Incorporating JSAs Into Your Safety Process

All information captured by you and your team can be further analyzed and used in order to predict, mitigate, and avoid risk.

The job safety analysis process has many aliases and acronyms, although in its pure essence it’s a process by which jobs or tasks are assessed so that potential hazards can be identified and eliminated prior to the start of work.

Integrating this process into your overall program can be challenging and time consuming. This article will, at a high level, step you through four key considerations as you work to incorporate it into your workflow.

Step One: Establishing a Task
It's necessary to first know the timing of and what tasks are occurring because this will provide an opportunity to focus on the most-at-risk operations first. Advance notice lends opportunity to collaborate with the team in order to identify all of the hazards and the steps to mitigate the risk. Open communication is key, and supporting a culture of prevention and coaching to improve will lead to sustainable success.

Think about the upcoming tasks along with the associated risks. Which do you do most frequently? Which are the most error likely situations? Which, if an incident were to occur, would cause the most severe injury? Assign a ranking of 1-5 to each of these questions for each task you do and then multiply the three together. Whichever has the highest number should typically be focused on first. This is a risk-based approach directly correlated with frequency, probability, and severity. Staying plugged in via look-ahead or status meetings is a great way to evaluate how the JSA process is performing.

Step Two: Developing the JSA
Developing a JSA requires a team approach. To do this effectively, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who will be performing the work?
  • Who will be a comprehensive contributor who cares about how they perform the work?
  • How can I organize this such that everyone has input and can give feedback?

Employees, especially those at the hands-on level, typically have a perspective that is unique when it comes to identifying potentially hazardous conditions and frequently have a deep understanding of the job site and its riskiest areas. This depth of knowledge is a valuable tool to use when mitigating risk.

To begin, break the task down into manageable steps. All too often, JSA documents are developed that are multiple pages long and hard to read. This greatly reduces their use and effectiveness. Target five or fewer key steps to completing the activity, although note that some may be slightly longer.

For each step required to complete the task, think about the tenets of risk and how an individual might be affected. Are they using a ladder, near rotating equipment, or even working with chemicals? In the most basic sense—and something we can all relate to—let’s think about changing a tire. We have to raise the vehicle, loosen the lugs, remove the tire and replace with the spare, tighten the lugs, and then lower the vehicle. What could go wrong here? The vehicle could fall, sharp edges could result in a laceration, we could be struck by passing vehicles, and we could strain ourselves removing the lugs or lifting the tires. There might be others, but these are where the preemptive discussions are valued.

Now, for each of the hazards identified, determine what needs to be done to avoid being injured. Think about the hierarchy of hazard control starting with engineering, followed by administrative controls, and lastly personal protective equipment. Document it clearly and appropriately so that it's not cumbersome to read and easy to understand.

Step Three: Training & Field Application
Now that the team has assembled the JSA, we need to make sure that it's communicated to people engaged in the work and that the documents are made available for their reference. The way we do this is to incorporate it into a monthly safety meeting or a weekly/daily toolbox talk. Discuss it with the team and review each line item. Present an opportunity to ask and answer questions and set expectations that all of the tasks we engage in have to be covered by a JSA. Also, these are living documents, and the best documents have field markings on them to capture changes in conditions.

If we come on a job site and we see that instead of a canned JSA being used, the team has written one of their own that covers what they're actually doing—great! They've taken an initiative and made it their own. Reward and embrace that as a success.

Step Four: Evaluating
At least once per year or more frequently if conditions warrant, the JSAs should be evaluated for appropriateness. As mentioned above, field edits will occur, and it’s important to review those edits to see whether they can be incorporated into the final product. Proper checks and balances should be put in place to ensure the sustainability of the adopted JSA program. One effective way to measure progress is to make use of different key performance indicators.

For example, the use of trend lines allow us to evaluate completeness of the JSA, understanding how it was written, the level of training, and the level of appropriateness of the document for the task it should cover. In addition, keep in mind that all captured information by you and your team can be further analyzed and used in order to predict, mitigate, and avoid risk.

The evaluation process serves as a quality check and an opportunity to learn from the field performance. The use of a checklist can be effective in accomplishing this because it provides an organized approach toward the program review.

In summary, to limit the exposure to risk and give ourselves the best opportunity to protect ourselves, we need to take a systematic approach to evaluating the work we do for hazards. Additionally, both behaviors and conditions have to be evaluated every time we do a job, because circumstances tend to change. The JSA process, if implemented correctly and maintained, provides an opportunity to conduct these evaluations and to plan to address issues before they happen.

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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