Hierarchy of hazard control

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A diagram of the hierarchy of hazard control, with the most effective methods at the top and the least effective at the bottom.

Hierarchy of hazard control is a system used in industry to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] It is a widely accepted system promoted by numerous safety organizations. This concept is taught to managers in industry, to be promoted as standard practice in the workplace. Various illustrations are used to depict this system, most commonly a triangle.

The hazard controls in the hierarchy are, in order of decreasing effectiveness:

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering
  • Administration
  • Personal protective equipment

Components of the hierarchy[edit]


Eliminating the hazard—physically removing it—is the most effective hazard control.[4] For example, if employees must work high above the ground, the hazard can be eliminated by moving the piece they are working on to ground level to eliminate the need to work at heights.[2]


This pesticide contains DDT, an effective substitution would be to replace it with a green pesticide.

Substitution, the second most effective hazard control, involves replacing something that produces a hazard (similar to elimination) with something that does not produce a hazard—for example, replacing lead based paint with acrylic paint. To be an effective control, the new product must not produce another hazard. Because airborne dust can be hazardous, if a product can be purchased with a larger particle size, the smaller product may effectively be substituted with the larger product.[4]

Engineered controls[edit]

The third most effective means of controlling hazards is engineered controls. These do not eliminate hazards, but rather isolate people from hazards.[2] Capital costs of engineered controls tend to be higher than less effective controls in the hierarchy, however they may reduce future costs.[5] For example, a crew might build a work platform rather than purchase, replace, and maintain fall arrest equipment. "Enclosure and isolation" creates a physical barrier between personnel and hazards, such as using remotely controlled equipment. Fume hoods can remove airborne contaminants as a means of engineered control.[4]

Administrative controls[edit]

This sign warns people that there are explosives in Walker Lake, however it cannot prevent people from swimming in it.

Administrative controls are changes to the way people work. Examples of administrative controls include procedure changes, employee training, and installation of signs and warning labels (such as those in the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System).[2] Administrative controls do not remove hazards, but limit or prevent people's exposure to the hazards, such as completing road construction at night when fewer people are driving.[4]

Personal protective equipment[edit]

Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes gloves, respirators, hard hats, safety glasses, high-visibility clothing, and safety footwear. PPE is the least effective means of controlling hazards because of the high potential for damage to render PPE ineffective.[4] Additionally, some PPE, such as respirators, increase physiological effort to complete a task and, therefore, may require medical examinations to ensure workers can use the PPE without risking their health.

Hierarchy of controls with brief descriptions of each level.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hierarchy of Controls" (PDF). Health and Safety Authority (Ireland). 
  2. ^ a b c d "Hierarchy of Hazard Controls". NYCOSH. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  3. ^ "How the hierarchy of control can help you fulfil your health and safety duties | OH&S Handbook". Ohshandbook.com.au. 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Hazard Control : OSH Answers". Ccohs.ca. 2006-04-20. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  5. ^ a b "CDC - Engineering Controls - NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic". Cdc.gov. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  6. ^ "Tree Work – Working at height". Hse.gov.uk. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  7. ^ "Hierarchy of control diagram". Safework.sa.gov.au. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  8. ^ "Hierarchy of Controls". Saunions.org.au. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 
  10. ^ "Hazard identification, risk assessment & risk control in the workplace - WorkSafe Victoria". Worksafe.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 2012-04-11. 

External links[edit]