Hierarchy of Hazard Control Cycling

Recently on a message board someone pointed out the very brilliant notion of Hierarchy of Hazard Controls.

Like a bolt of lightning this has really changed how I think about cycling safety. Or should I say that it justifies the things I have all ready believed.

First off, what is this hierarchy?

“Hierarchy of hazard control is a system used in industry to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards.”

Sounds good, but the thing that stuns me is that we don’t hear about this in the cycling world much.

Why?

For some strange reason, we feel the need to reinvent the wheel for everything in cycling instead of leveraging the decades of modern research on these things. Instead we come up with ideas that are the most useless and push for them.

Here’s the brilliant part about the hierarchy:

“A diagram of the hierarchy of hazard control, with the most effective methods at the top and the least effective at the bottom.”

The highest form of safety is to eliminate the hazard all together. In cycling, the most obvious danger is motoring. To eliminate motoring means to ride on dedicated bicycle paths. This is pretty obvious. Eliminating motoring is the most effective way of making cycling safer.

At this point, we go down the pyramid seeing as this is not always “realistic”. But let’s not kid ourselves, when we use words like realistic, we are admitting to ourselves that society is not doing the BEST job that it could.

The rest of these interventions become less and less effective.

The next one is substitution. There are no real alternatives in the cycling world unless they design a car that kills less cyclists somehow.

Moving on to Engineering Controls: “Engineering controls do not eliminate hazards, but rather keep people isolated from hazards.”

An example of this is cycle tracks. The cars are still a menace, but we’re at least roped off in our little safe area. Note how far we’ve fallen! Cycle tracks are the THIRD MOST EFFECTIVE safety means for cyclists. Yet people whine that this third rate measure is too expensive. OK then.

Finally, we’re getting close to the bottom which is where people put cycling safety. Administrative controls which “…include procedure changes, employee training, and installation of signs and warning labels…”

So here we have share the road signs and cycling safety courses all of which are the second worst forms of safety. I think that overall these are useless, but that’s me. Not that we seldom do “procedure changes” which would mean changing traffic laws so that bicycles are NOT treated exactly as vehicles, but we are permitted to take extra steps to ride even more safely such as rolling lights when there’s nobody around (avoids right hook) and to ride on the sidewalk. Instead our procedures are hamstrung by the unsafe notion that the people out in the open should mix it up in the area where they operate heavy machinery because for some reason hanging around a hazard makes us safe. Haha.

Finally, we scrape the bottom of the barrel which is where we find that most people like pull their most cherished ideas from.

“Personal Protective Equipment (known as PPE) is the least effective way to control hazards. PPE can include gloves, respirators, hard hats, safety glasses, high-visibility clothing, and safety footwear.”

Helmets, lights, and bright clothing.

“PPE is the least effective means of controlling hazards because of the high potential for the PPE to become ineffective due to damage.”

It has been pointed out that “being visible” is negated by a drunk or by texting, but here we go again.

Best of all there’s the fact that PPE’s can actually hurt people and INCREASE risk. Suck on that helmet advocates:

“Additionally, some PPE, such as respirators, increase physiological effort to complete a task and, therefore, require medical examinations to ensure the worker can use the PPE without any detrimental risk to his or her own health.”

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