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Hazard Prevention and Control

Effective controls protect workers from workplace hazards; help avoid injuries, illnesses, and incidents; minimize or eliminate safety and health risks; and help employers provide workers with safe and healthful working conditions. The processes described in this section will help employers prevent and control hazards identified in the previous section.

To effectively control and prevent hazards, employers should:

  • Involve workers, who often have the best understanding of the conditions that create hazards and insights into how they can be controlled.
  • Identify and evaluate options for controlling hazards, using a "hierarchy of controls."
  • Use a hazard control plan to guide the selection and implementation of controls, and implement controls according to the plan.
  • Develop plans with measures to protect workers during emergencies and nonroutine activities.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of existing controls to determine whether they continue to provide protection, or whether different controls may be more effective. Review new technologies for their potential to be more protective, more reliable, or less costly.

Action item 1: Identify control options

Action item 2: Select controls

Action item 3: Develop and update a hazard control plan

Action item 4: Select controls to protect workers during nonroutine operations and emergencies

Action item 5: Implement selected controls in the workplace

Action item 6: Follow up to confirm that controls are effective

Action item 1: Identify control options

A wealth of information exists to help employers investigate options for controlling identified hazards. Before selecting any control options, it is essential to solicit workers' input on their feasibility and effectiveness.

How to accomplish it

Collect, organize, and review information with workers to determine what types of hazards may be present and which workers may be exposed or potentially exposed. Information available in the workplace may include:

  • Review sources such as OSHA standards and guidance, industry consensus standards, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) publications, manufacturers' literature, and engineering reports to identify potential control measures. Keep current on relevant information from trade or professional associations.
  • Investigate control measures used in other workplaces and determine whether they would be effective at your workplace.
  • Get input from workers who may be able to suggest and evaluate solutions based on their knowledge of the facility, equipment, and work processes.
  • For complex hazards, consult with safety and health experts, including OSHA's On-site Consultation Program.

Action item 2: Select controls

Hierarchy of Controls rated from Most effective to Least effective: Elimination - Physically remove the hazard, Substitution - Replace the hazard, Engineering Controls - Isolate people from the hazard, Administrative Controls - Change the way people work, PPE - Protect the worker with Personal Protective Equipment. Source - NIOSH

Employers should select the controls that are the most feasible, effective, and permanent.

How to accomplish it
  • Eliminate or control all serious hazards (hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm) immediately.
  • Use interim controls while you develop and implement longer-term solutions.
  • Select controls according to a hierarchy that emphasizes engineering solutions (including elimination or substitution) first, followed by safe work practices, administrative controls, and finally personal protective equipment.
  • Avoid selecting controls that may directly or indirectly introduce new hazards. Examples include exhausting contaminated air into occupied work spaces or using hearing protection that makes it difficult to hear backup alarms.
  • Review and discuss control options with workers to ensure that controls are feasible and effective.
  • Use a combination of control options when no single method fully protects workers.

Note: Whenever possible, select equipment, machinery, and materials that are inherently safer based on the application of "Prevention through Design" (PtD) principles. Apply PtD when making your own facility, equipment, or product design decisions. For more information, see the link to the NIOSH PtD initiative in Additional Resources.

Action item 3: Develop and update a hazard control plan

A hazard control plan describes how the selected controls will be implemented. An effective plan will address serious hazards first. Interim controls may be necessary, but the overall goal is to ensure effective long-term control of hazards. It is important to track progress toward completing the control plan and periodically (at least annually and when conditions, processes or equipment change) verify that controls remain effective.

How to accomplish it
  • List the hazards needing controls in order of priority.
  • Assign responsibility for installing or implementing the controls to a specific person or persons with the power or ability to implement the controls.
  • Establish a target completion date.
  • Plan how you will track progress toward completion.
  • Plan how you will verify the effectiveness of controls after they are installed or implemented.

Action item 4: Select controls to protect workers during nonroutine operations and emergencies

The hazard control plan should include provisions to protect workers during nonroutine operations and foreseeable emergencies. Depending on your workplace, these could include fires and explosions; chemical releases; hazardous material spills; unplanned equipment shutdowns; infrequent maintenance activities; natural and weather disasters; workplace violence; terrorist or criminal attacks; disease outbreaks (e.g., pandemic influenza); or medical emergencies. Nonroutine tasks, or tasks workers don't normally do, should be approached with particular caution. Prior to initiating such work, review job hazard analyses and job safety analyses with any workers involved and notify others about the nature of the work, work schedule, and any necessary precautions.

How to accomplish it
  • Develop procedures to control hazards that may arise during nonroutine operations (e.g., removing machine guarding during maintenance and repair).
  • Develop or modify plans to control hazards that may arise in emergency situations.
  • Procure any equipment needed to control emergency-related hazards.
  • Assign responsibilities for implementing the emergency plan.
  • Conduct emergency drills to ensure that procedures and equipment provide adequate protection during emergency situations.

Note: Depending on your location, type of business, and materials stored or used on site, authorities including local fire and emergency response departments, state agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and OSHA may have additional requirements for emergency plans. Ensure that your procedures comply with these requirements.

Action item 5: Implement selected controls in the workplace

Once hazard prevention and control measures have been identified, they should be implemented according to the hazard control plan.

How to accomplish it
  • Implement hazard control measures according to the priorities established in the hazard control plan.
  • When resources are limited, implement measures on a "worst-first" basis, according to the hazard ranking priorities (risk) established during hazard identification and assessment. (Note, however, that regardless of limited resources, employers have an obligation to protect workers from recognized, serious hazards.)
  • Promptly implement any measures that are easy and inexpensive—e.g., general housekeeping, removal of obvious tripping hazards such as electrical cords, basic lighting—regardless of the level of hazard they involve.

Action item 6: Follow up to confirm that controls are effective

To ensure that control measures are and remain effective, employers should track progress in implementing controls, inspect and evaluate controls once they are installed, and follow routine preventive maintenance practices.

How to accomplish it
  • Track progress and verify implementation by asking the following questions:
    • Have all control measures been implemented according to the hazard control plan?
    • Have engineering controls been properly installed and tested?
    • Have workers been appropriately trained so that they understand the controls, including how to operate engineering controls, safe work practices, and PPE use requirements?
    • Are controls being used correctly and consistently?
  • Conduct regular inspections (and industrial hygiene monitoring, if indicated) to confirm that engineering controls are operating as designed.
  • Evaluate control measures to determine if they are effective or need to be modified. Involve workers in the evaluation of the controls. If controls are not effective, identify, select, and implement further control measures that will provide adequate protection.
  • Confirm that work practices, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment use policies are being followed.
  • Conduct routine preventive maintenance of equipment, facilities, and controls to help prevent incidents due to equipment failure.

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