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Analyze Your Way to Safer Jobs

One of the best ways to determine safe work procedures to protect workers in a particular job is to conduct a job hazard analysis.<

Job hazard analysis is a simple but powerful 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 equipment, and the work environment. The idea is that once you’ve identified job hazards, you can steps to eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable risk level.

Job hazard analysis is relatively easy to do, although it takes time. For it to be meaningful, you have to carefully analyze hazards for each job category and for each step in each job. You also have to do some digging into past performance.

Priority should go to:

  • 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
  • Jobs complex enough to require written instructions

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The Process

1. Involve employees. It’s 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 accident history. Review with employees your workplace’s history of accidents and occupational illnesses, accident damage that required repair or replacement, and any near misses. These are indicators that existing hazard controls 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. Of course, if any hazards exist that pose an immediate danger to an employee’s life or health, take immediate action to protect the worker.

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4. List, rank, and set priorities. 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 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. Review the job steps with the employee to make sure you haven’t omitted something. Point out that you are evaluating the job itself, not the employee’s job performance.

6. Identify hazards. List the hazards you identified in Step 3 (as well as any additional hazards you discovered when observing the employee) with each step or task involved in the job.

Two additional points:

  • Be sure to include the employee in all phases of the job hazard 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 video the worker performing the job. These visual records can be handy references when doing a more detailed analysis of the work.

Tomorrow, we’ll show you a sample of a job hazard analysis to put today’s theory into practice.

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