OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 2 Hazard Assessment, Elimination and Control

Section 9 Hazard elimination and control

Subsection 9(1) Eliminate or control

Whenever possible, hazards should be eliminated or controlled at their source – as close to where the problem is created as possible – using engineering solutions. If this is not possible, controls should be placed between the source and the workers. The closer a control is to the source of the hazard the better. If this is not possible, hazards must be controlled at the level of the worker.

Administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) control hazards at the level of the worker. These control methods reduce the likelihood and severity of worker injury but do not eliminate the hazard. A combination of several hazard control approaches may be necessary in some situations (see Figure 2.6).

Whatever control method is used, it should attack the source of the hazard, not its outward signs e.g. the noise, vibration, fumes, exhaust, etc. that it produces. For example, it is better to replace, redesign, isolate or quiet a noisy machine than it is to provide workers with hearing protection.

In complying with this subsection, the employer should be able to describe which hazards identified by the hazard assessment have been eliminated or controlled. For remaining hazards, particularly those being controlled by the use of personal protective equipment, the employer should be able to explain why those hazards could not practicably be eliminated.

For compliance purposes, the employer should be able to justify the appropriateness of the hazard controls used. All reasonably practicable steps should have been taken to first eliminate the hazard. Particular attention will be placed on those hazards that the employer has chosen to control through the use of administrative procedures and, in particular, personal protective equipment.

Figure 2.6 Hazard elimination or control flowchart

Subsection 9(2) Engineering controls

Engineering controls provide the highest degree of worker protection because they eliminate or control the hazard at its source. Engineering controls are the preferred method of eliminating or controlling hazards.

Engineering controls include the following:

Elimination – getting rid of a hazardous job, tool, process, machine or substance may be the best way of protecting workers. Examples include:

  • using material handling equipment rather than have workers lift, lower, carry, etc. materials manually
  • eliminating the need to elevate persons or objects above ground level

Substitution – if elimination is not practical, try substituting or replacing one substance or process with another. Examples include:

  • substituting a safer substance for a more hazardous one
  • replacing hazardous operations with less hazardous operations

Redesign – hazards can sometimes be “engineered out” through redesign of the work site, workstations, work processes and jobs. Examples include:

  • providing fail-safe interlocks on equipment, doors, valves, etc.
  • installing guardrails around elevated work areas
  • providing non-slip working surfaces
  • controlling traffic to avoid collisions

Isolation – hazards can sometimes be isolated through containment or enclosure. Examples include:

  • negative-pressure fume hoods in laboratory settings
  • sound reducing enclosures for noisy equipment

Automation – some processes can be automated or mechanized. Examples include:

  • spot welding by industrial robots
  • assembly line operations that require repetitive manual handling by workers.

Subsection 9(3) Administrative controls

If engineering controls cannot eliminate or control a hazard, administrative controls can be used to control the hazard to a level that is as low as reasonably achievable. Administrative controls are less effective than engineering controls since they do not eliminate the hazards. Examples include:

  • safe work practices, job procedures, policies, rules – safe work procedures describe how to correctly perform a job from start to finish
  • work/rest schedules to reduce worker exposure to hazardous substances or conditions
  • limiting hours of work
  • scheduling hazardous work during times when exposure of other workers is limited
  • wet methods as opposed to dry sanding or sweeping

Subsection 9(4) Personal protective equipment

As a last resort, workers may need to use personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce the potentially harmful effects of exposure to a known hazard. PPE is much less effective than engineering controls since it does not eliminate the hazards.

PPE must be used properly and consistently to be effective. Awkward or bulky PPE may prevent a worker from working safely. In some cases, PPE can increase the likelihood of hazards such as heat stress and tripping and falling.

Examples of PPE commonly used include

  • safety eyewear, hard hats and safety boots
  • hearing protection if workers are exposed to noise that exceeds allowable levels
  • respiratory protective equipment to protect the lungs against harmful dusts and vapours.

Subsection 9(5) Combination of control methods

The control of some hazards requires the combined use of all three control methods to reduce the hazard to the lowest level practicable or achievable. Employers are not restricted to a single approach if using a combination achieves a greater level of worker safety than if only one approach was used.