Protecting Your Employees with OSHA's 3 Lines of Defense

Protecting Your Employees with OSHA’s 3 Lines of Defense

OSHA's 3 Lines of Defense

There are few things more damaging to your business than workplace injuries. Not only do they remove an important employee from your workforce for a time, they can lower workplace morale, slow production, and result in significant medical and possible legal expenses. To mitigate the risk of workplace accidents, it is important for your workforce to understand and implement OSHA's 3 lines of defense.

At Premier Safety Partners, we're a team of experienced and seasoned health and safety experts. We offer a vast catalog of proven solutions to enhance the safety and productivity of your organization. Continue reading to learn more about OSHA's 3 lines of defense and how implementation in your workforce can benefit your employees.

OSHA's 3 Lines of Defense #1: Engineering Controls

OSHA's 3 lines of defense is headlined by engineering controls. This refers to physical or structural changes to a workplace designed to completely remove or at least greatly reduce a specific hazard.

Engineering controls are highly recommended by OSHA, as they are the most effective means of dealing with workplace risks. These measures can vary depending upon your business, but examples of engineering controls are:

  • Replacing weak shelving that had a history of collapsing with stronger shelves.
  • Implementing a ventilation system that diverts potentially hazardous gases away from workers.
  • Installing guard rails to prevent falls.

OSHA's 3 Lines of Defense #2: Administrative and Work Practice Controls

The second, but less effective, line of defense are processes and protocols designed to mitigate the effects of risks. Administrative or work practice controls involve changes in schedules, work procedures, and training to reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of exposure to hazards. Examples of administrative and work practice controls include:

  • Utilizing a different, potentially slower but definitely safer, technique when loading materials into a machine that has the potential to pull in a worker.
  • Creating schedules to limit workers' exposure time.
  • Requiring employees to shower and change clothes prior to leaving the workplace.
  • Mandating all employees complete the OSHA 30-Hour Training.

Even though administrative and workplace controls are less effective than engineering controls, they are still important steps you can take to mitigate risks and reduce accidents. Administrative and work practice controls should be used alongside a strong engineering control program or in instances when engineering controls are not possible.

OSHA's 3 Lines of Defense #2: Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the the last line of defense in OSHA's 3 lines of defense. This is equipment worn to minimize exposure to a wide range of hazards. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), personal protective equipment is utilized by over 20 million workers and is critical.

However, OSHA suggests that PPE be considered the last line of defense — after all administrative and work controls and engineering controls have been put in place. The protective equipment is not nearly as effective as either of the other two controls and should not be substituted for them. Common examples of protective equipment are:

  • Breath masks to reduce employee exposure to dust or germs.
  • Back braces to help employees who repetitively lift or twist their backs from getting a back injury.
  • Wrist braces to prevent injury to employees who make repetitive, strenuous wrist motions.

While important, it is necessary to note that these items should not inspire confidence that a worker is safe. They are solely designed to help lessen the chance of severe repercussions from a hazard.

Why Are OSHA'S 3 Lines of Defense Helpful?

OSHA's 3 lines of defense are designed to be a baseline standard for what you can do to keep your employees safe. If you fail to take these baseline precautionary measures, the cost of workplace accidents will begin to take its toll. Did you know that workplace accidents and injuries that cause employees to miss six or more days of work cost employers in the United States almost $62 billion in 2013?

Simply put, your business will struggle tremendously if you can't keep your employees safe. At the same time, frequent workplace accidents will make it more difficult to attract quality workers. Aside from direct business issues, the fines levied by OSHA for non-compliance can be severe. Safety violations can be $7,000 per violation and can increase is not addressed. Fines to corporations or individuals can reach $500,000.

Contact Premier Safety Partners for OSHA 3 Lines of Defense Training

Instead of risking your employee's health and your future profits, the experts at Premier Safety Partners can visit your worksite to conduct an assessment. Afterwards, we'll provide actionable steps you can take to improve the overall safety of your worksite.

We also offer a vast range of health and safety solutions for a range of industries, including:  

  1. Manufacturing Industry
  2. Higher Education Industry
  3. Energy Sector
  4. Field Services
  5. Defense & Space Industry
  6. Construction Industry

At Premier Safety Partners, we'll customize your health and safety solution based on your specific industry as well as OSHA's 3 lines of defense.

Contact Premier Safety Partners today.

About the Author

Scott Ray is an industry leader in Health and Safety. Recognized for his business acumen and innovative approach, Scott has a track record in successfully implementing H&S systems that result in fostering a culture of operational excellence. His 25 year Health and Safety career includes both technical and leadership experience within diverse industries including energy/utilities, manufacturing, higher education, construction, defense and aerospace.

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