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Toolbox Talk: Hierarchy of Controls

By February 26, 2024 April 18th, 2024 No Comments

Let’s not forget that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be considered the last line of defense against serious safety hazards. PPE is often inappropriately used as the first method of protection, but there are four other controls that should be implemented first to effectively make PPE the last line of defense. Elimination and substitution of are the most effective ways to reduce hazards, but these two control methods may also be the most difficult to implement. However, don’t assume they are the most expensive or complicated solutions before taking the time to do a risk analysis and hazard assessment.

After performing a hazard assessment to identify the hazards on site, the hierarchy of controls chart (below) becomes instrumental in deciding the best control measures to ensure everyone’s safety.


If at all possible, remove the hazard from the workplace completely.


When elimination of the hazard is not possible, replace the hazard with a less hazardous solution. A common example is to replace a toxic chemical with a less toxic one, like replacing paints containing lead with non-leaded paint. It is important to monitor any substitution to ensure that it doesn’t introduce a new hazard.


When the hazard cannot be eliminated or substituted, engineering controls are the next best control method. Engineering controls are used as a way to place a barrier between the user and the hazard.


As an additional measure when hazards still exist, procedures can be changed, training can be provided, signs can be added to the work environment, or actions can be taken to change the way people work.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

As a control method, PPE is less effective than all other control methods, but when there are still potential hazards after implementing as many of the other control methods as possible, then PPE is essential. PPE requirements are different for every environment, task, and worker.

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