Engineering Controls

Building a business case for engineering controls

Engineering Controls are used in scenarios where workplace hazards cannot be completely eliminated. They sit somewhere in the middle of the Hierarchy of Controls.

The elimination of hazards through the construction of physical barriers or offsetting of schedules so that pedestrians and equipment do not share the same path is the most effective means. Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as helmets, eye wear, ear plugs, and steel-toed shoes are worn to reduce the effects of exposure to environmental dangers are the least effective means.

Hierarchy of Controls

With regards to forklifts safety, there are several effective engineering controls as noted by a provider of manufacturing insurance.

Moving down to engineering controls, there are a multitude of technological solutions on the market today to aid in employer’s forklift safety efforts. Some examples are: lights that extend in front of or behind the machine to alert pedestrians to its presence, speed limiters that can prevent collisions due to travelling with excessive speed, and pedestrian sensing devices that alert drivers to stop movement.

Engineering Controls – Additional Cost or Cost Reduction?

While engineering controls can increase worker safety, the ultimate decision on “how, what and when” to do as well as the associated costs invariably becomes a basic business decision, generally based on a Return on Investment (ROI) calculation.

While some ROI calculations are straightforward, a ROI calculation in accident prevention can be elusive. A blog post by the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO quantifies and summarizes the ROI succinctly:

Various studies report that for every $1 invested in workplace safety, employers receive between $2 and $6 in return. Ohio BWC is investing in safety as well. We offer numerous opportunities for companies to get financial assistance when they invest in safety.

In 1999, the Ohio BWC established a Safety Intervention Grant program to evaluate ROI in engineering controls. In exchange for the grant, workers compensation claims were compared before and after the implementation of equipment. BWC grants have proven that workers compensation claims are consistently reduced when investments in engineering controls are subsidized.

With the safety intervention grant, private and public employers are eligible for a 3-to-1 matching grant, up to a maximum grant award of $40,000 for each eligibility cycle. This means BWC gives $3 for every $1 the employer contributes.

In return, employers will submit a one-year case study with a cost benefit analysis one year after the date of the intervention. Employers will also submit a two-year report two years after the date of the intervention. We’ll use this information to determine the effectiveness of the intervention and share successes with other employers.

Taking a deeper dive, the RAND Corporation independently studied the impact of the NIOSH-BWC partnership and effectiveness of safety intervention grants as they pertain to engineering controls. The BWC accelerated the growth of the grant program, quadrupled funding, based on NIOSH work. NIOSH determined that, when investments are made in engineering controls, savings are realized through avoiding workers’ compensation costs, associated productivity gains, and avoided uncompensated wage losses.

More than with the other case studies, the impacts of this work are still developing. Nevertheless, the authors find evidence that, between 2013 and 2017, NIOSH research has been associated with $4 million to $7 million per year in avoided workers’ compensation costs, $7 million to $11 million in new streams of annual productivity gains per year, and from almost $700,000 to more than $16 million in avoided uncompensated wage losses per year.

Given that grant awards totaled $13.8 million annually during this same period, it can be concluded that investments in engineering controls pay for themselves in the first year. The RAND study also notes that “unlike the other estimates, which are lump sums, these estimates are annual benefits that presumably last for the life of the purchased engineering control.”

If you are considering improving work safety while reducing your costs through engineering controls for your forklifts, like our ARINAlert™ system, we can help you build a business case by contacting us at and we can compare notes.