All workers have the right to a safe work environment, but every year, more than 4.1 million workers in the United States suffer from work-related injuries and illnesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces regulations to combat workplace hazards. As an employer, you are legally required to take steps to correct all known hazards in your workplace. To help identify and correct potential hazards, you can conduct a job hazard analysis (JHA). This is also sometimes called a job safety analysis, task hazard analysis or job hazard breakdown.
What is a Job Hazard Analysis?
A Job Hazard Analysis is a formal process that helps you identify the most hazardous jobs in your workplace, determine what the hazards and potential consequences of these jobs are, and develop corrective and preventative measures to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of accidents, injuries and illnesses. A hazard is anything in the workplace that has the potential to cause harm to workers. Conducting regular JHAs in your workplace will help reduce worker injuries, illnesses and unsafe work practices, and increase overall productivity and morale.
There are four steps in a job hazard analysis. First, you should determine which jobs to analyze. To do so, you should review your company’s accident, injury and near-miss logs. JHAs are particularly effective when used to review:
Next, you should break down each job into a series of steps. These steps should be descriptive enough to fully describe the job, but not so complex that there are dozens of steps listed. See at the following example:
- Approach the stack of metal piping
- Pick up a metal pipe
- Carry it to the workstation
- Set it down on the workstation
This example has an unnecessary level of detail. These four steps could easily be summarized into one simple step: Transfer a metal pipe from the stack to the workstation.
After making a list of steps, you’ll evaluate each step and think of potential hazards that could occur during each step. For example, the worker may have to bend down dozens of times a day to pick up that metal pipe from the floor-level stack. This is an ergonomic hazard, and over time it could lead to a musculoskeletal disorder, such as chronic back pain. The worker could also drop the metal pipe on their feet while carrying it, causing broken or fractured bones and time off work. Continue this process for each step, asking yourself the following questions:
After evaluating each step, you’ll develop and implement controls to eliminate or minimize the hazards that you’ve found. For example, you may consider stacking the metal pipes on a waist-height table instead of the floor to reduce bending and requiring all workers to wear steel-toed boots to prevent foot injuries. To correct hazards, you should use the hierarchy of hazard controls.
The Hierarchy of Hazard Controls
To correct hazards in your workplace, use the hierarchy of hazard controls. This is a four- step process. First, you should try to eliminate the hazard, or substitute it for something less hazardous. If this isn’t possible, you should try to use engineering controls to alter the work environment so that workers don’t come into contact with the hazard. An example of an engineering control is placing railing on all walkways so that workers are less likely to fall off. If this isn’t possible, you’ll use administrative controls, or safe work practices. An example of this is training all employees to recognize the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, and your facility’s emergency procedures for such a situation. If none of the above approaches eliminate the hazard, you should provide your employees with personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is anything worn to put a barrier between employees and a hazard, such as gloves, boots, or eye protection.
To keep your employees safe, you’re legally required to address hazards in your workplace. JHAs help you identify and correct hazards. First, you should determine which jobs to analyze. Then, you should list the steps for each job. Next, you should identify potential hazards for each step. Finally, you should use the hierarchy of hazard controls to remove the hazard from your workplace or make it less dangerous.
For more information, see the following links:
- OSHA | Job Hazard Analysis
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety | Job Safety Analysis
- OSHA | Selecting PPE for the Workplace