What are the Five Steps to Safety?

The Five Tier Hierarchy of Safety Controls from NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) is based on the theory that by improving conditions in the key areas listed, you will end up with a safer workplace for your company and your employees. It is part of their Prevention through Design program. A complete safety plan must include all five tiers and have team buy-in for the safety culture to change from the top down in your organization.

Step 1: Elimination

The goal of this step is show how eliminating the problem will benefit the company in the long run with savings, both in lowered workers’ compensation costs and reduced time lost. This is the most effective step because you completely remove the risk of an accident.

Step 2: Substitution

If you can’t eliminate the problem, try working on an alternative solution by substituting something comparable, but less dangerous to those exposed to the risk. For instance, if there is a location high up that needs to be accessed and the employees are using an old ladder or step stool and you have had a number of injuries due to falls, you could look into a number of different solutions, such as getting a permanently secured ladder at that location.

Step 3: Engineering

Suppose you have a pinch point on a machine where you have experienced a number of employees having injuries and you see the potential for something worse to happen. You could have an engineering control, such as making design modifications to the machine or surrounding area to mitigate the risk. The issue with this step is usually cost, and employees going around the engineering control in order to be able to do their jobs.

Step 4: Administrative

This is where you would create new policies and procedures, re-train employees and post safety signs by hazards. The problem in this step is that you are trusting that the employees won’t just ignore the signs or the new procedures in order to do their jobs more quickly. At Pharma-Safe, we go beyond the training room and can come onsite to review the team in their environment and point out potential hazards in a practical setting. This can help with knowledge retention and overall awareness.

Step 5: Personal Protective Equipment

Outfitting employees with ear protection, gloves or goggles can help reduce exposure to certain risks. The biggest hurdle with this step can be your employees – many often do not use PPE correctly or find it uncomfortable. Training your employees on your PPE protocols and making adjustments to potentially uncomfortable or cumbersome equipment (i.e. offering alternative hearing protection that may be more comfortable but still within the requirements) can help to achieve success.

Benefits of Following the Five Tier Hierarchy of Safety Controls

NIOSH has organized these steps in terms of importance and effectiveness. The best way to utilize the Hierarchy of Controls when you see a concern arise is to start with elimination and proceed through each step, making the necessary changes in order to accomplish your goal of a safer workplace.

Pharma-Safe Industrial Services can assist you in this process. We have highly trained consultants who can do a safety evaluation to determine what hazards your workplace has that need to be addressed. We can then help you develop a Safety Environmental Management System, update your policies and procedures and then train your employees to promote participation in keeping the workplace a safer place. Please contact us today to learn how Pharma-Safe can help keep your employees safer and your company operating at the best level possible.