Control banding is a technique used to provide a set of clearly defined safety measures for virtually any work environment. The system uses categories known as bands, which are essentially a graduated set of severity levels for any given type of hazard. Each band also has an associated control, which can be used to reduce the likelihood of a hazard causing a workplace injury. Businesses can use these bands and controls to easily assess any potential dangers in the work environment and then take the necessary precautions. Control banding is typically regulated by government agencies, as each country has its own way of approaching workplace safety.
The first industry that control banding was used in was pharmaceuticals, though it has spread to other areas as well. Since the pharmaceutical industry often works with chemical compounds that have not yet been fully tested, a technique was required to govern handling procedures. By placing known chemicals into bands and then applying a uniform set of handling procedures to new compounds with similar properties, it became possible to provide workers with a sufficient level of safety.
There are a number of different ways to set up control banding systems, though they all work on the same basic principles. One way is to create a number of different bands, each of which refers to a particular hazard level and a method to deal with it. An example is an airborne chemical that can be grouped into bands according to how many parts per million (PPM) are present in the air. At a low concentration the control band might call for ventilation, while a higher band may require the chemical to be located in a sealed environment so it cannot mix with the air breathed by the workers.
Control banding can also be approached by creating a matrix composed of hazard levels and the ease with which workers might be exposed to them. A low severity and a low exposure might call for basic ventilation, while other locations in the matrix could require various controls or even the isolation of the substance. These same processes can be applied to virtually any type of hazard, as control banding is not limited to chemical exposure.
In order to assure worker safety, many governments provide businesses with control banding recommendations or requirements. The technique can be particularly useful to small businesses, since they often lack the resources that larger firms have to perform their own research. By examining the relevant bands, a small business can easily identify the proper controls needed to ensure employee safety.