Tim's Blog

How to develop risk controls


Risk control focuses on eliminating risks or, if that is not possible, reducing them as much as is practicable. By law, staff affected by the risks must be consulted in risk-control work. Their involvement will not only optimise outcomes but also encourage subsequent adoption of these controls.


There are many ways to control risks and some controls are more effective than others. The “hierarchy of control” system is simply a prioritised list of control types, ranked from the most effective to the least effective. The further up in this hierarchy a control lies, the more effective it should be.



Hierarchy of control (general form):


  • Eliminate the hazard: e.g. work from ground level rather than “at height”
  • Substitute the hazard with something. safer: eg. substitute a less-hazardous chemical
  • Isolate the hazard from people: e.g. use guarding or remote-controlled systems
  • Use engineering controls: e.g. use trolleys or reduce manual handling
  • Use administrative controls: e.g. draft procedures, install signs or give frequent training
  • Use personal protective equipment: e.g. safety glasses or gloves


Administrative controls and personal protective equipment, by themselves, rely on staff diligence; they do not control the hazard itself and so are the least effective. If elimination is not possible, the most effective risk control will often be achieved by implementing a combination of control types from different levels in the hierarchy.





How to develop risk control options


Check the following sources of information when developing risk control options:


  • Codes of practice and other guidance material
  • Information for manufacturers/suppliers of equipment
  • Industry associations and unions
  • Ideas generated by the staff exposed to the risks


Make sure the chosen solution does not introduce new hazards.



Supporting new control measures

It is usually necessary to support new control measures with:


  • Changes to work procedures
  • Training in changed procedures or equipment (with competency testing if appropriate)
  • Supervision (as necessary, for example for critical operations or inexperienced staff).





How to review controls


The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned. Don’t assume they are working or wait for something to go wrong.

Reviews should be done:


  • Shortly after the control measures are first implemented
  • After a new hazard is identified or an incident (or near-miss) occurs
  • If consultation with staff indicate a review is necessary
  • Before a change is made in the workplace that may give rise to new risks
  • If a Health & Safety Representative requests a review.



Keep records


Keep records of the risk-control process for the following reasons:


  • To demonstrate compliance with legislation
  • Provide a due diligence defence in the case of prosecution
  • Assist future work on risk controls.