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Hierarchy of Control

The Hierarchy of Control is a list of control measures, in priority order, that can be used to eliminate or minimise exposure to the hazard.

It consists of two levels

Consider elimination before all other options.


1st  Priority            Elimination of Hazard


Minimisation Options which substantially reduce the risk.

2nd Priority            Substitution

3rd Priority             Engineering

4th Priority             Administration

Last Priority          P.P.E.

From “Officewise”, Comcare

Many employers start from the bottom of the list when considering options. Some think that it is cheaper and/or simpler to change worker behaviour or give them some protection against the hazard that to fix the cause of the problem. In the long run this approach costs more in time and money and is less effective.


Options which get rid of the hazard altogether.

The best way to eliminate the risk is to completely remove the hazard.

For example,

  • the need for excessive photocopying and collation can be eliminated if material is circulated by electronic mail;

  • repair damaged equipment promptly;

  • ensure new equipment meets the ergonomic needs of users;

  • move a noisy machine from a quiet area.


Replacing a hazardous substance or work practice with a less hazardous one.

For example,

  • a telephone hand set can be replaced with a head set where there is constant use of the telephone.

  • substituting a smaller package or container to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries such as back strain

  • substituting a hazardous chemical with a less dangerous one

Engineering Controls

The provision of mechanical aids, barriers, machine guarding, ventilation or insulation to isolate a hazard from employees.

For example;

  • electrical cut out switches,

  • roll over frames on vehicles,

  • duress alarms or mechanical screens to separate workers from violent or physically aggressive clients.

  • isolating copying equipment in soundproof and ventilated rooms

  • using anti-glare screens on computer VDUs

  • using trolleys or mechanical lifting aids

  • changing bench heights to reduce bending

Administrative Controls

Establishing policies, procedures and work practices designed to reduce a worker’s exposure to a risk. It can also include the provision of specific training and supervision.

For example:

  • providing alternative tasks for  workers so as to prevent continuous keyboard work for long periods,

  • increasing job variety and introducing job rotation.

  • redesigning jobs

  • regularly maintaining plant and equipment

  • training and education to learn how to –

identify and assess risks

use methods of control

know and apply the legislative requirements

safely use mechanical aids and equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Covering and protecting a worker’s body from hazards. It can be used as a short-term control measure until a “higher order” control has been provided, or to supplement it.

PPE is a Last Resort!

PPE must be provided and maintained by the employer.

The employer would also have to provide training for workers required to use it, and the employee would have a responsibility to use it properly.

Some examples of PPE are:

  • ear plugs in noisy areas

  • eye protection when working with chemicals

  • gloves to protect against infection

Regulation 1.3.3 states that the principle of the hierarchy of control must be used in seeking to eliminate or minimise workplace risks, and that PPE should only be used if it is not reasonably practical to control the risk by engineering or administrative means.

The use of PPE is part of safe work practices, and it is part of the employee's duty of care to use the PPE if required.

This assumes that the employer has met his/her obligations to:

  • consult with employees and Health and Safety Representative’s,

  • fully investigate better control methods,

  • provide appropriate, good-quality, properly fitted, and well-maintained PPE,

  • make provision for any secondary problems arising from the use of the PPE,

  • provide appropriate education, training and supervision.

If these conditions have been met, the employer has both a right - and a duty - to enforce the use of PPE, imposing penalties if necessary. 

However, it is important that the requirements  - and the penalties - are spelled out clearly, and enforced fairly.

It is not the function of the Health and Safety Representative to enforce the use of PPE!

Regulations 2.12 1 and 2.12.2 set the standards required for the use of PPE.

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