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How to Do a Job Safety Analysis: 6 Steps to Get It Right

Your employees depend on you to provide a safe environment for them to work in. Keeping so many employees safe is a huge responsibility, but it is one that you need to take seriously. 

Implementing well-defined, proactive safety programs such as a risk management process can help mitigate potential hazards at work. And for effective risk management, you need to start by identifying risks in every project. A job safety analysis, also called a job hazard analysis, can help with that.

Job safety analysis (JSA) is a technique that helps safety professionals identify potential workplace hazards before they occur and find the safest way to do the job. The JSA focuses on job tasks and the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools used, and the work environment. A JSA looks at specific job tasks individually, such as “operating a grinder” or “changing a flat tire.”

The goal of a job safety analysis is to pinpoint all potential hazards at every step of a process and then recommend the safest way to execute each task. Ideally, a JSA should be conducted at the worksite before a job begins or when an existing job process has been modified.

This article will discuss why a job safety analysis is important and the steps to conduct an effective JSA.

The Many Benefits of a Job Safety Analysis

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a whopping 2.7 million workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020, of which more than 4,500 were fatal. You can help prevent these by identifying possible workplace hazards and establishing preventive measures to create a safer work environment. A job safety analysis helps you identify and implement safe work procedures to prevent mild and severe injuries and even fatalities.

It also helps you comply with regulations, as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates formal hazard assessments at sites where risks may be present (such as confined spaces). A job safety analysis and other measures like a risk assessment can help you to comply with this mandate, preventing fines and lessening the potential for a lawsuit with a large settlement if an accident does occur.

A job safety analysis also shows employees that you care about their safety. It helps foster a safe work environment and create a robust safety culture. Other benefits include:

  • Increasing knowledge of various jobs for everyone involved
  • Improving health and safety awareness of all employees
  • Enhancing communication between supervisors and workers
  • Helping to establish and promote acceptance of safe job procedures
  • Facilitating a more comprehensive incident investigation if an accident ever occurs
  • Helping determine the safety training of employees
  • Reducing costs (in terms of workers’ compensation)
  • Possibly increasing revenue due to increased employee productivity

6 Steps of a Job Safety Analysis

While creating and implementing a job safety analysis process, you need to keep several variables in mind. From choosing which job to analyze to implementing safety measures to prevent incidents from occurring, there’s a lot to consider. A well-defined set of steps to follow might help. 

Here are the six critical steps in any JSA process:

Step 1: Select Which Job to Analyze

Job safety analysis: technician adjusting a machine

Ideally, you should do a job safety analysis for every job in your workplace. But if you have limited time and resources, you may not be able to tackle them all, especially because each JSA needs to be updated as new tasks, equipment, or machinery are introduced for a specific job. So, you need to start by prioritizing which jobs you’ll analyze first, based on the risk levels of the jobs. 

For example, in the manufacturing industry, jobs involving heavy machinery have multiple potential hazards including worker injury due to improper lifting, ergonomic issues, and more, making them a high priority for job safety analysis. Consider the following factors when choosing which jobs to analyze:

  • Accident frequency and severity: Prioritize jobs where there is a history of frequent accidents. For jobs in which accidents are infrequent, those that cause severe injuries would have high priority. 
  • Potential for serious injury or illness: Jobs conducted in dangerous conditions (e.g., scaffolding a high-rise building) or those that involve hazardous materials (e.g., radioactive chemicals) should be analyzed first.
  • New jobs or modified jobs: These jobs may have new and unanticipated hazards and present increased risk because workers are not experienced with the specific job procedures.
  • Infrequently performed jobs: Workers may lack experience in performing jobs that are not part of the regular routine, which may lead to greater risk.

To make this first step easier, talk to experienced workers who are doing these jobs. They are likely to know the ins and outs of their job better than anyone else and can talk about any difficulties they encounter. In addition, involving them will help you understand their concerns.

Step 2: Do a Step-by-Step Breakdown of the Job

After you choose which job to analyze, you need to break it down into basic job steps. Remember that specific steps are needed to identify hazards, but if they are too specific, there will be too many steps. 

Typically, if a job has more than 10 steps, you should either generalize your descriptions a bit or split the job into two and create separate JSAs for each. List every step in the order that the worker faces them. For example, operating a welding machine may involve:

  1. Preparing the materials to be welded
  2. Turning on the machine 
  3. Performing the task
  4. Turning the machine off
  5. Cleaning up the area if required

The best way to do this step-by-step breakdown is to consult an experienced worker and also to observe the job being performed. Having an environment, health and safety (EHS) professional participate in the observation makes this second step more effective, as their expertise will enable them to catch steps others may have missed. If not an EHS professional, the observer should be experienced and capable in all parts of the job (usually a supervisor).

It’s also a good idea to warn the worker ahead of time that they will be observed and to assure them that you’re not trying to catch them using unsafe practices. Conduct the observation during normal working hours (ex., observe at night if the job is usually performed at night), with the usual tools. After observing and recording the steps of the job, discuss the breakdown with everyone present (including the worker) to ensure that no steps were missed.

Step 3: Identify Hazards in Each Step

Job safety analysis: hard hat on the floor and a worker that had an accident in the background

After recording the step-by-step breakdown, examine each step for potential hazards. Be sure to inspect the environment around the immediate work area to find any additional hazards.

Use your observations of the job and the work area, any historical data about accidents and near misses, and the knowledge of experienced workers to list everything that could go wrong. Perform a second observation if necessary, focusing this time on the potential hazards at every stage, rather than on listing out the steps. At each stage, ask yourself (and the worker), “Could there be an accident or injury here?”

Consider all of the following potential workplace hazards: moving objects; sharp tools; machines; heavy objects (which may fall on the worker, or they may lift incorrectly and injure themselves); slipping, tripping, and falling hazards; any temperature extremes, chemicals; lighting; and more.

Once you complete your list, review it again with everyone involved (experienced workers, the worker you observed, the EHS professional who participated, etc.) to ensure you haven’t missed anything.

Step 4: Determine Control Measures to Overcome Hazards

After all the hazards are identified, the next step is to find and implement administrative controls to overcome the hazards. The possible control measures are:

  1. Eliminate the hazard. This is the most desirable hazard control measure. The hazard may be eliminated by using a different process for the job, modifying the existing process or equipment used, improving the work environment (e.g., better ventilation or lighting), or substituting materials with less hazardous ones.
  2. Contain the hazard. If you can’t completely eliminate the hazard, you need to try to restrict it as much as possible. You could do this by using enclosures, machine guards, fencing, booths, etc. to prevent direct contact.
  3. Revise work procedures. If the hazard can’t be eliminated or contained (such as a fall risk), try modifying the job process to reduce the risk level. You could add steps (e.g., locking out energy sources before maintenance) or change the sequence of the steps of a task. Another option would be to keep as many workers as possible away from the hazard to improve overall safety.
  4. Reduce exposure. If none of the above measures will work, try to reduce the exposure to the hazard. This could be done by reducing how frequently workers encounter it (e.g., upgrading equipment so that it requires less maintenance), requiring the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), or providing emergency facilities like eyewash stations to remove irritants from the eyes (useful in work environments with many particulates or dust).

Step 5: Document and Communicate the Findings

Document the findings of the JSA clearly and communicate them to all affected employees so they know what hazards they’re likely to face. Incorporate control measures to overcome the likely hazards and let workers know the reasons for these changes. Consider if additional safety training for workers or supervisors would be beneficial. 

In all communications with employees, be specific in your instructions on preventive measures. Don’t use vague phrases like “use caution.” Instead, state exactly what measures workers should take to protect themselves. If necessary, provide additional resources like a safety data sheet for hazards that can’t be eliminated so that workers understand the risks involved in the job and the best ways to stay safe. 

Lastly, make your report easily accessible to all stakeholders, by providing hard copies, sending in an email, or notifying them of the report’s availability on an online platform.

Step 6: Review and Update Periodically

Manager explaining something to a worker

The job safety analysis is not a rigid document. It needs to be reviewed regularly and revised if a new review finds safety hazards that were not included earlier. Here’s when a review may be necessary:

  • Routine follow-up: Ideally, a manager or supervisor should observe the job task monthly, compare it to the JSA, and update if necessary.
  • Following an incident: If an incident occurs despite a JSA, the accident investigation should include a comparison of the procedures outlined in the JSA with what happened. This can help you identify gaps in the JSA and fix them.
  • After changes in process or equipment: Any change in the process or equipment may bring in new hazards and so a review of the JSA is necessary.

Automation Can Strengthen Your Job Safety Analysis

While conducting a job safety analysis, there's a lot to consider. You need to first analyze and prioritize which jobs to review, which requires knowledge of each job, as well as historical data about incidents and any near misses, to understand risks. Then, you need to observe the job taking place and record the basic steps of each job task accurately, identify the hazards and their risk levels, and find ways to eliminate or reduce the risks. Next, you then need to communicate your findings to everyone involved, and even revise the whole thing from time to time.

It’s difficult to do all this manually, and the sheer amount of work involved may lead to errors. In this case, such errors may even prove fatal. A cloud-based solution such as Pulpstream’s risk management platform can make the whole process much smoother and more efficient. You can use it to store your observations, record incidents, upload and access data about a job, analyze risk levels, and automate communications with stakeholders.

Be proactive about your workers’ safety with Pulpstream today! Click here for a free demo.