Residual Risk and the Psychology of Lower Order Controls

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In the context of the hierarchy of risk controls, warnings, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment are sometimes referred to as lower order controls. In practice, the effectiveness of these controls can be overestimated due to a misunderstanding of the human factors that affect error likelihood in their implementation. This paper explores one human factor: the limitation of attention on residual risk inherent in lower order controls. The limitation of attention has implications for identifying hazards, assessing risk, taking appropriate actions based on warnings, executing safe work practices, and proper selection and use of personal protective equipment. Raising awareness and improved understanding of these topics can enable more effective risk assessment, quantification of residual risk, and more effective selection and combination of risk controls to achieve risk as low as reasonably practicable.

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