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Administrative Controls

Last updated: December 11, 2019

What Does Administrative Controls Mean?

Administrative controls are a type of hazard control. They are used to improve safety within the workplace by putting in place policies and rules that reduce the occupational risk faced by workers via altering the way their work is performed.

Controls include implementing policies, rules, and schedules that support safety, as well as setting safe operating procedures and standards (such as training criteria, housekeeping duties, and maintenance practices) to reduce exposure to hazardous substances and dangerous tasks.

Safeopedia Explains Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are a category within the Hierarchy of Hazard Controls, a classification system that organizes hazard controls based on their method of control and orders them based on the effectiveness of those methods. The other four controls include elimination, substitution, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Because administrative controls can be readily undermined by human error (such as a failure to comply with rules), they are considered the second least-effective method of limiting worker risk, with only PPE being less effective.

Employers in all jurisdictions have a general duty to take all practicable precautions necessary to prevent injuries and accidents in the workplace and to reduce worker risk as low as reasonably possible (due diligence). The use of administrative controls is an important method of meeting this obligation when the institution of elimination, substitution, and engineering controls is not sufficient to reduce worker risk to an acceptable level. Because administrative controls emphasize improving safety through the implementation of policies, practices, and procedures that govern worker behavior, they can be understood as a form of continuous, human-mediated safety management.

Administrative controls may include prohibiting worker access to unsafe areas unless the worker is qualified and access is approved by a manager, as well as limiting work times in order to reduce exposure to a potentially hazardous substance or to avoid risk due to worker fatigue.

Safety interventions from the field of occupational ergonomics, which is concerned with ensuring that occupational tasks are compatible with human physical capabilities, frequently involve the use of administrative controls to minimize risk associated with physically difficult workplace tasks or conditions. Developing a well-understood and adopted system of safe operating and hygiene procedures, including emergency response preparation and training, is also a form of administrative control.

Administrative controls are not mutually exclusive from other safety controls. They are generally used in combination with other controls to reduce employee risk exposure to a safe level. The implementation of many administrative controls, such as OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, is a legal requirement of employers in industries that the standards apply to. Within the context of legal requirements, the exact scope of the definition of “administrative control” varies depending on the jurisdiction. OSHA defines the term as referring to alterations designed to reduce risk, and it does not include general safe work practices.


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