated, it needs to be minimised or controlled so that no-one can be injured. In many instances a combination of control measures is used to control hazards.

This commentary outlines the general use of the WHS ‘hierarchy of hazard controls’.. Note that for some hazards (eg. work in confined spaces), specific control measures are prescribed in Regulations, Standards and codes of practice. In the absence of prescribed risk controls, however, the hierarchy of hazard controls should be followed.
 
With any hazard, it is best to first try and eliminate the risk. This can sometimes be achieved, for example, by reorganising the way a job is done, using a different chemical, work process or equipment.
 
If a risk cannot be eliminated, it must be minimised or controlled to reduce the likelihood and potential severity of adverse consequences such as injury or illness.
 
In many instances a combination of control measures is used to control hazards. The following list of controls is in the order of preference known as the hierarchy of hazard controls.
 
1. Design or reorganise work to eliminate the hazard from the workplace
 
Try to ensure that hazards are ‘designed out’ when new materials, equipment and work systems are being planned for the workplace.
 
2. Remove or substitute the hazard
 
Where possible, remove the hazard or substitute it with safer materials, equipment or substances.
 
3. Adopt a safer approach
 
Alterations to tools, equipment or work systems can often make them safer.
 
4. Enclose or isolate the hazard
 
This can be done through the use of guards, physical enclosures or remote handling techniques. This is an engineering control.
 
5. Provide effective ventilation
 
This can be done through local or general exhaust ventilation systems. This is an engineering control.
 
6. Administrative procedures
 
Establish appropriate procedures such as:
  • job rotation to reduce exposure time or boredom, or timing the work so that fewer employees are exposed
  • routine maintenance and housekeeping procedures
  • training on hazards and correct work methods.

7. Personal protective equipment
 
Provide suitable and properly maintained personal protective equipment and ensure employees are trained in its proper selection, fitting, maintenance and use. Examples include gloves, earplugs, helmets, face masks, etc.
 
Personal protective equipment should be used when other control measures are not practical and as the last line of defence.

[Last reviewed 13 May 2018​]

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