The hierarchy of controls

This list of control measures is ordered according to effectiveness at reducing risks. To choose the best control for any risk, begin by considering the most effective option, and then only considering the next option on the list if the more effective one can’t be used.


The best way to reduce a risk is to remove the hazard. E.g. using a trolley instead of carrying eliminates a manual handling hazard.


If you can’t remove it altogether, substitute the hazard for something less risky. E.g. cleaning products with bleach can be harmful. Another product without bleach might do the same job.


Preventing access or containing a hazard is usually done by means of barriers - for example a guard over a sharp blade or keeping hazardous chemicals in a locked cupboard. This is an important measure where removing the hazard altogether is not feasible.

Reduce exposure

Reducing exposure to a hazard means you’re reducing the likelihood of harm occurring and so reducing the risk. E.g. computer users can lower the risk of upper limb disorders by doing tasks away from their PC every so often.

Training and supervision

Information, training and supervision help to make sure people follow procedures and are aware of the risks when working with hazards. These measures only work together with other controls.

Personal protective equipment

The law says PPE must be supplied and used at work wherever there’s a risk that can’t be adequately controlled in other ways. It’s always better to control risks at source than to protect from the outcome. People often don't use PPE properly if they find it annoying, so it should always be a last resort when risks can’t be controlled any other way.

Welfare facilities

If facilities for washing or first aid are on hand for quick treatment after an accident, the extent of injury can sometimes be controlled. It’s always better to prevent accidents occurring in the first place. Welfare should only ever serve as a back-up for emergencies if all other controls fail.


Risk controls and their cost should be offset against the level of risk identified. In general the most effective control should always be implemented to reduce the risk as far a possible. However when a particular control involves excessive costs compared to the safety gains it’s usually acceptable to consider a less effective control.



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