In the ever-evolving landscape of workplace safety, understanding how to tackle workplace hazards effectively is essential. 

This hierarchy of controls and safety guides is tailored to Canadian companies and workers. It will guide you through the complex journey of safeguarding your workplace.

At its core, the hierarchy of controls is a systematic approach to managing risks. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution but a personalized strategy that adapts to the unique challenges of your workplace. 

As we dive into the topic, we'll break down the hierarchy into practical steps that resonate with the Canadian work environment. 

From eliminating hazards at the source to equipping workers with the right protective gear, we'll explore the layers of control measures, ensuring a comprehensive understanding that empowers you to make informed decisions.

This isn't just about compliance; it's about cultivating a culture where safety is a shared commitment. So, join us if you're a manager seeking to enhance workplace safety or a worker keen on understanding your role in the bigger safety picture. 

Understanding the Hierarchy of Controls

Workplace safety involves mastering the hierarchy of control safety. It maps out the most effective ways to manage and mitigate risks. 

This hierarchy is not a rigid set of rules but a dynamic strategy, adapting to the diverse hazards encountered in Canadian workplaces.

The hierarchy presents a unique approach to controlling and minimizing risks. The most potent measure involves eliminating hazards. Can the danger be removed or substituted? If so, that's the first step.

Moving down the hierarchy, the second step is engineering controls. These are physical modifications and technologies designed to isolate workers from hazards. 

Administrative controls come into play next, focusing on altering how people work. This involves tweaking schedules, implementing training programs, or establishing clear protocols to reduce exposure to risks.

Finally, personal protective equipment (PPE) serves as the last line of defense. While critical, PPE is most effective when integrated into a comprehensive safety strategy rather than being the sole reliance.

Overview of the Five Levels


Let’s comprehensively understand the hierarchy of controls, a systematic approach to workplace safety. 

The hierarchy of control safety is divided into five levels. The following section thoroughly explores each level, outlining its definition, examples, and considerations. 

  1. Elimination

  2. Substitution

  3. Engineering Controls

  4. Administrative Controls

  5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Let's explore each of these steps in detail so you can effectively implement them to ensure safety in the workplace. 

Level 1: Elimination

A powerful elimination strategy is the first level of the hierarchy of controls safety. This level involves identifying hazards and then outright removing or substituting them, ensuring that workers are not exposed in the first place.

Elimination is about addressing the root cause of a hazard, rendering it nonexistent within the workplace. This proactive approach aims to eradicate potential risks, creating a safer environment.

Examples of Elimination Strategies

Imagine a scenario where a hazardous chemical can be replaced with a less harmful alternative or where a hazardous task can be entirely automated, removing the need for human involvement. These are instances where elimination takes center stage.

Benefits and Challenges

The primary benefit of elimination is its effectiveness—no exposure, no risk. However, it often comes with challenges related to feasibility and practicality. Some hazards may be intrinsic to specific processes, making complete elimination challenging.

Level 2: Substitution

Substitution, the second tier in the hierarchy of controls safety, revolves around replacing a hazardous substance or process with a safer alternative. 

Unlike elimination, which aims to remove the hazard entirely, substitution involves finding a less harmful counterpart to mitigate risks.

Examples of Substitution Strategies

Consider a scenario where a toxic cleaning chemical is swapped for an environmentally friendly and less hazardous option. This could involve using a non-toxic substance for a particular manufacturing process in industrial settings. 

Substitution emphasizes identifying and adopting alternatives that maintain productivity while reducing risk.

Pros and Cons

The primary advantage of substitution lies in its ability to maintain the continuity of operations while minimizing risks. 

However, challenges may arise in finding suitable substitutes that align with operational requirements. Additionally, there might be associated costs or concerns about the efficacy of substitutes.

Level 3: Engineering Controls

Engineering controls, the third tier in the hierarchy of controls safety, focuses on physically modifying the workplace or introducing technologies to isolate workers from hazards. 

This level recognizes that some hazards may not be eliminated or substituted, so the best approach is to create barriers between individuals and the risks.

Examples of Engineering Controls

Imagine the installation of machine guards in a manufacturing facility to prevent accidental contact with moving parts or implementing local exhaust ventilation systems to remove harmful fumes from the air. 

These modifications aim to redesign the work environment for enhanced safety.

Effectiveness and Considerations

Engineering controls are generally highly effective as they directly intervene in the pathways of potential harm. However, their success depends on proper design, installation, and maintenance.

Considering ergonomic design, equipment reliability, and compatibility with existing processes is crucial to ensure sustained effectiveness.

As we progress through the hierarchy of controls safety, understanding the role of engineering controls becomes pivotal in creating a workplace that prioritizes the well-being of its workforce. 

Level 4: Administrative Controls

Administrative controls, the fourth layer in the hierarchy of controls safety, centers on altering how people work to reduce their exposure to hazards. 

Unlike the physical modifications of engineering controls, administrative controls focus on changing work practices, schedules, or training protocols to enhance safety.

Examples of Administrative Controls

Implementing training programs to educate workers about potential hazards, establishing clear protocols for specific tasks, and organizing regular safety meetings fall under administrative controls. These measures aim to create awareness and foster a workplace safety culture.

Limitations and Best Practices

While administrative controls are crucial in shaping a safety-conscious work environment, they have limitations. Workers may need to remember or deviate from prescribed procedures, and these controls might not eliminate hazards. 

Best practices involve combining administrative controls with other layers of the hierarchy to create a comprehensive safety strategy.

Understanding the complexities of administrative controls becomes vital when navigating through the hierarchy of controls. 

Level 5: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)


At the base of the hierarchy of controls safety is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the last line of defense against workplace hazards. 

PPE includes wearable gear and equipment designed to protect individuals from specific risks when other control measures are not feasible or sufficient.

Common Types of PPE

Examples of PPE encompass a wide range, from safety helmets and gloves to safety glasses, earplugs, and full-body suits. The choice of PPE depends on the nature of the hazards present in the workplace.

Proper Use and Limitations

While PPE is crucial for safeguarding against various risks, its effectiveness relies on proper use and maintenance. PPE Training on the correct usage, regular inspection, and adherence to guidelines are essential. 

However, PPE has limitations, as it only protects the individual wearing it and does not eliminate the hazard at its source.

Implementing the Hierarchy of Controls in the Workplace

Practical training and hazard communication strategies are essential to successfully implement the hierarchy of controls safety in the workplace. This involves educating employees about the different control levels and fostering a culture where safety is a shared responsibility. 

Regular communication channels, such as safety meetings and toolbox talks, play a crucial role in reinforcing the importance of adhering to control measures.

Training and Communication Strategies


Practical hazard recognition training and communication strategies are pivotal in implementing the hierarchy of controls safety within the workplace. 

Employee education is crucial, involving comprehensive training programs to ensure a thorough understanding of the different control levels and their applications. 

Regular toolbox talks and safety meetings provide opportunities for open communication, addressing questions, and reinforcing safety messages. 

Here are some of the training that can help the workers ascertain their safety at the workplace:

  1. Benzene Awareness Program

  2. H2S Training Course

  3. Aerial Lift Training

  4. Fall Arrest Training

  5. Lockout Tagout Training

  6. Confined Space Awareness Training

Establishing clear communication channels, both visual and digital, further ensures that employees are well-informed about control measures, updates to safety protocols, and any changes in the workplace that may impact safety. 

Integrating the hierarchy of controls into daily practices and encouraging proactive safety approaches contribute to creating a safety-conscious work culture. 

Implementing feedback mechanisms allows organizations to gather insights from employees, facilitating continuous improvement and refinement of safety protocols.

Steps to Assess and Prioritize Controls

Assessing and prioritizing controls is crucial in implementing the hierarchy of controls safety. This involves a comprehensive examination of hidden workplace hazards, identification and evaluation of risks, and consideration of the feasibility of control measures. 

Through a systematic approach, organizations can prioritize interventions based on their effectiveness in addressing specific hazards. This step ensures a targeted and focused implementation of control measures, maximizing the impact of safety efforts.

Creating a Comprehensive Safety Plan

Creating a comprehensive safety plan involves integrating the principles of the hierarchy of controls safety into the broader safety framework of the organization. 

This includes developing written procedures, establishing incident reporting and emergency response protocols, and regularly reviewing and updating the plan. 

By incorporating a hierarchy of controls safety into safety protocols, organizations can create a resilient and proactive approach to mitigating risks, fostering a safer and healthier work environment.


The hierarchy of controls safety guides organizations toward creating safer and healthier workplaces as it helps the workers understand how to control and handle hazardous material

As we've explored the complexities of this systematic approach, it becomes evident that the success of its implementation lies in a holistic strategy that encompasses training, communication, assessment, and planning.

Training and communication strategies emerge as the basis of success, ensuring that employees are aware of the hierarchy of controls safety and actively engaged in its application. 

Regular toolbox talks, safety meetings, and clear communication channels facilitate a safe and secure workplace culture.

The steps to assess and prioritize controls bring a pragmatic dimension to the hierarchy of controls safety, grounding it in the specific realities of the workplace. This systematic evaluation allows organizations to tailor control measures to address the most pressing hazards effectively. 

By doing so, they optimize their efforts, focusing resources where they can make the most significant impact.

Organizations implementing the hierarchy of controls safety pave the way for a culture where safety isn't just a priority – it's a shared value. The result is a workplace where employees thrive, confident in the knowledge that their well-being is a paramount concern.