One of the cornerstones of a successful safety and health program is the inclusion of a process called job hazard analysis (JHA) or job safety analysis (JSA). These are fancy terms for figuring out the potential risks associated with a particular job and devising ways to control or eliminate them before an injury or accident occurs. The JHA technique focuses on the individual tasks associated with a job or specific mission and the identification of controls for the anticipated hazards in each job step. JHA is like performing occupational detective work where you solve the mystery before something goes wrong. This is done by proactively examining what can go wrong, how it can happen, what will be the result if it happens, how likely is it to occur, and how it can be prevented.
WHEN TO DO A JHA
A job hazard analysis can be performed for any job in the laboratory or in a field setting, such as a crime scene. It can be used for controls of routine tasks or “special” circumstances. In a fixed workplace, developing a hierarchy of selecting which jobs to do first can sometimes be daunting. One approach for relatively static operations might be to identify jobs with workers’ compensation claims or employee complaints. Obviously, the jobs with the highest rates of disabling injuries and illnesses should be first in the process. Jobs where “close calls” or “near misses” have occurred or where a simple human error could lead to serious injury should also be given priority. A JHA should be performed on jobs that are new and whenever changes are made to existing tasks. Ideally, this should be done first as the job is being developed to address anticipated hazards and then amended once the job is functional. Eventually, a job hazard analysis could be conducted for most all jobs in the workplace. In the field, there should always be a JHA performed as the hazards could run the gambit in each situation. In simple situations, this might simply be taking quick stock of any unusual concerns, in others it could become very complex and require expert assistance to keep staff safe. Hazards requiring consideration could include anything from working near traffic, falls from elevation, exposure to chemicals or electricity, poisonous plants or insects, entry into confined spaces, or exposure to dangerous machinery just to name a few.
No one knows more about how jobs are actually done than the employee doing them. They have a unique understanding of the job and this may be the key to finding hazards. Other workers who have performed the same job should be brought into the discussion if possible. Solicit information from your employees about hazards they suspect in their current work or surroundings. The worker should be involved in all phases including the review of job steps, discussion of potential hazards, and development of solutions. If through discussion, hazards are identified that present an immediate threat, take prompt action to protect the employee. Fix easy problems right away. Don’t wait to complete the hazard analysis before taking action.
CONDUCTING THE JOB HAZARD ANALYSIS
Before actually beginning the job hazard analysis, size up the general conditions. In a field situation for instance, there are some general observations you might make:
- Is this in a traffic area?
- Is lighting adequate?
- Do you need to work near the edge of something that could present a fall hazard?
- Are you near uncontrolled power sources? Do you need power? Are extension cords in use? Are there other electrical concerns?
- Do you have to enter an area contaminated with asbestos?
- Are there chemicals involved? Do you know what they are? Do you know how to protect yourselves from them?
- Any explosion hazards?
- Are there structural/collapse hazards?
- Are there sources of radiation (e.g. contamination or microwave transmitters)?
- Are contamination control procedures needed?
- Do you have appropriate proper personal protective equipment for the jobs? Are people knowledgeable in its use?
- Are there material movement issues?
- Entrapment or engulfment issues?
- Have you communicated your intentions to those that need to know from a safety perspective?
The list can go on depending on the circumstances.