Hierarchy of Controls Toolbox Talk

Learn about the hierarchy of controls, what they're used for, and how to ultimately mitigate danger on the construction site.

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Hierarchy of Controls Safety Talk

There are rules and regulations that are put into place for specific reasons. Hazards of all kinds can be found around worksites and safeguards are used to protect employees. You may not see the true reasoning for some of them, but you still abide by them, because they were put into place to protect.

The hierarchy of control is used to mitigate dangers, listed from the ones that pose the most risks, down to the least risky. Each situation will have its own list of safeguards that pertain to the particular task. Some of the hierarchy that will be discussed in this article are:

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering Controls
  • Administrative Controls
  • PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
  • Examples Of Hierarchy of Controls

    It is important that all employees understand what the hierarchy of controls are and how they work. In this example, you will see just how it goes. Example: A painter will apply paint with a high level of VOCs to a metal surface in a factory.


    The first step in any situation is to eliminate any hazards that are obvious to the initial look. You want to be as safe as possible to ensure your safety and those around you. To use the example as a reference, look at the scenario and see what you can do.

    The application could be done by an automated process instead. That would take the dangers completely away from the painter himself. You should always look at all the options that there are when working in hazardous conditions.


    When you are working in or with hazardous products, you should always evaluate if there is an option that isn’t as hazardous. If there is something out there that you can substitute with that is more environmentally safe and you can still end with the same results, that would be a safer situation. To use the example about the painter as a reference, what can be substituted?

    The painter can check to see if there is a lower level VOC that can be substituted in its place. Chemicals and hazardous solutions pose a risk to the individual who is using them. If there are safer options available, you should always opt to use those instead.

    Engineering Controls

    Evaluate if there are any engineering controls that you can put into place to keep the employee safer. What can be done to keep them out of direct connection with the hazardous chemical?

  • Ventilation
  • Equipment Guards
  • Isolation
  • Physical Barriers
  • Looking back at the painter’s example for reference, what can be put into place to protect them?

    The painter could use a variety of methods to help them be more cautious and safe during the application. A great way to protect the painter and the other employees who are in the building being painted, they can make sure there is proper ventilation to keep the fumes at bay.

    Administrative Controls

    The painter that is in the example sentence above can use administrative controls to ensure the exposure to hazardous substances is minimal. The length of time of exposure is important to pay attention to. They can take shift changes periodically.


    PPE, personal protective equipment, is necessary for a wide variety of jobs. It is designed to keep you safe and out of harm's way. Depending on the job that you are doing will determine how much or how little you have to wear. Some of the items that you may need to wear are:

  • Gloves
  • Steel Toe Shoes
  • Respirator
  • Coveralls
  • Earplugs
  • Hard Hats
  • Safety Glasses
  • In regards to the example that was given above, the painter could use a few different PPE options. Some of the helpful things to keep him safe from hazardous fumes or chemicals are the respirator, goggles, and coveralls.

    Always Try To Be Safe And Attentive

    It is always important for each employee to pay attention to the job that they have and make sure they are not being irresponsible. Eliminating hazards and dangers that can be removed is important. Don’t rely on PPE alone, make sure to make the available swaps and changes where available.

    The more dangers that you are able to remove from your worksite, the less likely you will have an incident with an employee hurt. Safeguards are great when things can not be eliminated, but are to be used wisely. Protection and safety of employees and others around you should always come first.

    What Is The Hierarchy Of Control Used For?

    Above, we went over what a hierarchy of control is and what it means. Knowing what it is used for is also beneficial in fully understanding why we use this method. It is to help the employees understand and know how to better protect themselves.

    There are times that situations can be substituted and changed to be safer. When that is possible and still result in the same quality work, it should be implemented. If you follow the controls in order from top to bottom, you can use the process of elimination to receive the best results.

    What To Do If Someone Is Hurt

    Do you know what to do if someone gets hurt? It can be an intense situation that leaves you in a panic if you are not equipped with the knowledge to help someone. Employees can greatly benefit from having basic first aid training or CPR courses.

    You will learn some simple ways to assist someone in an emergency until a professional emergency professional can get to the scene, such as:

  • What to do when someone is bleeding
  • How to help someone who is poisoned
  • How to assist when someone is in shock
  • How to help someone who has been burned
  • How to use AED on someone who is unresponsive
  • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
  • When on a worksite, incidents can vary from injuries from heavy equipment, to exposure to hazardous chemicals, or anything else. When employees are prepared they can be more of a help in these situations.

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