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How to conduct a job safety analysis

December 17, 2019

A worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds in the United States alone, according to the National Safety Council. Workplace injuries can result in lost workdays, lawsuits, and costly fines — not to mention needless pain and suffering for your employees. One way to prevent hazards that cause workplace illnesses and injuries is to conduct a job safety analysis (JSA).

A systematic examination of a job done for the purpose of identifying health and safety hazards associated with that job, a job safety analysis (sometimes called a job safety assessment, job hazard analysis or task hazard analysis) helps you protect your employees and ensure that your workplace is compliant with safety regulations.

An effective JSA focuses on the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment and can result in safer work methods, increased worker productivity, and reduced workers’ compensation costs.

There are four steps to conducting a job safety analysis:

1. Choose a job to analyze.

Ideally, you would eventually conduct a safety analysis on every job that is performed at your workplace — but you have to prioritize which procedures and processes you want to look at first. The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) recommends starting with jobs that fall into one of the following categories:

  • Jobs with high accident frequency or severity
  • Jobs involving dangerous conditions and/or hazardous materials
  • Newly established jobs
  • Jobs performed infrequently

You might want to begin by examining your company’s history and selecting the jobs that have the most frequent incidents and near misses to analyze first. Next, examine jobs that are new or infrequently performed, as their novelty or rarity can pose risks due to employee inexperience.

‍2. Break the job into smaller steps.

Once you’ve decided on a job to analyze, you’ll want to break it up into a series of smaller tasks. Most jobs can be outlined in 10 steps or fewer. If a job exceeds this, consider dividing it for analysis purposes. For example, if the job involves operating a piece of heavy machinery, the steps might look something like this:

  1. Putting on protective gear
  2. Turning on the machine
  3. Performing the task
  4. Shutting down the machine
  5. Cleaning up
Male distribution warehouse employee uses a digital tablet to perform a job safety analysis

This may sound like a tedious process, but it’s critical for conducting a proper safety analysis that identifies all of the potential risks associated with a particular job.

3. Observe and identify potential hazards.

To conduct the job safety analysis effectively, observe the steps under normal conditions. The observer, experienced and capable of performing the job, should focus on the job and its environment—not the person doing it.

Check out the 6 Most Common Workplace Hazards

Identify and document potential hazards you observe throughout each step of the job, being careful to look at the entire environment and notice every conceivable hazard that might exist. This includes health hazards where the harmful effect may not be immediate.

Here are some questions that might help:

  • Firstly, are slips, trips, or falls possible?
  • Could the employee’s clothes or body parts get caught between objects?
  • Do the machines or tools being used make excessive noise?
  • Might the employee experience strain from pushing, pulling, lifting or reaching?
  • Finally, are dust, fumes, or vapors present?

Most safety professionals will reference a risk matrix to determine the probability and severity of each risk.

4. Determine preventative measures.

Finally, the last step in the job safety analysis is to try to eliminate any hazards you have identified and share your findings with all workers who perform that job. While not all hazards can be eliminated, many can be mitigated to limit as much risk as possible.

Recommended actions might include:

  • Engineering the hazard out
  • Job instruction training
  • Adding or eliminating steps
  • Reducing the frequency of the task
  • Providing personal protective equipment
  • Housekeeping improvements
  • Making ergonomic adjustments

Be sure to review your job safety analyses (or conduct new ones) every couple of years to keep your workers — and your business — protected.

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