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Hierarchy of Controls for Construction Chemicals

Hierarchy of Controls for Construction Chemicals

There are several settings where management of chemicals and possible related hazards is vital, and industrial construction is a great example. Within many such areas, including construction, a common and often ideal approach to chemical and other toxic substance management - and one recommended by the OSHA - is known as a hierarchy of controls.

At Redi, we're here to offer numerous industrial construction services to clients in Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada - including comprehensive safety training programs that cover any necessary areas, chemical management among them. The OSHA recommends following a hierarchy for protecting workers, one that puts emphasis on highly effective control methods that begin with removing hazards where possible. Here's a top-down look at this hierarchy of controls, plus how to be thinking about each major area on any construction site where chemicals are present.


As we noted above, the top of the hierarchy is elimination of hazards - the most direct way to protect workers from any potential danger, and a top priority when managing chemicals. This can be as simple as replacing hazardous materials with safer, less toxic alternatives where possible.

This may sound simple, but it can be a nuanced process. The first step here is simple identification of which chemicals need to be managed and the amount of time they'll be present. It's also essential to think about any circumstances that may require use or supplementation with additional hazardous materials, even if these are not part of your team's daily operations.

Once you have identified a hazardous material, it's important to keep track of how much is used - when possible, minimizing the amount of hazardous material can be key to eliminating the hazard altogether. That said, sometimes its necessary to use - or supplement with - certain materials that may be hazardous, depending on your job and project.

Substitution May Be Acceptable

In some cases, elimination of hazardous materials may be impractical - in which case, substitution with non-toxic, less dangerous substances is a great next step. This can require additional research and testing, of course, but if it's possible to replace one or more chemical compounds or products without compromising the project itself and its desired outcome, this method of control should be considered.

Now, there are certain situations where substitution will not be an acceptable option - such as when certain hazardous materials are essential components of the project itself. In such cases, it may be necessary to consider other methods of control.

Engineering Controls

Once elimination or substitution have been carried out to the greatest degree possible, engineering controls are vital for mitigating exposure risk among not only project workers and managers, but also the entire local area. There are several engineering controls that may be used here, including:

  • Proper ventilation and exhaust installation: This can reduce the amount of airborne particles in any given environment, as well as providing a quick and easy escape route for hazardous vapors.
  • Containment: This is an effective way to reduce risk of exposure or contamination. Containment systems such as hoods and booths can help keep workers safe by preventing contact with hazardous materials or particles, while also minimizing the risk of exposure for those in the surrounding area.
  • Removing ignition sources: In any case of combustible materials or dust, any source of heat or flame should be eliminated to reduce the risk of fire or explosion.
  • Enclosures: Any hazardous materials should be stored in containers or enclosures, as this will help to minimize potential exposure while also reducing the risk of accidental spills.
  • Automation: In other cases, automated systems may be necessary to reduce potential exposure or risk of contamination. These systems can help to minimize contact with hazardous materials and their associated risks.

These engineering controls should always be in place on a construction site, regardless of the presence of chemicals or other hazardous materials.

Administrative Controls

In addition to the above-mentioned methods, administrative controls are also essential for protecting workers from exposure or contamination. These can include:

  • Proper training: All workers should be trained on proper safety protocols and the handling of hazardous materials. This is especially important when dealing with chemicals, as it ensures everyone involved knows the risks associated with contact and how to mitigate them.
  • Written policies and procedures: These should be put in place to provide guidance to all workers on the proper protocols for safely handling hazardous materials.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): When necessary, PPE can be used to protect against exposure. This may include things like respirators, protective clothing, gloves and face shields. Some in the construction world view PPE as its own category when it comes to controls; whatever your method here, be sure this area is covered robustly.

At Redi, we understand the importance of chemical and hazard management - especially when it comes to industrial construction. We take all necessary precautions in order to protect our workers from exposure, contamination or other risks associated with hazardous materials. Our team is highly trained and experienced in the proper handling of such substances, and with a commitment to safety as our primary focus, you can rest assured your project will be completed with the utmost care.

Contact us today to learn about any of our industrial construction services in Colorado, Nevada or Wyoming.

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