OSHA Offers Some Job Hazard Analysis Tips

A job hazard analysis is a technique that focuses on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur. It focuses on the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment.

Supervisors can use the findings of a job hazard analysis to eliminate and prevent hazards in their workplaces. This is likely to result in fewer worker injuries and illnesses; safer, more effective work methods; reduced workers' compensation costs; and increased worker productivity. The analysis also can be a valuable tool for training new employees in the steps required to perform their jobs safely.

For a job hazard analysis to be effective, management must demonstrate its commitment to safety and health and follow through to correct any uncontrolled hazards identified. Otherwise, management will lose credibility and employees may hesitate to go to management when dangerous conditions threaten them.

A job hazard analysis can be conducted on many jobs in your workplace. Priority should go to the following types of jobs:

  • Jobs with the highest injury or illness rates;
  • Jobs with the potential to cause severe or disabling injuries or illness, even if there is no history of previous accidents;
  • Jobs in which one simple human error could lead to a severe accident or injury;
  • Jobs that are new to your operation or have undergone changes in processes and procedures; and
  • Jobs complex enough to require written instructions.

A job hazard analysis is an exercise in detective work. Your goal is to discover the following:

  • What can go wrong?
  • What are the consequences?
  • How could it arise?
  • What are other contributing factors?
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur?

Where to begin:

  1. Involve your employees. It is very important to involve your employees in the hazard analysis process. They have a unique understanding of the job, and this knowledge is invaluable for finding hazards. Involving employees will help minimize oversights, ensure a quality analysis, and get workers to "buy in" to the solutions because they will share ownership in their safety and health program.
  2. Review your accident history. Review with your employees your worksite's history of accidents and occupational illnesses that needed treatment, losses that required repair or replacement, and any "near misses"--events in which an accident or loss did not occur, but could have. These events are indicators that the existing hazard controls (if any) may not be adequate and deserve more scrutiny.
  3. Conduct a preliminary job review. Discuss with your employees the hazards they know exist in their current work and surroundings. Brainstorm with them for ideas to eliminate or control those hazards.

    If any hazards exist that pose an immediate danger to an employee's life or health, take immediate action to protect the worker. Any problems that can be corrected easily should be corrected as soon as possible. Do not wait to complete your job hazard analysis. This will demonstrate your commitment to safety and health and enable you to focus on the hazards and jobs that need more study because of their complexity. For those hazards determined to present unacceptable risks, evaluate types of hazard controls. More information about hazard controls is found in Appendix 1.
  4. List, rank, and set priorities for hazardous jobs. List jobs with hazards that present unacceptable risks, based on those most likely to occur and with the most severe consequences. These jobs should be your first priority for analysis.
  5. Outline the steps or tasks. Nearly every job can be broken down into job tasks or steps. When beginning a job hazard analysis, watch the employee perform the job and list each step as the worker takes it. Be sure to record enough information to describe each job action without getting overly detailed. Avoid making the breakdown of steps so detailed that it becomes unnecessarily long or so broad that it does not include basic steps. You may find it valuable to get input from other workers who have performed the same job. Later, review the job steps with the employee to make sure you have not omitted something. Point out that you are evaluating the job itself, not the employee's job performance. Include the employee in all phases of the analysis -- from reviewing the job steps and procedures to discussing uncontrolled hazards and recommended solutions.

    Sometimes, in conducting a job hazard analysis, it may be helpful to photograph or videotape the worker performing the job. These visual records can be handy references when doing a more detailed analysis of the work.

A job hazard analysis is an exercise in detective work. Your goal is to discover the following:

  • What can go wrong?
  • What are the consequences?
  • How could it arise?
  • What are other contributing factors?
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur?

To make your job hazard analysis useful, document the answers to these questions in a consistent manner. Describing a hazard in this way helps to ensure that your efforts to eliminate the hazard and implement hazard controls help target the most important contributors to the hazard.

Good hazard scenarios describe:

  • Where it is happening (environment),
  • Who or what it is happening to (exposure),
  • What precipitates the hazard (trigger),
  • The outcome that would occur should it happen (consequence), and
  • Any other contributing factors.

To perform a job hazard analysis, you would ask:

  • What can go wrong? The worker's hand could come into contact with a rotating object that "catches" it and pulls it into the machine.
  • What are the consequences? The worker could receive a severe injury and lose fingers and hands.
  • How could it happen? The accident could happen as a result of the worker trying to clear a snag during operations or as part of a maintenance activity while the pulley is operating. Obviously, this hazard scenario could not occur if the pulley is not rotating.
  • What are other contributing factors? This hazard occurs very quickly. It does not give the worker much opportunity to recover or prevent it once his hand comes into contact with the pulley. This is an important factor, because it helps you determine the severity and likelihood of an accident when selecting appropriate hazard controls. Unfortunately, experience has shown that training is not very effective in hazard control when triggering events happen quickly because humans can react only so quickly.
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur? This determination requires some judgment. If there have been "near-misses" or actual cases, then the likelihood of a recurrence would be considered high. If the pulley is exposed and easily accessible, that also is a consideration. In the example, the likelihood that the hazard will occur is high because there is no guard preventing contact, and the operation is performed while the machine is running. By following the steps in this example, you can organize your hazard analysis activities.

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