Engineering controls are methods of protecting workers by removing hazardous conditions or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard. They represent physical changes to the workplace, equipment, or processes that do not rely on workers’ behavior or protective clothing. Engineering controls are preferred over other control methods because they remove the hazard at the source, before it comes in contact with the worker. They are also part of the hierarchy of hazard controls, which ranks control strategies by their feasibility and effectiveness.
Engineering controls have a wide range of applications and benefits in various industries and settings. They can reduce the risk of exposure to chemical, physical, biological, ergonomic, and psychosocial hazards. They can also improve the efficiency, productivity, and quality of work processes and products. In this article, we will explore some examples of engineering controls and how they can enhance the safety and performance of workers and workplaces.
Examples of Engineering Controls
There are different types of engineering controls, and the common engineering control examples include process controls, isolation, containment, and ventilation. They are explained as follows:
Process controls are engineering controls that involve changing the normal steps followed when doing a specific task to minimize the risks involved. For example, process controls can include:
- Using wet methods when drilling or grinding to reduce dust generation and inhalation
- Using temperature controls to minimize vapor generation and exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Using automated systems to reduce human exposure and error
- Using robots or drones to perform tasks in hazardous or inaccessible areas
- Using less toxic or hazardous materials or substances as substitutes
Process controls can reduce the amount and frequency of contact with hazards, as well as the potential for accidents and injuries. They can also improve the quality and consistency of the output, as well as the efficiency and productivity of the workers.
Isolation is an engineering control method that involves separating the worker from the source of the hazard, either physically or spatially. For example, isolation can include:
- Using machine guards or shields to prevent contact with moving parts or electrical components
- Using interlock systems or lockout/tagout procedures to ensure safe equipment operation and maintenance
- Using noise barriers or enclosures to reduce noise levels and prevent hearing loss
- Using radiation or heat shields to protect workers from exposure to ionizing radiation or extreme temperatures
- Using safety nets or fall arrest systems to prevent falls from heights
Isolation can prevent or limit the exposure to hazards, as well as the potential for injuries or illnesses. It can also provide a safer and more comfortable work environment for the workers.
Containment is an engineering control method that involves enclosing or confining the hazard within a closed space or system. For example, containment can include:
- Using fume hoods or glove boxes to capture and remove airborne contaminants or handle dangerous substances
- Using biosafety cabinets or laminar flow hoods to prevent exposure to infectious agents or biological materials
- Using sealed containers or safety cabinets to store or transport hazardous chemicals or wastes
- Using emergency shutdown systems or fire suppression systems to stop or control hazardous events or situations
Containment can reduce or eliminate the release or spread of hazards, as well as the potential for exposure or harm. It can also ensure the compliance with regulatory standards and requirements.
Ventilation is an engineering control method that involves supplying or exhausting air to or from a work area or space. For example, ventilation can include:
- Using general ventilation to provide fresh outdoor air and improve indoor air quality
- Using local exhaust ventilation to capture and remove airborne contaminants at the point of generation
- Using dilution ventilation to reduce the concentration of contaminants by mixing them with clean air
- Using personal ventilation to provide clean air to the worker’s breathing zone, such as through a respirator or a supplied-air hood
Ventilation can control or prevent the accumulation of hazardous substances or conditions, such as dust, fumes, vapors, gases, heat, or humidity. It can also enhance the health and comfort of the workers.
Engineering controls are effective and efficient ways of protecting workers and workplaces from various hazards. They can reduce or eliminate the source of the hazard, or create a barrier between the worker and the hazard. They can also improve the quality and productivity of work processes and products. Engineering controls are part of a comprehensive approach to occupational safety and health, which also includes administrative controls and personal protective equipment. By implementing engineering controls, employers and workers can create a safer and better work environment.
Additional Facts and Statistics about Engineering Controls:
- According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), engineering controls can reduce the risk of occupational asthma by 79% and the risk of occupational dermatitis by 52%. Source: https://www.safeopedia.com/definition/5070/engineering-controls
- According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), engineering controls can save employers an average of $27,000 per injury case by avoiding direct and indirect costs such as medical expenses, lost wages, legal fees, and productivity losses. Source: https://bing.com/search?q=engineering+controls+benefits
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), engineering controls can prevent or reduce the transmission of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, tuberculosis, and influenza by improving ventilation, filtration, and disinfection of indoor air. Source: https://us.surehire.com/2023/09/05/how-to-use-engineering-controls-to-keep-your-employees-safe-by-reducing-hazards/
- According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), engineering controls can enhance the quality of work life and well-being of workers by reducing stress, fatigue, and boredom, and by increasing satisfaction, motivation, and creativity. Source: https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/4-ways-to-set-up-a-robust-engineering-control-system
- According to the United Nations (UN), engineering controls can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by reducing environmental impacts, promoting resource efficiency, and fostering innovation and social inclusion. Source: https://www.nae.edu/19579/19582/21020/7410/7687/EngineeringControlsforReducingWorkplaceNoise
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