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worker at table saw with hood and guard

Input: Economic Factors

Market forces, structural changes, and emerging threats may affect levels of resources available for occupational safety and health initiatives within the engineering control cross-sector.

Control methods at the top of the control hierarchy presented in the previous section are potentially more effective and protective than those at the bottom. Following this hierarchy normally leads to the implementation of inherently safer systems, where the risk of illness or injury has been substantially reduced.

Short-term cost for implementing controls typically follows the order of the hierarchy, with elimination and substitution being sometimes impossible or cost prohibitive in an existing situation. Elimination and substitution of hazards may be inexpensive and simple to implement if the process is at the design or development stage. Eliminating the presence of a hazardous substance or condition in the workplace obviously prevents illness and injury from that substance or condition. The substitution of a less hazardous substance or condition, likewise, reduces resulting illness or injury. Some economic factors that must be considered include the quality of the product, cost of substitute materials, return on investment, and speed and ease of production.

Long-term expenditures, on the other hand, tend to follow the hierarchy in reverse order with the use of personal protective equipment and the implementation of administrative controls incurring mounting expense with time. While not insignificant, the expense for developing and implementing these lower level controls typically is not as much as for the design and construction of an engineering control solution. Over time, however, the maintenance and operation of an engineering control is overtaken by the continued cost of supplies, medical monitoring, training, and other operational costs involved with administrative controls and personal protective equipment.


Hierarchy of controls for exposure to air contaminants.

A Compendium of NIOSH Economic Research: 2002-2003