Hierarchy Of Control; What It Is & How It Works

What Is Hierarchy Of Control

Hierarchy of control is a system used in industry to eliminate  or reduce exposure to risk in the workplace. Hazard/Risk control is important in protecting workers in the workplace.

The idea of the hierarchy of control is that risk control should start from the top of the hierarchy  down. In most cases a combination of control measures from the hierarchy are chosen to effectively reduce the risk posed by a hazard. Since no single control measure always work, the hierarchy of control serves as a guide as we work through the process of risk control.

The hierarchy of risk control is useful in determining which control measures are appropriate.


Hierarchy of Controls

The elements of hierarchy of control follows thus:

  1. Elimination
  2. Substitution
  3. Engineering controls
  4. Administrative controls
  5. Personal protective equipment

Let us explain the different elements;



This involve removing the hazard from the workplace so that no one is exposed to the risk it posses.

Eliminating hazards can be cheaper and more practical at the design or planning stage of a product, process or workplace. In these early stages, there is more scope to design to eliminate hazards or to include risk control measures that are compatible with the requirements of the original design and function.


Read Also: 5 Key Elements of the Risk Management Process


Employers can also eliminate hazards and risks by removing the hazard completely.

For Example;

  1. Removing trip hazards on the floor or disposing of unwanted chemicals eliminates the risks they create.

2. A production process can be changed so that some chemicals, materials or equipment are no longer required.



This is the second most effective hazard control measure. It involves replacing an hazard material or equipment with less hazardous ones.

For Example;

  1. A lead-based paint can be replaces with a paint that do not contain lead.
  2. Use a scourer, mild detergent and hot water instead of caustic cleaners for cleaning
  3. Use a cordless drill instead of an electric drill if the power cord is in danger of being cut
  4. use water-based paints instead of solvent-based paints


Engineering Controls:

This involve designing a solution that controls the hazard at its source.

For Example;

  1. Building a physical barrier between the personnel and the hazard.
  2. Mechanical devices such as trolleys or hoists to move heavy loads
  3. Guards around moving parts of machinery
  4. Using a Pedestrian-sensing systems
  5. Using a Speed-governing mechanisms


Administrative Control:

Developing work procedures that will favour safe work practice, like workers rotation to reduce exposure time, provision of welfare facilities, etc.

For Example;

  • Rearranging or updating the steps in a job process to keep the worker for encountering the hazard. Developing standardized safe work practices is an important step.
  • Performing maintenance operations that involve toxic substances at night when the usual production staff is not present.
  • Rotating workers through various job assignments so that they do not develop repetitive motion injuries.


Personal protective equipment:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is termed – The last line of defense. It is used when all other control measures fail.

They include;

  1. Hand gloves
  2. Coveralls
  3. Respirators
  4. Hard hats
  5. Safety glasses
  6. High-visibility clothing
  7. Safety footwear, etc.