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Performing a Job Hazard Analysis

By Brian McFadden

A Job Hazard Analysis can identify appropriate protections to keep your workers safe.

Workplaces can be dangerous places, but many of the hazards of a typical work environment will not be obvious. To make your facility safer, you need a careful approach for finding and solving safety problems. Fortunately, there’s a system for this.

What is a JHA?

The Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) is a system for identifying and addressing hazards that exist in a facility. The results will include a safe operating procedure for the job that has been analyzed, and the JHA may also prompt changes in the work environment.

Typically, a JHA will be performed before work begins. The process should be repeated periodically to make sure changes in the workplace are not ignored. Ideally, each task performed in a workplace will have its own analysis.

While it’s possible for one person to go through the process on their own, it’s often helpful to recruit helpers; those who work in an area are more familiar with its needs and dangers, while outsiders and newcomers can bring a fresh perspective.

Four Steps of the JHA Process

The four steps of a Job Hazard AnalysisThere are four basic steps to the Job Hazard Analysis process:

  1. Choose a job to analyze, prioritizing jobs that have already resulted in injuries, or are likely to cause injuries (such as those in your company's near-miss records). Eventually, you’ll cover every task, but it makes sense to start with the most dangerous tasks.
  2. Describe the task in detail, including the basic questions of who does the work, when and where the work is performed, and how each step of the process is carried out.
  3. Identify the hazards that could be associated with the job. What would need to go wrong for a worker to be hurt? What kinds of injuries could result?
  4. Assign protective controls to mitigate those hazards. In many cases, the potential source of harm can be eliminated entirely. In other cases, changing the work environment or work process may be the best approach.

Every JHA has these same four steps, although they may be presented differently. Some people prefer to think of it as “Job Hazard Mitigation,” for example, which makes the name of the approach an easy way to remember the steps. Thinking this way, users describe the job, identify the hazards, and assign steps for mitigation; the result is essentially the same.

Tips for Completing a JHA

For each task that you need to consider, follow the same sequence of steps, keeping notes as you go. These notes will help make sure you don’t miss any details. They will also form the basis of your written record of the JHA process.

Some facilities even fill out a standardized form for each JHA to ensure consistency. These forms typically include three columns: one for the task description, one for the hazards, and one for the protective controls. These forms may be helpful, but they also limit the space available for notes.

Don’t expect to solve everything in a single analysis; plan for reviews and follow-up checks to find anything you missed. Making improvements in your facility can be easiest when it happens in dozens of small steps. This is the basic idea behind Kaizen, or continuous improvement, and that approach works for improving safety, as well as for improving productivity and profitability.

Another key aspect of Kaizen is to involve workers at every step of the process, taking advantage of the fact that the best insights can come from those most familiar with the real-world practices in place. Getting help from a revolving group of workers can make your job easier to handle, as well as making your JHA process better-informed and more effective.

JHA Pitfalls to Avoid

When performing a JHA, you may have to change established routines.While the JHA process can be a powerful tool for improving safety, there are some pitfalls that safety managers occasionally fall into. If you know about these weaknesses, you can prepare to avoid them.

The JHA process is most beneficial when it’s performed before workers start the task in question. This way, the controls you implement will already be in place by the time workers would be exposed to a hazard. In practice, though, the JHA is often performed for an established job in an existing workplace. Where workers are already in a habit, and management is already used to a process, it can be difficult to make meaningful changes. Don’t let this get you down; safety is an investment that pays off. It’s worth the effort to make changes that prevent illnesses, injuries, fines, and fatalities.

At the same time, don’t let the importance of the JHA process overwhelm you. It can be easy to “bite off more than you can chew” when you choose a task for a JHA. If you can’t effectively describe the steps of a task in a few bullet points, split the task into more manageable steps, and tackle each part of the process on its own.

Finally, just completing a Job Hazard Analysis does not solve the problems of safety. The decisions that are made must be implemented and maintained. Assign personal responsibility for each step that needs to be followed: if PPE needs to be provided, who is responsible for that? Don’t just assign responsibility; follow through with the stakeholders. It may be up to you to make sure nothing is missed; if a new problem arises, find out why, so you can help solve it.

Moving Forward with a JHA

You need buy-in to use a Job Hazard Analysis in your own workplace. To get that buy-in, make sure all the stakeholders know what’s going on. Managers need to understand how safety requirements fit into their business approach, and workers need to understand how your JHA process is going to affect them and their day-to-day procedures.

Graphic Products can help with this step, with a detailed Job Hazard Analysis Infographic describing the steps of the process and how it promotes safety. Graphic Products has also produced a webinar about the JHA process and its part in safety management.

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