Understanding potential occupational health and safety risks and how to control them is essential to any Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS). If done with skill, it can have immediate positive results. If not, the opposite effect of increasing potential risk and legal liability may result.
Limits of JHA/JSA
Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) have been the mainstay in workplace hazard assessment for at least the last decade. These tools have helped organizations improve their incident rates but are now at the limits of what they can do to advance an organizations health and safety performance.
The JSA/JHA process provides a very detailed analysis of all potential hazards from each task of a particular job but the JHA/JSA process can be time consuming. Often the JHA/JSA process is limited to identifying job hazards and a listing of the operational controls used to reduce risk. Rarely do the JHA/JSA’s assess the remaining risk from the hazards after the control is in place. This leads to uncertainty if the hazard and associated risk have been controlled to an acceptable level or not. The question, “is the control in place adequate” and “is the job safe enough” remain mostly unanswered using the JHA/JSA process.
A Better Approach
New approaches introduced with the publication of OHSAS 18001 have been taking hold and producing excellent results in obtaining additional OH&S performance improvement. The new approach is called the “Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Process” (HIERAP). This new approach helps quickly identify important job hazards and assess the level of risk associated with the job hazard. The output of this new approach is a prioritized list of hazards and risk which can be used as an ingredient in an overall OHSMS. With the prioritized list, an organization can focus its attention on what is most important (material) to ensure safety in the workplace.
A Few Important Considerations
- Engage employees – They often understand the risks of their jobs better than anyone else
- Develop a procedure – Think through details of the procedure and how you will us it and document the results. Include a risk matrix with clear definitions.
- Work with Top Management – They have ultimate responsibility for determining how safe is safe enough.
- Work Quickly – Establish a schedule to interview employees and capture their ideas about job hazards and risks. Stick to the schedule and avoid “paralysis by analysis”.
- Have a Plan to Act – The results of the Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment process will be enlightening or even surprising. Make sure you have a plan to follow-up on the results of the HIRAP in a timely fashion
Finally, sometimes organizational dynamics can influence how the results of hazard identification and risk assessment are perceived at different levels of the organization. Establishing the process/procedure and introducing it to top management before it is implemented can help avoid pushback from supervisory personal and managers.