How to Conduct a Job Hazard Analysis

By Roy Maurer Feb 26, 2015
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A job hazard analysis (JHA) is an important tool for identifying and reducing hazards in any workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not specifically require employers to develop JHAs, but encourages their use for potentially hazardous tasks.

“You can help prevent workplace injuries and illnesses by looking at your workplace operations, establishing proper job procedures, and ensuring that all employees are trained properly” by conducting a JHA, according to the agency.

OSHA defines the JHA as a “technique that focuses on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur … [and] focuses on the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools and the work environment.” After identifying uncontrolled hazards, employers are expected to take steps to eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable risk level, OSHA said.

The process can also be used to train new workers to perform their jobs safely.

OSHA encourages employers conduct JHAs at worksites with occupations:

  • With the highest injury or illness rates.
  • With the potential to cause severe or disabling injuries or illnesses, even if there is no history of previous incidents.
  • In which one simple human error could lead to a severe accident or injury.
  • That are new, complex, or have undergone changes in processes and procedures.

Getting Started

Before beginning a JHA for a specific job, OSHA recommends:

Involving your workers. Employees know the job best at the frontline level and their knowledge is valuable in identifying hazards. “Involving employees will help minimize oversights, ensure a quality analysis, and get workers to ‘buy in’ to the solutions because they will share ownership in their safety and health program,” OSHA said.

Reviewing your accident history. Review the worksite’s history of accidents, occupational illnesses, damage to machinery or equipment, and any near misses—indicators that existing hazard controls may not be adequate.

Surveying your employees. Ask your workers about any hazards they’re aware of in their work areas, and brainstorm solutions to eliminate or control those hazards. “If any hazards exist that pose an immediate danger to an employee’s life or health, take immediate action to protect the worker,” OSHA reminded employers.

Ranking jobs. List and prioritize jobs with the highest risks and plan to conduct JHAs for those jobs first.

Outlining job tasks. Watch the employee perform the job and break down the steps that make up the job. It may be helpful to photograph or videotape the worker performing the job to create visual references for use during the analysis, OSHA said.

Conducting a JHA

OSHA advises creating a form that represents each task of a given job, plus a description of the task, the hazards and potential hazard controls.

“A job hazard analysis is an exercise in detective work,” the agency said. The goal is to discover:

  • What is the hazard?(What can go wrong?)
  • What are the consequences?
  • How could it happen?
  • What are other contributing factors?
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur?

Hazards are rarely the result of a singular cause resulting in a singular effect, OSHA said. It’s much more likely that many contributing factors line up in a certain way to create the hazard.

Additional inputs necessary when analyzing hazards include:

  • Environment: Where does the hazard exist?
  • Exposure: Who might be injured or made ill by the hazard?
  • Trigger: What event/events might cause the hazard to lead to an injury or illness?
  • Contributing factors.
  • Consequences: What are the possible results if an accident was to occur?

OSHA provided this example: A metal-shop worker clearing a snag comes into contact with a rotating pulley that pulls his hand into the machine and severs his fingers.

A JHA for this job would look like this:

  • What is the hazard? The worker’s hand could come into contact with a rotating object that catches it and pulls it into the machine.
  • What are the consequences? The worker could receive a severe injury and lose fingers or one or both hands.
  • How could it happen? It could happen as a result of the worker trying to clear a snag during operations or as part of a maintenance activity while the machine is operating.
  • What are other contributing factors? This hazard occurs very quickly. It does not give the worker much opportunity to recover or prevent it once his hand comes into contact with the pulley. “This is an important factor, because it helps you determine the severity and likelihood of an accident when selecting appropriate hazard controls,” OSHA said. Experience has shown that training is not very effective in hazard control when triggering events happen quickly because people cannot react in time.
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur? If there have already been near misses or actual incidents, then the likelihood of a reoccurrence is high. The likelihood of reoccurrence is high for the example given because basic safety practices such as machine guarding to prevent contact and utilizing a lockout/tagout procedure are lacking.

Finally, a plan is drawn up for controlling each hazard associated with each task.

Using the industry standard hierarchy of hazard controls is useful for this step. The hierarchy of hazard controls are, in order of effectiveness:

  • Elimination.Physically removing the hazard is the most effective control.
  • Substitution. Substituting processes, equipment, materials or other factors to remove the hazard, such as by replacing lead-based paint with acrylic paint.
  • Engineering. These controls do not eliminate hazards but isolate people from them, including through the use of machine guards, blast shields and exhaust ventilation.
  • Administrative. These change the way people work, including using work permits, scheduling modifications, additional training, exposure limitations, alarms, signs and warning labels.
  • Personal protective equipment. This includes respirators, hearing protection, protective clothing, safety glasses and hardhats.

What Then?

After completing JHAs for potentially hazardous job tasks, OSHA recommends discussing your findings with all employees who perform the tasks and encouraging feedback.

Employers should also communicate any job modifications or changes in work procedure and the reasons for the changes.

JHAs should be periodically reviewed and revised, especially after an illness or injury occurs.

If you need outside help to conduct a JHA, possible sources of help could include your insurance company, the local fire department, occupational safety and health consultants, and OSHA’s free consultation services.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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