Hierarchy of control and behavioural safety – how do these approaches fit?

A friend of mine asked me a question. How does behavioural safety fit with hierarchy of control? Hmmmm…..great question.

It took me some time to engage system 2 and think through this. My first thoughts were:

Hierarchy of control is primary focused on identification of the hazard and some form of interaction with that hazard. Notionally, there are five controls that are applied. They are:

  1. Elimination – removal of the hazard
  2. Substitution, – reducing the hazardous energy
  3. Engineering – designing a means to isolate the hazard from the person (e.g. guards)
  4. Administration – Creating procedures that put as much distance between the hazard and the person
  5. Personal Protective equipment – often referred to as the last line of defence, it involves placing some form of protective material on the person

So, the hierarchy of controls look at the hazard side of the equation.

Behavioural safety on the other hand looks at the person side of the equation. It doesn’t matter if it is a peer to peer program (involving observation and feedback from others) or a safe habits program (self understanding triggers routines and rewards). The focus is on target behaviours or safe routines. These human actions are independent of type of hazards. What is important is that the hazard exists and there is some human action that can avoid the line of fire at is most basic.

On the face of it they seem mutually exclusive. I’ve seen programs focused on the hazards only and programs focused on the behaviours only. Rarely are they integrated but in reality they are the sum of the whole. Without one or the other, the equation is incomplete therefore so is the program. Spending equal effort on hazards and behaviours balances the equation. This balance is very important.

So thanks good friend. I hope this helps.



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