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 that are 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. Then look at jobs that have not been in place very long (or that are not done regularly), as they can be risky because of 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 described in 10 steps or fewer (otherwise, you might want to consider breaking up the job into two for the purpose of conducting your analysis). For example, if the job involves operating a piece of heavy machinery, the steps might look something like this:
- Putting on protective gear
- Turning on the machine
- Performing the task
- Shutting down the machine
- Cleaning up
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 the job being performed and identify potential hazards.
To conduct the job safety analysis, observe the steps being performed under normal conditions. The observer should be someone who is experienced and capable of performing the job himself or herself, and should keep in mind that it is the job and the surrounding environment — not the person performing it — that is being studied.
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Identify and document potential hazards that are observed 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:
- 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?
- 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.
The final 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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