What is Control Banding?

August 29, 2019

What Is Control Banding?

Control banding (CB) is a validated risk assessment method, most commonly used to evaluate chemicals. CB has a 20-year history, starting with pharmaceuticals and continuing into nanotechnology and ergonomics. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has acknowledged that Control Banding can be a useful tool for small businesses when used alongside the practice known as the hierarchy of controls. In the absence of exposure limits or contaminant measurements, control banding offers a way to assess risk and determine relevant control measures to reduce exposures in workplaces.

In this control banding guide, we’ll provide answers to some commonly asked questions as well as explore the benefits and limits of control banding as a risk management practice. 

Control banding guide contents: 

How Does Control Banding Work?

Control measures are organized into a range or “band” (i.e. general ventilation, local exhaust ventilation, containment, and seeking expert advice).  The controls necessary for the task are based on the type of hazard (i.e. eye irritant, corrosive, carcinogen,) and the exposure profile (small, medium, or large quantity, as well as volatility and dustiness). 

What Is The Purpose of Control Banding?

The intent of control banding is to provide a simple and practical method for small and medium-sized workplaces that may have limited expertise in chemical workplace health and safety to understand the hazards of the chemicals they work with and easily apply controls to manage the hazard. This approach helps to protect workers from potential harm and ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. 

Control banding is often used to determine control measures when Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) are not known. 

What are the benefits of control banding? 

The benefits of control banding include: 

  • Practical and cost-effective: It provides a simplified and standardized method for assessing and controlling hazards, allowing businesses to allocate resources efficiently and effectively. 
  • Versatile and adaptable: Control Banding can be applied across a wide variety of industries and sectors and can be tailored to the specific needs of a workplace.  Different sectors may have specific regulations, guidelines, or best practices that need to be considered when managing risks.  
  • Proactive risk management: Control banding is a more proactive approach to risk management when compared to traditional approaches that tend to be more reactionary. 
  • Great for businesses with limited resources: Control banding is particularly useful for small- and medium-sized businesses where resources are limited. This allows SMBs to focus their efforts on implementing practical control measures that directly address identified hazards. 
  • Enhances communication and collaboration: Control banding facilitates communication and collaboration among different stakeholders, including employees, workers, and health and safety professionals. It provides a common language and framework for addressing and discussing occupational exposure risks. 

Can control banding be used for non-chemical hazards? 

Although control banding is most commonly used for assessing chemical hazards, it can also be applied to non-chemical hazards such as physical (e.g. heat, noise, radiation, vibration) or biological hazards (e.g. pathogens, bacteria, viruses).. 

What is the role of the worker when it comes to control banding? 

Workers play an important role when it comes to the control banding process as they can provide valuable input into the hazard identification and risk assessment process, as well as feedback on the effectiveness of the control measures. 

Is training required to implement control banding?

Training is highly recommended and often required to effectively implement control banding. Training ensures your employees know how to identify hazards, select appropriate control measures, and effectively implement them to mitigate risk. 

How Does Control Banding Quantify Risk?

Control banding is based on the concept that there are many chemicals workers can be exposed to, but only a few approaches exist to control hazards and protect workers. The method of control banding quantifies the risk based on the following factors:  

  • How toxic the product is
  • How easy it is for the product to enter the body (volatility and dustiness)
  • The type of work being done
  • How long the person is exposed
  • The amount of product being used

A product with a greater health hazard and higher exposure potential will require a higher level of control than a product with a low health hazard that is unlikely to come in contact with or enter a worker's body.

Field Level Hazard Assessments often don’t consider chronic and acute health risks but combining SDSs (available at each worksite) with Control Banding tools will enable field staff to understand these hazards and generally identify potential control approaches associated with the risk levels. Field staff plays an essential part in determining and implementing realistic and specific controls.  

How Many Control Banding Methods Are There?   

A few models have been developed (such as the pharmaceutical risk prioritization method) but the most available is the UK Health Executive’s COSHH Essentials for Small Business control banding method. COSHH offers two types of information, industry-specific 'direct advice sheets' and 'generic control guidance sheets'. There is also a COSHH e-tool where you will be prompted by questions to enter some basic information about the substance you are using, before being directed to the most appropriate generic control guidance sheet for you.  

What is the difference between occupational exposure banding and control banding? 

Occupational Exposure Banding, as proposed by NIOSH, is a method designed for scenarios where specific occupational exposure limits are unavailable. While occupational exposure banding and control banding are both risk assessment methods to evaluate and manage hazards in the workplace, there is a difference between the two approaches. For example, unlike control banding, the goal of occupational exposure banding isn’t to produce specific recommendations or guidance for exposure control. Instead, occupational exposure control banding focuses on assessing and categorizing chemical substances based on their potential health effects and exposure levels. 

Is Control Banding a replacement for traditional risk assessments? 

Control branding is not a replacement for traditional risk assessments but complements them, especially in situations where detailed data and resources are limited. It can serve as a quick and pragmatic approach. 

What are the limitations of control banding?

Some limitations of control banding include: 

  • Not a replacement for expertise: Control Banding provides valuable advice, but it is not a complete replacement for experts in occupational safety and health nor does it eliminate the need to perform exposure monitoring.
  • Results need to be reviewed by professionals: The control banding results may need to be reviewed by a health and safety professional to make sure that the control strategy is appropriate, adequately designed, properly installed, and maintained to keep worker exposure within acceptable limits.
  • Periodic monitoring required: Periodic monitoring is also required to check that the control methods are working properly. This ongoing assessment and oversight by experts are vital to the success of control banding in workplace settings, where the safety and health of workers are of paramount concern. 
  • Doesn’t cover all types of hazards: different control banding methods do not cover all types of hazards. To effectively control the hazards you want to address, it is important to ensure that the method you are using specifically covers those hazards. 

Control Banding Made Easier with Chemscape’s CHAMP Software

Control Banding is easier today with the increased adoption of GHS (Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals). Chemicals are classified systematically, and associated Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) have a standardized format. This system allows chemical products to be objectively compared and used by technology like Chemscape’s Chemical Hazard Assessment Management Program (CHAMP). This technology provides a consistent hazard and risk assessment and removes the bias involved in the traditional risk assessment process. To learn more about our chemical management solutions, get in touch with the experts at Chemscape Safety Technologies today.