Control Systems Engineering

Engineering Control Systems

John Saunders (Health & Safety Laboratory)


The term ‘Engineering Controls’ covers a broad spectrum of possible interventions that are intended to reduce worker exposure, to chemical, physical and biological agents. This article will explain what ‘Engineering Controls’ are with respect to chemical and biological agents and how they fit into the hierarchy of controls. Examples are given of engineering controls along with some advantages and limitations. The importance of matching the control measure to the health risk and its reliability is also discussed along with commissioning. Once control has been achieved the article will explain why maintenance and checks are vital in order to maintain good control and therefore reduce worker exposure.


In the context of health and safety, an ‘Engineering Control’ can be described as a physical modification to a process, or process equipment, or the installation of further equipment with the goal of preventing the release of contaminants into the workplace (adapted from ). As can be seen from this broad definition there are a wide range of engineering controls, which could be applied. The control selected will depend upon the type of process, the nature of the contaminant source (its toxicity and release mechanism) and the route of exposure (inhalation, dermal, and ingestion). However, the reality is that no single engineering control in isolation will be successful; control is always a mixture of equipment and ways of working.

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