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Engineering Controls: Definition and Examples

What is Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are the type of controls that protect workers by removing hazardous conditions or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard. These controls focus on the source of the hazard, unlike other types of controls that generally focus on the employee exposed to the hazard.

Engineering control can also be said to be is a piece of equipment, a machine, or mechanical device designed to minimise the harm associated with a hazard. Engineering controls can reduce harm by:

  • Isolating workers from chemicals (eg, Using a self-contained lube station)
  • Enclosing high risk operations in sealed areas (eg, Sealing off an area that is only opened during maintenance and cleaning)
  • Extracting contaminants from the breathing zone of workers (eg, Installing a Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) system)
  • Automating tasks so workers no longer need to perform them (eg, Using robots to spray paint new cars)
  • Segregating incompatible chemicals from one another (eg, Installing compliant safety cabinets and chemical stores).
Engineering Controls

Principles of Engineering Controls:

  1. If feasible, design the facility, equipment, or process to remove the hazard and/or substitute something that is not hazardous or is less hazardous.
    • Redesigning, changing, or substituting equipment to remove the source of excessive temperatures, noise, or pressure;
    • Redesigning a process to use less toxic chemicals;
    • Redesigning a work station to relieve physical stress and remove ergonomic hazards; or
    • Designing general ventilation with sufficient fresh outdoor air to improve indoor air quality and generally to provide a safe, healthful atmosphere.
  1. If removal is not feasible, enclose the hazard to prevent exposure in normal operations.
    • Complete enclosure of moving parts of machinery;
    • Complete containment of toxic liquids or gases;
    • Glove box operations to enclose work with dangerous microorganisms, radioisotopes, or toxic substances; and
    • Complete containment of noise, heat, or pressure-producing processes.
  1. Where complete enclosure is not feasible, establish barriers or local ventilation to reduce exposure to the hazard in normal operations. Examples include:
    • Ventilation hoods in laboratory work;
    • Machine guarding, including electronic barriers;
    • Isolation of a process in an area away from workers, except for maintenance work;
    • Baffles used as noise-absorbing barriers; and
    • Nuclear radiation or heat shields.

Examples of Engineering Controls

  • Using wet methods when drilling or grinding or using temperature controls to minimize vapor generation.
  • Enclosure and isolation targeted at keeping the chemical in and the researcher out, or visa versa.  Glove boxes are a good example of enclosure and isolation.  Interlock systems for lasers and machinery are other good examples of isolating processes.
  • Use of ventilation system like fume hoods, snorkels, etc


Further Reading

Examples of Hazards Where Engineering Controls are Effective

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