Hierarchy of Controls in the Workplace

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Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers weigh in on every worker's right to workplace safety. Every employee is entitled to a safe work environment, regardless of where he or she works. Certain industries, including construction, warehouse, and transportation tend to be particularly dangerous, resulting in the most workplace injuries and fatalities. Employers have a fundamental responsibility to control the level of exposure that employees have to occupational hazards.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed a hierarchy of Controls, which helps prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.  The hierarchy provides a prioritized list of control measures that can eliminate or minimize the exposure to occupational hazards.

At the top of the hierarchy are the controls that are believed to be the most effective, with the least effective controls at the bottom. The flow of controls is as follows:

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering Controls
  • Administrative Controls
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Elimination and Substitution

These are the most effective at reducing hazards. They are also the most difficult to implement in an existing process. Elimination and substitution may require major equipment changes and procedural modifications to remove the hazard, or substitute the existing hazard for something much safer. Ideally, elimination and substitution should be implemented before the work has begun.

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls protect workers by placing a physical barrier between the worker and the hazard. These controls can be effective at protecting employees from falls, noise, aerosols, silica, asphalt fumes, hazardous drugs, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrous oxide, and asbestos.

From a cost perspective, engineering controls tend to be more expensive than administrative controls or personal protective equipment. However, their operating costs over the long term are often lower. In some cases, they can save money in other areas of the hierarchy.

Machine guarding ranked eighth on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Top 10 most frequently cited violations for 2017, so it is crucial that the controls are well-designed and operated properly.

Administrative Controls and PPE

Administrative controls involve making changes to workplace policies and procedures if engineering controls cannot be made. Examples include the following:

  • Developing a set of clear, written operating procedures
  • Limiting the amount of time an employee is exposed to an occupational hazard
  • Establishing a buddy system
  • Installing alarms, signage, and warnings

PPE is considered by OSHA to be the last line of defense against workplace injuries and illnesses. The general rule of thumb is that it is acceptable to use PPEs and administrative controls when the other controls in the hierarchy are not effective at eliminating the hazard.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Protect the Rights of Injured Workers

If an occupational hazard has caused you to become injured or ill, the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are committed to protecting your rights and ensuring that you receive the benefits you deserve. Our dedicated team will fight to secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.