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Hierarchy of risk control

Once you have identified the risk there is a standard approach to the order in which precautions must be considered known as a hierarchy of risk control.

The definition of risk is the likelihood of a hazard to cause harm and the severity if it does. The hierarchy of risk control approach will help to ensure that the risks have been reduced to a level which is as low as is reasonably practicable.

By considering precautions in the following order then the most effective measures are considered first and the least effective last. 

Reduce risk by: 

1. Elimination - removing the hazard completely


Reducing/Substitution – Change a material or piece of equipment to a less dangerous product e.g something toxic to something non-toxic.

2. Transfer the risk


This is not an option that can be used routinely but may be appropriate from time to time. For example, using a specialist to undertake the task instead of completing it yourself e.g. BOC who routinely deliver and connect gas cylinders at the point-of-use.

3. Isolating/Engineered


Controls such as guarding or enclosing the hazard e.g. placing a guard on a knife-edge or paper cutter or placing barriers between walkways and traffic routes.

4. Safe working systems or practices


Following safe work procedures and training people on these can ensure that people do not stray from the safest method of doing things.

5. Personal protective equipment (PPE)


PPE can reduce exposure to risk but it is considered last because it only protects the wearer. Personal protective equipment must always be used with other control measures and should be worn correctly and fitted properly.

Last updated: Friday, June 19, 2020