Definition – What does Control mean?
A control, in terms of occupational health and safety, is a type of intervention used to manage, direct, or mitigate a workplace hazard. Controls can also be applied to a process that could potentially create or result in a workplace hazard.
OSHA categorizes safety controls into five groups in order of decreasing effectiveness:
- Implementation of engineering controls
- Implementation of administrative controls
- Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
OSHA guidance recommends the use of controls to systematically mitigate workplace hazards. The most effective form of hazard controls is engineering controls, which either prevent a hazard from being created, separate workers from a hazard, or remove a hazard from the work area.
Use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is considered the least effective of all available forms of control because PPE does not control the hazard until the worker’s immediate proximity and has a greater chance of failure due to human error. PPE is prescribed where exposure to a workplace hazard cannot otherwise be avoided.
HSSE WORLD explains Control
A major function of the control systems that operate within industrial processes is to ensure that all processes take place within safe parameters. The control of hazards in the workplace is done through a cyclical approach to safety. After system and safety controls are installed they are regularly monitored and inspected for the adequate performance of safety functions. Opportunities for modernization and improvement of the control system are implemented as they become available. The use of computer software and hardwired electronics to automate aspects of industrial processes is an increasingly prominent aspect of safety control.
Workplaces typically have two types of safety control—controls for routine operations and controls for non-routine operations like safety emergencies. Non-routine controls often involve the use of administrative controls, which are prescribed procedures and protocols for workers to follow, such as evacuation procedures. Safety controls are context-specific, and if implemented improperly can cause new hazards.