Using Hierarchy of Controls to Eliminate Hazards
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for their workers. Providing this type of environment not only keeps you OSHA-compliant, it’s good business. Employees are more productive when they know they are safe. Part of ensuring safety is putting a plan in place that minimizes the risk of injury.
To do this, you must do a risk assessment. What aspects of the job site may be hazardous to employees? From there, it’s all about approach. For many, personal protective equipment (PPE) is synonymous with risk prevention and safety in the workplace. As OSHA defense attorneys who have worked with numerous companies over the years, we can tell you that there’s nothing further from the truth. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests using a hierarchy of controls in safety planning. This method requires companies to examine their physical situation and use available techniques to eliminate hazards. The techniques, ordered from most to least effective include elimination, engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE.
Ideally, we’d love to eliminate all safety risks, but often the nature of the work that’s being done doesn’t allow for that. Instead certain risk areas can be reduced, like executing a part of a building’s design in a non-hazardous environment. Ultimately, the elimination of safety hazards is what we should work towards. When this is not possible, other considerations should be made.
These measures work to eliminate hazards at the source. For example, guardrails are placed in areas where falling is a concern. Typically, these controls are proactive (an active attempt to keep workers safe), yet require no action on the part of the employee.
Administrative controls include warning signs and changes in procedure that are designed to affect worker behavior. While these warnings are necessary, they only work if adhered to by the worker.
The least effective of all control methods is the use of PPE’s, such as fall protection harnesses or eye protection equipment. These methods only protect workers in the case of an emergency. For example, a fall arrest system is only doing it’s job if you fall. While it will likely save your life, it’s less likely to protect you from injury caused by the fall and it definitely didn’t protect you from falling.
The most important considerations to make when creating a safety plan based off this hierarchy is how much risk can be reduced and maintaining OSHA compliance. In terms of OSHA compliance, finding an OSHA attorney to aid you in this process is always a wise choice.
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.