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23rd April, 2018

5 Best Risk Assessment Control Measures With Examples

A key question for any risk assessment is how exactly you are going to control the risks.

It's not just a record of risks, after all. It's an assessment.

Once you have spotted the hazards, and calculated the risks, you now need to get those risks under control.

A successful risk assessment must check existing controls, and assess if more should be done to prevent harm.

These controls are what's known as control measures, and they are one of the most important parts of your risk assessment. What good is assessing a risk if you don't control it?

What are control measures in risk assessment?

Control measures are the things you put in place to reduce risk and prevent harm. Control measures may include one or a mixture of:

  • Removal
  • Rules
  • Procedures
  • Equipment
  • Exclusions
  • Training
  • Supervision
  • Limitations
  • Preventions
  • Methods
  • Arrangements

What is the best control measure for a risk assessment?

The best control measure is elimination. This means to eliminate the risk completely. Of course, this is the best control measure, because you are removing the risk entirely.

So, now we know what the best control measure is, we can just use this control for every risk and be the safest business in the world!

It doesn't quite work like that.

While in theory, it may be possible to eliminate every risk. In practice, this would mean you and your team sitting in a padded room, away from any tools or equipment and not getting any work done.

Great for safety, but not so great for your business.

What elimination is actually about, is eliminating those risks that are unnecessary. For example, working at height creates a high level of risk, so if the work can be done at ground level (e.g. using extendable poles or raising and lowering equipment) then this is a risk that can be eliminated.

What about when elimination can't be used? What if the work has to be carried out at roof height and there is no getting around it.

Enter, the hierarchy of controls.

hierarchy of controls

The hierarchy of controls is simply a list of the 5 best control measures, in order of priority.

For example, item number 1 in the list (which it should now be no surprise, it's elimination) is the best and should be considered first before moving to item number 2.

5 best risk assessment control measures

1. Elimination

We have already discussed this earlier on in this post, and elimination should always be the first control measure you consider.

Can this risk be removed entirely from this activity?

Examples of elimination:

  • Use extendable tools to eliminate work at height
  • Materials delivered cut to size to remove the use of blades
  • Cordless equipment to get rid of trailing cables

2. Substitution

Substitution is the second best control measure you could use.

Maybe the risk cannot be removed entirely, but could it be reduced by replacing the material, substance or process with something less dangerous?

Examples of substitution:

  • Replacing ladders with tower scaffolds
  • Substituting a hazardous chemical with a safer alternative
  • Changing high-level vibrating equipment with newer equipment with less vibration exposure

3. Engineering controls

Third on our list, are engineering controls. These are usually fixed temporary or permanent controls.

Engineering controls could be collective (protecting all workers e.g. edge protection for work at height) or individual (protecting a single user e.g. anchor points for connecting via lanyard). Give priority to measures which protect collectively over individual measures.

Examples of engineering controls:

  • Extraction machines to remove hazardous dust or fumes from the air
  • Enclosing dangerous items of machinery or moving parts
  • Installing guard rails to fall hazards

4. Administrative controls

At number four, we have administrative controls. While this type of control is lower down on the list it will often be an essential part of your control measures.

These are rules and systems to carry out the work. What are the procedures you need to work safely?

Examples of administrative controls:

  • Limiting use of vibrating equipment below exposure action values
  • Banning work at height and lifting operations in bad weather
  • Enforcing a one-way traffic system on site

5. Personal protective clothes and equipment

Last, but not least on our list, is personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE).

PPE is the last line of defence against a hazard, so while it shouldn't be your first choice when controlling risks, it can give added protection for any remaining level of risk, or should other controls fail.

Examples of PPE:

  • Use of ear defenders when using noisy equipment
  • Harnesses and lanyards where the risk of falls cannot be eliminated completely
  • Hard hats where there may be falls of tools or materials overhead

Selecting the best controls for your risk assessment

You don't have to pick just one control for each risk from the top 5. If the risk cannot be eliminated completely, then often, the best way to control it will be through a combination of the other 4 control measures.

For example, you may be able to replace a toxic chemical for one that is no longer toxic but is still dangerous. You might then need to implement engineering controls (secure storage area, fume extraction), administrative controls (training and job rotation to limit exposure) and PPE (gloves, RPE, googles) for its use.

Remember to make sure all the controls work well together, are detailed in your risk assessment, communicated to your team, and are regularly reviewed and maintained to make sure they remain effective.

If chosen, PPE should be selected and fitted by the person who uses it. Workers must be trained in the function and limitation of each item of PPE.

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