Once risk priorities have been established, reducing or removing the risk they pose is the next key step. The Hierarchy of Control is an approach that involves working through a hierarchy, or order, of possible control measures until an appropriate solution is reached.
Hierarchy of control
- Elimination. Remove the hazard completely from the work area.
- Substitution. Replace the material or process with something less hazardous.
- Isolation. Isolate the hazard by controlling or guarding it.
- Engineering controls. Redesign equipment or work processes to reduce or eliminate risk.
- Administrative controls. Promote safe practice through policies, processes, training and signage.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Use personal protective equipment to minimise risk.
Starting with Step 1, each strategy is considered in turn. For example, can this be implemented, will it solve the problem? If this step is not sufficient to manage the hazard, move on to the next until a solution is identified.
The urn in the staff area has been dripping hot water onto the sink and this has splashed onto the floor. You have two hazards – the dripping urn and the wet floor.
The wet floor presents the most immediate or acute risk. Following the hierarchy of hazard control:
- Can you eliminate it? Yes, you can mop it up. However, this is only a temporary solution as water continues to drip.
- Can you substitute something for it? No.
- Can you separate it? Yes. It would be a good idea to place a ‘Wet floor’ sign as a barrier until something can be done about the urn.
The urn is still dripping hot water, so you also need to take steps to remove that hazard.
- You can eliminate by switching it off and removing. However, staff would no longer be able to make tea so this is not a solution.
- You can substitute another urn or an electric kettle.
There may be further hazards involved in moving the urn: for example, if it is full it may be too heavy, or too hot to move without gloves.
Case study activity
Apply the control hierarchy