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Workplace Control Measures

Workplace controls are important measures that can help prevent or minimize workplace hazards and injuries. The following information is meant to provide a general understanding of these measures. For a detailed explanation of these controls, a great resource is your WHMIS training materials or the Exposure Controls section of your Material Safety Data Sheets. Please note that it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate any hazards in their workplace and determine the specific controls for the safe use and management of these materials.

What are Workplace Control Measures?
Workplace control measures are designed to help monitor, forecast, and/or diagnose performance and performance related deviations of workplace materials. Workplace control measures are often organized into a hierarchy of controls. This hierarchy is used to itemize controls according to their effectiveness in reducing a hazard. These controls will help educate a worker on how to properly recognizes and handle a potential workplace hazard. Workers should always remember to work their way from the top of a hierarchy of controls list when dealing with a workplace health and safety situation. It is also quite common for workers to have to use several measures in the course of a hazard assessment.

Hierarchy of Workplace Controls

  1. Elimination
    The best way to avoid health and safety issues in the workplace is to eliminate any hazards in the first place. A good example would be choosing lead-free paints or non-toxic cleaning supplies.

  2. Substitution
    If you can’t remove a material entirely, try opting for a product that is less hazardous, or changing a process or procedure that involves the hazardous item. This could be as easy as replacing a spray-paint operation with a paint dip or other “airless” spray operation.

  3. Containment
    When working with a hazardous material, use a physical barrier or containment apparatus to separate the dangerous substance from work areas. An example of a contained hazard is a spray-painting booth or a closed reaction system.

  4. Ventilation
    Removing or diluting contaminated air with fresh, outside air can make a big difference in certain situations. Local exhaust systems, like fume hoods and welding exhaust units, are extremely effective ventilation systems because they capture the contamination at the source.

  5. Work Practices
    Work practices are put in place by an employer to help limit the time a worker is exposed to potentially harmful materials. These practises vary by workplace, but often include proper scheduling, good housekeeping and personal hygiene policies.

  6. Personal Protective Equipment
    Personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and facemasks protect workers from hazards not reduced by other means.

Knowing the above workplace controls can help protect you in the case of an emergency. For more information on workplace controls, consult your WHMIS training materials.