Educating yourself about safety and health on the worksite is the first step to keeping yourself and others safe. This critical education will help you empower yourself and learn to identify hazards. Then, using the hierarchy of controls, we need to figure out how to best assess the hazards around us.
Let’s go through the hierarchy and learn. about the controls you can put in place during your hazard assessment, to lower or eliminate risk.
Elimination is the most effective hazard control – it means to remove a hazard completely.
In the above example, the worker is doing electrical work, with hits feet submerged in water. Mixing electricity and water is extremely dangerous. To eliminate the hazard in this scenario, we would remove the water.
The next control is substitution which is replacing something that produces a hazard with something that does not.
What could we substitute for this worker, that would make their work safer? We would substitute a step ladder or a lift of some sort, rather than using the extra workers to support the ladder.
Engineering Controls means making changes to the facility, equipment, ventilation systems, or the processes that reduce your exposure to hazards.
Some examples include:
- Having an adjustable chair at your workstation
- Having guards on tool blades
- Using carts or dollies instead of carrying materials
To make this dangerous situation safer, we could add a ramp or an elevator to transport these tanks. Or, use the proper type of forklift to move this equipment.
Administrative Controls are changes to the way that people work – they don’t remove hazards, but rather limit worker exposure to them. Safety training is a great example. Warning labels, schedule modifications, and properly placed workplace signage are some others.
The image above depicts a common workplace scenario. Here are some administrative controls that would make this safer for everyone.
- Proper signage in place to announce that the floor is wet.
- Blocking off the area that is being cleaned.
- Waiting until customers have left – if routine cleaning, and not due to a spill.
And last, but certainly not least is Personal Protective Equipment or PPE. We call this the last line of defence, because wearing protective gear may not be applicable in all situations, and can be the least effective control in eliminating or reducing hazards.
Should this worker be wearing PPE? Would it be effective?
Answer: Absolutely! The worker should be wearing a welder’s mask or welder’s helmet, have eye protection, as well as heat resistant gloves. He should also be wearing flame resistant clothing.
Remember: learning about hazards, identifying and assessing risk, are all important things to know. But, using the Hierarchy of Controls is an essential part of safety on the job site, every day.