Now that hazards have been identified, you need to control them so they do not cause harm. Involve your workers in this process. In most cases, it is they who are at the greatest risk of injury from hazards. By giving them the opportunity to help develop solutions and methods of control, you increase the likelihood that measures put in place will be followed. Your workers will feel more ownership of control measures that they have helped to develop.
For the most part, hazards can be controlled as they are identified. If you find yourself faced with several hazards at once, you may find it helpful to prioritize them for control action. To do this, you’ll need to determine the potential consequences – or harm – that could arise from contact with the hazard.
Think about the consequences of exposure to each identified hazard in terms of:
- Injury: A broken finger? A fatality? A pulled muscle? Multiple injuries? Off work for a day, a week, a month?
- Illness: Permanent lung damage? Headaches? Hearing Loss?
Once you have identified the consequences that could arise from contact with the hazard, use the following guide to rank the consequences according to severity:
No harm: No personal injury
Minor harm: First aid only / little or no lost time
Moderate harm: Reversible damage to health / some medical treatment / some lost time
Major harm: Fatality / extensive injuries / hospital stay over one week / serious damage to health
Hazards that would cause “Major harm” should be addressed first, followed by those hazards that would cause “Moderate”, “Minor” and “No” harm – in that order.
This process of ranking the potential consequences of hazards is known as “Hazard Assessment” – and by using this process, you can tackle your workplace hazards in a logical, controlled way.
Methods for Controlling Hazards
The control methods listed here range from most effective to least effective. This is what is known as the “Hierarchy of Hazard Control”. They are listed here in order of “most effective” to “least effective”. When seeking to control the hazards in your workplace, you should explore these options in the following order:
Ideally, you will be able to eliminate a hazard completely. Examples include removing trip hazards on a floor or safely disposing of unnecessary chemicals.
If you cannot remove a hazard completely, you must reduce the risk of injury as much as possible through the methods below – in order of effectiveness.
If you cannot remove a hazard completely, you must substitute with something safer. This involves replacing something that causes a hazard with something that does not cause a hazard.
Examples include using a less toxic chemical, using smaller containers to reduce the weight of items for manual handling, or using scaffolding instead of ladders to reduce a fall hazard.
If you cannot remove a hazard completely or substitute with something safer, you must implement engineering controls to create a physical barrier around the hazard. This involves isolating the hazard or ensuring proper guarding around moving equipment and machinery parts.
Examples include using soundproof barriers to reduce noise levels, using an enclosed booth for spray painting, using remote control systems to operate equipment, installing safety switches, storing chemicals in a fume cabinet, using trolleys or hoists to move heavy loads.
If you cannot remove a hazard completely, substitute with something safer or implement engineering controls to reduce the hazard, you must establish administrative processes to ensure your workers are not exposed to the hazard. This involves developing safe work procedures, providing worker training and supervision, and using signage and warning labels.
Examples include using a work permit system for hazardous work or adjusting work schedules to limit exposure time through job rotation.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the least reliable form of protection. It should be used only as a last resort after you have exhausted all other possible methods of reducing a hazard, or in the short term until you have organized a better and more reliable method of hazard control.
If you require your workers to use PPE, you must ensure that the right type of PPE is selected for the job. You must also ensure that the PPE fits the worker properly and is comfortable under working conditions, that your workers are trained in the need for PPE and how to use and maintain it, and that the PPE is stored in a clean and fully operational condition.
Examples of PPE use include gloves to reduce potential hand injuries, hard hats to reduce injury to the head, hearing and eye protection, high-visibility clothing, fall-arrest harnesses when working at heights.
Be Careful of Residual Hazards
Whichever method of hazard control you use, you must ensure it does not create a new or different hazard. For example, if you install a ventilation system to resolve an air-quality issue, you need to also ensure that the ventilation system does not create a noise problem. Similarly, if the hazard requires the use of safety footwear, make sure they fit the worker properly and do not cause a tripping hazard.