When completing a home project or remodel, safety needs to be a top priority. For most people, working safely means utilizing personal protective equipment. While using PPE is important, it is the least effective piece of the hierarchy of controls. Understanding the hierarchy of controls gives you the best chance to work as safely as possible.
Elimination – This sits at the top of the hierarchy of controls for a reason. Eliminating hazards is the most effective way to work safely. Elimination of hazards should be considered in the project planning stage. An example of hazard elimination is completing tasks at ground level and not on a ladder or it can be as simple as keeping a clean workplace to eliminate slips, trips, and falls.
Substitution – The second most effective method on the hierarchy of controls is substitution. This means replacing a hazard with something less hazardous. This can often be handled in the project planning stage. Instead of using a product that can cause skin or lung irritation, replace it with one that is less harmful.
Engineering Controls – If a hazard can not be eliminated on substituted, the next best way to mitigate a hazard is with engineering controls. An example of an engineering control would be installing a dust barrier and ventilation system to reduce airborne contaminants or installing guardrails when working off the ground.
Administrative Controls – Utilizing methods to change how people work is a simple definition of administrative controls. This often comes in the form of education or it can be as basic as clearly labeling hazardous items. Administrative controls are often implemented before a project. These controls can be effective in mitigating hazards, however, they are not as effective as substituting or eliminating hazards.
Personal Protective Equipment – PPE sits at the bottom of the hierarchy of controls as it is less effective compared to elimination, substitution, and engineering and administrative controls. Properly used PPE can be very effective in reducing the impact of hazards found during a home remodeling project. However, it is important to understand there are often better ways of dealing with a hazard.
Project Planning – Ultimately, protecting yourself from hazards in a home remodel or project comes down to planning. While it is exciting to jump into a new project, this can lead to unexpected hazards. Understanding the full scope of a project and anticipating potential problems or hazards is the best way to work safely. This allows you to utilize the hierarchy of controls and mitigate any potential dangers before they occur.