How the hierarchy of control can help you fulfil your health and safety duties

By Joanna Weekes on January 20th, 2012

Following from last week’s OH&S Bulletins, today we will be looking at the hierarchy of control and how it can be used to create safe systems of work in your workplace.

If you didn’t happen to catch them, the OH&S Bulletins from last week can be found at the following links: Do you know what your health and safety duties as a director are? and How to comply with new directorship health and safety duties. These bulletins discussed the new duties of directors under the WHS Act and what directors can do to comply with those duties.

Where does the hierarchy of control fit in all this?

One of a director’s health and safety duties is to understand the varying levels of controls that prevent the hazards that have been identified from posing a risk to the health and safety of persons in and associated with the workplace.

This duty involves the use of the hierarchy of control.

How to use the hierarchy of control

The hierarchy of control creates a systematic approach to manage safety in your workplace by providing a structure to select the most effective control measures to eliminate or reduce the risk of certain hazards that have been identified as being caused by the operations of the business.

The hierarchy of control has six levels of control measures, the most effective measure is at the top of the hierarchy and the least effective is at the bottom. So the idea is that you start from the top of the hierarchy in choosing your control measure, and work your way down.

The hierarchy of control involves the following steps:

  1. Elimination – removes the cause of danger completely.
  2. Substitution – controls the hazard by replacing it with a less risky way to achieve the same outcome.
  3. Isolation – separates the hazard from the people at risk by isolating it.
  4. Engineering – using engineering controls, i.e. making physical changes, to lessen any remaining risk, e.g. redesign a machine by adding safeguards.
  5. Administration – use administrative controls to lessen the risk, e.g. install signs, rotate jobs.
  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – require your employees to wear PPE, e.g. provide gloves, earplugs, goggles, iridescent vests.

Note: The use of PPE to control hazards should always be the last resort.

The hierarchy on control is, of course, not only of use to directors. The hierarchy of control is a method for choosing risk control measures that can be used by employees on every level of a company.

For example, directors can use the hierarchy to create safety strategies to be carried down through the company, senior management can use the hierarchy to train workers in the safety strategies and be assured that workers are competent and capable in those control measures, and workers use the control measures on a day to day basis in their workplace.

Today’s bulletin has only been an introduction to the hierarchy of control. Please refer to H6 Hierarchy of Control in your OH&S Handbook for more information about this approach to risk control and how you can develop safety strategies to ensure your workers are safe from harm whilst at work.

If you don’t have this chapter available because you are not yet a subscriber, please follow the link to find out some more information about the OH&S Handbook and how it can help you in your day to day health and safety ventures!

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