Use Job Safety Analyses To Enhance Your Safety Program

The General Duty Clause of the United States Occupational Safety and Health Act (Federal OSHA) states in 29 CFR 5(a)1 that:  “each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”  Some would infer that this clause provides a “pass” to employers who failed to recognize a particular hazard.  Rather, this clause provides a means for OSHA to cite employers when there is no specific standard published to address a particular hazard. 

It’s just good practice to systematically evaluate jobs and tasks to identify potentially hazardous situations as well as the means to mitigate these situations.  Instituting (or improving) your Job Safety Analysis Process (J-SAP) can be an effective means to do this.  J-SAP has been in existence, in one form or another, for decades.  So what is it?  J-SAP is a structured process that assists employers identify hazards in the work their employees perform, and introduces steps to take to eliminate these hazards and the risk of injury they present.  When performed correctly, J-SAP is an effective accident prevention tool that enhances workplace safety.  J-SAP breaks down jobs into specific tasks or steps, identifies the associated hazards, lists the safe procedures, tools, and personal protective equipment (PPE) required to mitigate this task.

Developing JSAs is a big job for any organization, no matter how well resourced it may be.  We recommend sharing the responsibility through the use of work teams comprised of hourly and supervisory employees who represent multiple departments (manufacturing, maintenance, and quality, for example).  The workers who actually perform the task or job being analyzed must be included on the team, as they are the job experts.  Select employees who have the knowledge and experience on the jobs being analyzed.  Employees who work the job know the job best, and are best equipped to perform a quality review on the final product.

So where do you start?  How can you determine which positions/tasks to target?  We recommend reviewing injury reports and workers’ compensation claims to identify high hazard jobs, and start with these.  Consider those positions that include interaction with equipment, and whose equipment is subject to shutdown or maintenance.  Also consider jobs or tasks that are non-routine in nature.

Effective JSAs don’t live on a binder on a shelf, but rather are “living, breathing” documents that constantly evolve with continued use.  JSAs can be effective training tools for newly hired or transferred employees, and can serve as a great refresher for incumbent employees.  Consider using them during incident investigations, to ensure that all steps, hazards, and related safe procedures have been included, and revise accordingly if not.  Make sure JSAs are completed with the introduction of new processes or equipment.  Add this review as a formal step in your new process/product engineering sign-off. 

When implemented correctly, the J-SAP supports a progression of your safety culture from reactive to proactive, and is one component of a larger commitment to a safety and health management system.