Simply stated, a job hazard analysis (JHA) is an organized look at what could cause harm to employees in the workplace and work activities. It’s a way to determine if you have taken sufficient precautions to keep your people safe or if more needs to be done. It is important to decide if a hazard is significant and whether it has been dealt with appropriately so that the risk is acceptably low.

JHA and job safety analysis (JSA) can be used interchangeably and represent opposite sides of the same coin—looking for hazards to keep your employees safe. Hazard and risk are two terms that will come up often when discussing employee safety. A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause an employee harm. Common workplace hazards may include impact with falling or flying objects, being caught in or between a stationary or moving object, and falls from heights. A risk is the likelihood of an employee being exposed to that hazard and being harmed as a result.

When preparing to perform a JHA, it is important to keep some things in mind:

• It should assess risks that could be present in all work activities. This may result in the identification of particular areas that will need a more detailed, specific assessment.
• It may not be possible to eliminate all problems completely. In this case, it is necessary to do all that is “reasonably practical” to remove a hazard or to minimize the risk.
• A JHA relates to two aspects of employee safety: the management of employee safety by preventing injuries and the protection of their long-term health by preventing contact with potentially harmful substances (e.g., asbestos) or situations.
• Risks to health, such as occupational stress or contact with infectious diseases, need to be considered as well as the more obvious job-related safety issues, such as material handling, chemical contact or fire safety.

There are many different ways to perform a JHA and many different individuals who can perform one. Hiring a professional to complete your JHAs may be a good choice if your employees are involved in a number of complex processes. Independent safety companies are available for hire or assistance can come from less obvious sources such as your insurance company or the local fire department. A professional can complete some of the necessary JHAs, give tips on how to complete the rest and leave a template that will make completing them even easier.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides many programs that can be very helpful in completing your JHAs, including strategic partnerships, workplace consultations, voluntary protection programs, training and education.

It also is quite feasible for you and your employees to conduct your own JHAs. There is plenty of information available to help get a small business-owner started on this process.

Once you have determined who will do the JHAs, you must decide how to do them. Independent and OSHA consultants will have their unique procedures. If the JHA will be conducted in-house, there are many sources of information that can be used. The eSafetyline website managed by Intec has a step-by-step guide how to conduct an effective JHA. Also included on the site are many other tools to help a company to streamline the process.

OSHA has identified five steps to help any company or business to get started working on a JHA.

1. Involve your employees. It is crucial to include employees in the hazardanalysis process because they know the ins and outs of the job better than anyone, which is invaluable in finding hazards. This helps ensure a quality analysis and gets workers to buy into the solutions for the hazards that they find.
2. Review your accident history. Past incidents can be the best indicators of possible future issues.
3. Conduct a preliminary job review. Brainstorm with employees for ideas to eliminate or control those hazards that are obvious to them.
4. List, rank and set priorities for hazardous jobs. This will help to identify those jobs that should be the highest priority when conducting the analysis.
5. Outline the steps or tasks. When beginning a JHA, the job must be broken down into the individual tasks needed to complete the job. An easy approach is watching an employee complete the job and documenting the tasks necessary to complete it.

No matter who completes your company’s JHAs or how they get done, it is a very important part of your company’s overall safety plan to have a full set of JHAs for all tasks on the job site.

KELLY is a safety and health specialist with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. She can be reached at 800.745.4818 and Joe O’Connor edited this article.