Eliminate or Minimise WHS Risks - the Hierarchy of Control Measures

Weekly WHS Article 18th November 2021

The most important actions in managing WHS risks in your workplace involves eliminating risks so far as is reasonably practicable, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimising the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.


The rewards for achieving success in these endeavours include the creation of a safe and healthy workplace and compliance with requirements of the WHS Act.


The hierarchy of control measures shown in figure 2 below from page 19 of the SafeWork NSW Code of Practice: How to Manage Work Health & Safety Risks is an important tool to use on WHS risks.


“The WHS Regulation makes it mandatory for duty holders to work through this hierarchy when managing certain risks.”



“You must consider various control options and choose the control that most effectively eliminates the hazard or minimises the risk in the circumstances. This may involve a single control measure or a combination of different controls that together provide the highest level of protection that is reasonably practicable.”


“In deciding how to control risks, as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you must consult your workers and their representatives who will be directly affected by this decision. Their experience will help you choose appropriate control measures and their involvement will increase the level of acceptance of any changes that may be needed to the way they do their job.”


“You must consider various control options and choose the control that most effectively eliminates the hazard or minimises the risk in the circumstances. This may involve a single control measure or a combination of different controls that together provide the highest level of protection that is reasonably practicable.


Some problems can be fixed easily and should be done straight away, while others will need more effort and planning to resolve. Of those requiring more effort, you should prioritise areas for action, focusing first on those hazards with the highest level of risk.”


You must always aim to eliminate the risk, which is the most effective control. If this is not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk by working through the other alternatives in the hierarchy.


The lower levels in the hierarchy are less effective because controls that change the hazard or minimise exposure to the hazard can only minimise the risk. You cannot eliminate the risk without eliminating the hazard.

Administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) are the least effective at minimising risk because they do not control the hazard at the source and rely on human behaviour and supervision. These control measures should only be used:

  • to supplement higher level control measures (as a back-up)

  • as a short-term interim measure until a more effective way of controlling the risk can be used, or

  • when there are no other practical control measures available (as a last resort).”

Eliminate or Minimise WHS Risks
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Note

* Material in this article that is based on the SafeWork NSW Code of Practice – How to Manage Work Health & Safety Risks is used under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 3.0 Australia License. To view a copy of this licence, visit www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/au. You are free to copy, communicate and adapt the work for non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to SafeWork NSW and abide by the other licence terms.










18th November 2021

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