Definition – What does Engineering Controls mean?
Engineering controls are designs or modifications to equipment, industrial plants, processes, or systems that reduce the risk of worker exposure to a hazard. They operate on a “hazard isolation principle”, either by removing a hazardous workplace condition (such as through ventilation) or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard (such as through machine guards). These methods control hazards either at the source of the hazard or in transmission, rather than protecting the worker at the point of exposure to the hazard. Engineering controls offer a uniform standard of protection to all workers and function continuously without human supervision or intervention.
HSSE WORLD explains Engineering Controls
Engineering controls are effective at limiting exposure to a wide variety of hazards. These include fall hazards, noise, aerosols, fumes, gasses, potentially harmful drugs, contaminated materials such as used needles, and hazardous building materials such as asbestos.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines engineering controls as the third most effective method of worker safety, behind completely eliminating (removing) or substituting (replacing) a hazardous substance. Some occupational health and safety bodies, such as the International Labour Organization, consider all forms of hazard control which reduce exposure to hazards through workplace design to be engineering controls, including elimination and substitution.
Because engineering controls operate independently of human action, they are considered to be more reliable than the use of personal protective equipment or behaviour guidelines (administrative controls), which may fail upon use due to individual human error. OSHA regulations for certain types of exposure require the use of engineering controls. For instance, OSHA’s standard for exposure to air contaminants (no. 1910.1000) requires the use of engineering controls where practicable.