Engineering Controls for a Safer Workplace

The CDC’s Hierarchy of Controls lists the most effective to least effective solutions for protecting people from a hazard. Unsurprisingly, eliminating the hazard is the most effective solution, while PPE is the least effective. PPE should only be utilized in instances where none of the other controls are feasible. In the middle of the CDC’s list are engineering controls, some of which we covered in our white paper “Adapting your Office in the Wake of COVID-19”.

The reason why engineering solutions rank high on this list is because they eliminate potential exposure within the spaces where they are effectively integrated. This is evident in the relative containment of COVID-19 in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. Having learned from SARS, these cities and states upgraded air ventilation systems. The upgrades decreased the circulation of airborne pathogens resulting in lower COVID-19 case numbers.

Both engineering consultants and furniture vendors are exploring multiple methods from air filtration and humidity control to sanitation methods like UV and UVC lights, electrostatic cleaning, dry hydrogen peroxide and more.

Engineering solutions are not cut and dry. There are obstacles that must be weighed before implementing any one solution. Company’s should work with VC and partnering consultants to see which options make sense for their office. While these engineering solutions may come with more upfront costs they can end up being more cost effective in the long run than administrative efforts and PPE. Engineering solutions eliminate that risk giving employees confidence in their health and safety when returning to work.