A New Approach To Job Hazard Analysis

Unfortunately, safety programs are too often a reactionary afterthought in many organizations. That is, safety only becomes important immediately after an accident or injury has occurred.

Though injuries or fatalities are profound enough to make anyone rethink safety, management and employees should begin making safety a priority long before something bad happens. Isn’t it better to make safety a priority before an injury or accident occurs so hopefully it can be avoided? The employee who gets his fingers amputated or sustains serious injuries after a 30 foot fall probably thinks so.

One way to identify hazards in a workplace and prevent unnecessary accidents is a job hazard analysis.

According to OSHAcademy, an online safety training provider, a job hazard analysis (JHA) is a 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 the work environment. Then, ideally, after uncontrolled hazards have been identified, steps are taken to eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable risk level.

The traditional approach to a job hazard analysis typically includes a series of steps similar to those included below:

  1. Create a list of jobs that might require a JHA.
  2. Prioritize those jobs based upon the level of risk (probability x severity) associated with each.
  3. Develop a sequence of steps required for each job.
  4. List the hazards that exist at each step.
  5. Write down potential preventive measures to reduce or eliminate the hazards associated with each step.
  6. Create safe job procedures or practices for each step.

However, during one of his presentations at the recent Oregon GOSH Conference, John Ratliff, an Industrial Hygienist, Safety Professional, and Vietnam Vet, proposed a new approach to conducting a JHA.

Jolly Green Giant Helicopter

Jolly Green Giant Helicopter

He began his presentation by telling an experience he had during the Vietnam War when he was on a combat training flight out DaNang. After the Super Jolly Green HH-53, a very large and heavy helicopter Ratliff was on, hit the tops of several large trees, he put on a safety harness and looked at the belly of the helicopter. Tree vines trailed from underneath to about twenty feet behind the helicopter and there was a fluid running back toward him. Usually, fluids coming out of a helicopter are either fuel or hydraulic fluid. The only way for Ratliff to identify the fluid was by tasting it! He took off his glove, stuck his finger into the fluid, and tasted it. It was salty! Neither fuel or hydraulic fluid was supposed to taste salty, so he quickly turned around and discovered the flight engineer using the urinal!

Ratliff went on to explain, “You can’t rely on inexact methods or solely rely on your senses to determine the hazards in a workplace.” You can’t just stick your finger into a container of chemicals to help you discover if there is a hazard associated with a particular job–not only is this unsafe, but it is also inexact.

As a result, Ratliff developed what he terms the updated JHA format, or the Industrial Hygiene (IH) Approach. Though this approach encompasses all of the components of the traditional JHA approach, it adds to the process in several significant ways:

Exposure Risk Assessment & Management Process

Exposure Risk Assessment & Management Process. Source: AIHA.

Ratliff has developed several important documents that assist safety professionals in conducting the updated JHA format. These documents are included below with his permission. Please note the copyright.

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The IH Approach to JHA document above is a worksheet that can be used to actually conduct the analysis. It should be used in conjunction with the ACGIH TLV booklet, the Lift-Safe Users’ Manual based upon the 1991 Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation, and the NIOSH Lift Equation Analysis spreadsheet included below.

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After you have identified all of the chemical, physical, and ergonomic hazards associated with a particular job, it’s important to assess its level of risk. By using the Risk Assessment Matrix developed by Ratliff below, you will be able to determine which jobs are the most hazardous. This, in turn, will help you focus your safety efforts on the jobs that are most likely to result in an accident and use the Hierarchy of Controls to figure out how to reduce the associated hazards. After you address the hazards for more accident-prone jobs, you can then move on to other jobs and continue to improve workplace safety in other areas.

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By being proactive when it comes to safety and utilizing the IH Approach to job hazard analysis, you will be able to make a positive difference in your organization and prevent potential injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Not only will your workers be thanking you, but their families and your pocketbook as well.

How does your organization prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace? Do you conduct job hazard analyses? Comment below or join our forum conversation!