Applied Safety + Ergonomics
Clarifying the Hierarchical Approach to Hazard Control

Abstract

Over the years, many different hazard-control methods have been categorized and rank-ordered into numerous hierarchies. These “safety hierarchies” are rules of thumb that can help guide consideration of options and strategies to achieve acceptable risk or conditions that are considered reasonably safe. Paradoxically, while options for hazard control and for hierarchies have proliferated, the concept of a hierarchical approach to hazard control has been grossly oversimplified, particularly in legal circles, to the point where the phrase “design, guard, warn” is commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as “the safety hierarchy” and presumed to be a rule that completely dictates safety decisions. This paper describes the concept and role of hierarchical approaches to hazard control, in light of common misconceptions held by legal professionals.


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