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The Hierarchy of Control is a list of control measures, in priority order, that can be used to eliminate or minimise exposure to hazards in the workplace. This preferred order of control is embedded in almost all Occupational Health and Safety legislation, standards and guidelines in this country. Yet the concept consistently fails to gain traction. Why is that so?

Put simply, the concept starts with the most preferred option, elimination of the hazard and ends with the least preferred option, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as earmuffs and earplugs. It is expected that only when all practicable steps have been taken there should be a step down to thenext level.

Removal or elimination of the hazard is the ideal control situation. PPE is the least desirable means of control because the hazard remains and there is considerable reliance on providing the right equipment for the situation and on having the equipment worn correctly and consistently.

While examples of successful use of the Hierarchy of Control and effective use of combinations of controls exist within Industry, there are numerous situations where the last line of defence, PPE, is heavily relied upon. The consequences of this are being felt today.