Hierarchy of Controls

The Hierarchy of Controls applies to most OH&S hazards and sets out the order that safety issues are to be dealt with to minimise or eliminate the potential for an accident.

The order of the Hierarchy is the top of the list being most effective, as they address the hazard (the thing that could cause harm), rather than just reduce the risk (the harm that the hazard could cause). The order in the Hierarchy of Controls is to be addressed by being ‘reasonably practicable’.

The Hierarchy of Controls for prevention of falls is as follows:

Hierarchy of Control

1. Eliminate the hazard altogether. e.g – work from the ground/solid construction.

2. Substitute the hazard with a safer alternative. e.g – work with a passive fall protection device

3. Isolate the hazard from anyone who could be harmed. e.g – work with a work positioning system.

4. Use engineering controls to reduce the risk. e.g – work with a fall injury prevention system.

5. Use administrative controls to reduce the risk. e.g – use ladders or administrative measures.

6. Use Personal Protection Equipment. e.g – wear gloves, goggles or helmets.

When addressing a safety issue and applying the Hierarchy of Controls to determine an appropriate solution, movement to a lower order control is allowed when it is “not practicable” to use the higher order control.

Four factors are used when referring to ‘practicable’ and this is detailed in The National Code of Practice – Prevention of Falls in General Construction as:

  • Severity of the hazard or risk
  • State of knowledge
  • Ways to remove or mitigate the hazard or risk and finally,
  • Cost of removing or mitigating the hazard or risk

The fundamental and most important factor apart from meeting your obligations, is that it good practice to install the higher level controls like guardrials and walkways wherever possible rather than relying on fall prevention and fall arrest systems.