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Hierarchy of control

Last updated April 2022

This chapter explains the stages of the hierarchy of control and how to use it to determine the most appropriate risk control measures to implement in your workplace.

What is the hierarchy of control?

Definition: Hierarchy of Control

The hierarchy of control is a risk control method that sets out approaches you can use to control risks and hazards in the workplace, in order of implementation, with the highest controls being those that eliminate or substitute the risk.

The hierarchy of control is a structured approach to selecting appropriate control measures to eliminate or reduce risks you have identified in your workplace.

There are six stages in the hierarchy of control:

  1. Elimination.
  2. Substitution.
  3. Isolation.
  4. Engineering.
  5. Administration.
  6. Personal protective equipment (PPE).

Stages higher up in the hierarchy are generally more effective for minimising risks. You should not consider less effective measures until you have fully assessed the possibility of implementing controls that are more effective.

Tip: It is often necessary to use a combination of controls.
Important: Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations expressly state that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must use the hierarchy of control to manage risks. While this requirement is not expressly stated in Victorian regulations, it is recommended businesses in Victoria do so as an effective means of meeting their primary duty to take all reasonably practicable steps to remove health and safety risks.