Continuous Improvement and Fall Prevention: Using the Hierarchy of Controls to Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls

In Part III of our blog series during National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, Scott Gaddis looks at using the Hierarchy of Controls to promote a proactive safety approach to preventing falls in the workplace.

Employing the Hierarchy of Controls

Understanding control and how best to manage your walking and working surfaces program are more significant than the outputs of the risk assessment process. The process defines good control actions specific to hazards and risks, but it is not the only process that can be used. While I’m a firm believer in the risk matrix and scoring approach, I also would recommend the widely accepted approach within the safety and health practice called the hierarchy of controls. This process is simple to understand and is quite useful in gauging the control appetite of the organization. It should serve as the overarching methodology for how we best deliver the right level of program control within the scope of walking-working surfaces programs.

The control hierarchy shows the most effective controls at the top, which are engineering solutions, followed by administrative controls and finally the reliance on personal protective equipment.

Though not intended to be an exhaustive list, it points out there are control considerations when dealing with improving the walking-working surfaces program.

Using the Hierarchy of Controls can help prevent falls in the workplace

Summary and Monitoring Controls

Like much of our past thinking, once a project is planned and executed, we tend to lean on the idea that the work is done. W. Edwards Deming recognized this as an issue, and in the 1950s, he created a simple process approach that still is widely used to analyze and measure process deviation. Deming was a proponent that the work system needed to reside in a continuous feedback loop so that managers could identify and change the parts of the process that needed improvement. He called this the PDCA cycle for Plan, Do, Check and Act.

Applying this thinking, the reality is that many of us have dealt with poorly executed and implemented projects that created loss potential in the organization. Checking the process with a cadence that is required to maintain control is necessary.

Continuously monitoring your walking-working surfaces program ensures that you have gained control of the issues raised during the inspection process, that the control strategy eliminated the problem or reduced it to a tolerable risk level. The fundamental questions often asked are: did you achieve your goals and can such goals be sustained? Factually and for the safety and health practitioner, what it means is that unless you genuinely can say that you’ve eliminated the deviation (issue) and it can’t come back, you are never done in looking for, evaluating and controlling risks in the work system. To put these insights into action in your workplace, download our Walking-Working Surface Inspection Checklist. It will help you understand the key surface categories and controls, the actions and responsibilities for preventing falls and the key items you should know for indoor and outdoor safety inspections.

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About Scott Gaddis

Scott Gaddis leads the integration of the Intelex EHSQ Alliance in thought leadership and building partnerships with top influencers in EHS, working with professionals across the globe to deliver a platform for sharing information and collectively driving solutions that mitigate workplace loss. Scott has more than 25 years in EHS leadership experience in heavy manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and packaging. Before joining Intelex, Scott served as Vice President, EHS for Coveris High Performance Packaging, Executive Director of EHS at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Global Leader for Occupational Safety and Health at Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

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