Intended to be a baseline standard for steps you can take to help keep your employees safe, OSHA's 3 Lines Of Defense can assist you in your effort to reopen, protect your employees, and navigate these challenging times. Start at the top for the most effective solutions (engineering controls) and then work your way down to ancillary steps (administrative and work practice controls & PPE).
At the top of the pyramid are engineering controls. OSHA defines engineering controls as physical changes to the workplace that can eliminate or reduce the hazard. These are the first, and most powerful, lines of defense. Engineering controls are favored over administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) for managing exposure in the workplace because they are designed to remove the hazard at the source, before it comes in contact with and jeopardizes the safety of workers.
Administrative and work practice controls reduce the risk of a hazard, but are less effective than engineering controls. They still mitigate risks and should be used alongside an engineering controls program, or when engineering controls aren’t feasible.
At the bottom of the pyramid is PPE, which includes protective gear like gloves, masks, ear plugs, and respirators. Personal protective equipment is the last line of defense for each individual worker, and critical when hazards cannot be eliminated.