Learn how to improve your company's safety & efficiency on the jobsite
by Bill Murphy
June 19, 2017

While the main goal of incident prevention strategies is always to protect workers from harm, an effective program also benefits the overall company as well. An OSHA review of facilities with well-established injury prevention policies found that, in addition to reducing the number of injuries, companies saw improved regulatory compliance, reduced costs and improved public reputation. Effective prevention strategies therefore improve not only the financial bottom line, but make businesses more attractive to the public, including potential customers and investors.

The key to an effective incident management program starts with a proactive approach in identifying and addressing hazards before incidents occur. A thorough job safety analysis (JSA) is a trusted process for evaluating workplace hazards and identifying process inefficiencies to facilitate continuous improvement. Performing a JSA for the jobs or processes at each worksite, updating them on a regular basis, and providing employees with easy access to their findings is essential to generating greater awareness of safety risks.

Below, we look at the four basic steps to performing a JSA of individual jobsite tasks in order to improve worksite safety and efficiency.

Step 1: Select the Jobs to Be Analyzed

A JSA can be performed for all jobs on a worksite, whether the task is routine or nonroutine. Even jobs that only perform a single task should be analyzed by evaluating the surrounding work conditions.

Generally, JSAs for jobs with the highest frequency and severity of injuries, or those with the highest potential for incidents, should be conducted first. Analyses of new jobs and jobs where changes have been made in processes and procedures should follow. Eventually, JSAs for all jobs should be conducted and made accessible for workers to review.

Step 2: Break the Job into a Defined Sequence

To perform a thorough and accurate JSA, each job must be broken down into a clearly defined sequence of individual tasks. Here, we look at tasks as the individual steps or functions that are required in sequence to complete a multistep work process, or job. Generally speaking, a job should contain no more than 10 individual tasks. If a JSA exceeds this number, the job should be separated into two or more separate phases. It is also vital to maintain the proper sequence of job tasks to ensure that hazards are addressed in the order they are encountered by workers during the identification phase.

Job task breakdown is typically accomplished through direct observation with a safety or project manager familiar with the job who records the series of individual tasks as they are performed by an experienced worker. This helps ensure that job tasks are performed in the proper sequence with a high level of precaution, making it easier to identify unforeseen hazards. Once the observation is complete, participants should convene to review the findings and ensure that all steps were sufficiently identified.

Step 3: Identify the Potential Hazards of Each Task

Hazards should be identified shortly after the observation and job task breakdown while the sequence and potential hazards are still fresh in participants’ minds. A number of questions should be asked to assess the potential hazards in performing individual job tasks, such as:

  • Does the equipment used present any potential hazards?
  • Is there a potential for slips, trips or falls?
  • Is there potential for exposure to toxic/hazardous substances or electrical hazards?

This list is by no means exhaustive, and the questions asked should reflect the unique potential hazards and work environments associated with each job. Employees performing the tasks for which the JSA is being conducted should provide input and insight to the hazard identification process, and strive to consider every possible outcome in the performance of each task. Proper controls should then be developed to limit the potential for the job hazards to result in a safety incident.

Step 4: Develop Preventive Measures to Reduce or Eliminate Hazards

There are four common strategies used in developing preventive measures for hazards associated with job tasks. In order of priority, they are:

  • Eliminate the hazard—Select or create alternate processes, modify existing processes, use less hazardous substances, modify the work environment or modify equipment.
  • Contain the hazard—Prevent contact or proximity to hazards using safety mechanisms and other engineering controls.
  • Revise work procedures—Eliminate hazardous tasks where possible, change the sequence of tasks or add additional steps where precautionary measures are appropriate.
  • Reduce hazard exposure—Minimize instances of hazard exposure, make use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and provide first aid for injury and illness treatment.

While these hazard prevention measures are listed in order of priority, hazard elimination is widely considered to be the most effective, longest-term solution to improving job safety.

Creating a Stronger Safety Culture

After a JSA has been completed, the findings must be made available to workers so they are aware of the hazards associated with the jobs they will be performing, and know what preventive measures will help them complete their tasks safely. Employers should also archive and reference this information to comply with hazard assessment and prevention requirements, and protect themselves from liability in the event of civil or criminal proceedings.

Today, EHS software solutions can help simplify creating, managing and implementing JSAs in industries like construction where jobs and tasks can widely vary across multiple worksites and contractors The best systems run off a centralized platform available across locations via the cloud, giving workers better access to quickly and easily create risk registers that show the hazards, risk levels, causes and preventative measures associated with any work process. Through the use of these software systems, JSAs can be viewed by employees—even through the use of their mobile devices—giving them better access to hazard and preventive information so they can work safer and more efficiently.

Better incident recording and investigation processes leads to more comprehensive documentation of incident details, which not only promotes worker safety but also offers a clearer picture of what went wrong, root causes, areas of responsibility and the steps needed to prevent incidents from happening in the future. By facilitating communication, participation and engagement among everyone involved on the worksite, JSAs offer the opportunity to identify unforeseen hazards and increase support from a stronger, more inclusive safety culture.