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ERIC is a very handy acronym to remember when considering the risks posed by an operation and how they can be mitigated. Using the hierarchy helps organise your thinking in planning the operation by testing how the risk could be reasonably practicably reduced.

ERIC stands for Elimination, Reduction, Isolation, and Control, therefor a four-level hierarchy that outlines the steps organisations should take to mitigate risk.

There is also the PD acronym that adds another two levels to the hierarchy. As well as being an acronym for prevents death, is also an acronym for PPE and discipline. These sit below ERIC and are therefore a clear indication that PPE as a risk mitigation factor should not be the initial consideration.

The 6 levels of the Hierarchy are therefore:

ELIMINATION – This is the highest level of the ERIC hierarchy, where risks are identified and eliminated altogether. An example of this is a window cleaner cleaning from ground level with extendable brushes and water feeds rather than working at height from a ladder. Another example is the replacement of a hazardous chemical from an operation and replacing it with a safer water based alternative.

REDUCTION  – the organisation acknowledges that certain risks cannot be eliminated completely, but can be reduced to an acceptable level. This could involve reduced exposure times to noise or vibration by rotating the team involved in that operation, or having a time limit for use of  vibrating tools.

ISOLATION – the organisation takes steps to isolate workers from the hazards present in the workplace. This could involve barriers between pedestrians and vehicles in a mixed use area, or guards on cutting machines that stop the machine when lifted or removed.

CONTROL – At this level, any measures taken in the hierarchy are complimented through Safe systems of work, procedures, training and supervision. For example working at height can be controlled by a scaffolding system installed and checked by a qualified scaffolder.

After ERIC we then look at the final two elements of the hierarchy. Ideally, the risk is mitigated to a large degree by the measures above, and the following compliment the measures taken rather than being the sole measures.

PPE – Personal protective equipment, for example dust masks and safety goggles in stone cutting operations.

DISCIPLINE  – Discipline depends on the constant diligence of the individuals undertaking the role, and ideally becomes a consideration only after detailed consideration of the hierarchy, and particularly the control element. Examples of this include rail workers working in a live rail environment..

By systematically evaluating risks using the hierarchy and taking steps to eliminate or mitigate them, organisations can improve the safety and health of their workers and reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents and illnesses. It can also lead to innovative thinking by considering the constraints provided by the mitigation measure (e.g. How to I clean that window if I don’t have a ladder, how do I accurately cut timer on this rotating saw if I can’t put my hand next to the saw?)

If you require any further information or are seeking more advice on the assessment and management of risk, please contact us .


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