Job-hazard analyses: What most firms miss

by on March 27, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
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You know that job-hazard analyses (JHAs), when done properly, can help workers spot hazards effectively and avoid getting hurt.

That’s why so many companies use JHAs and why OSHA recommends their regular use.

But any JHA program can run afoul of five hidden traps – snares that often only become clear after the fact.

JHA safety guru Sal Caccavale of the National Safety Council recommends watching out for the following:

1. Ignoring repetitive motion as a hazard
You know that each job-hazard analysis includes a hazard-identification step. It’s relatively easy to spot potential crush and amputation hazards, pinch points, electrical dangers and the like.

But there’s one that’s harder to spot: ergonomic and repetitive-motion injuries.

Why? Because the consequences aren’t immediate.

But if the JHA identifies issues such as awkward postures and unnecessary bending, you’ll have a better chance of reducing cumulative injuries.

Example: A worker installing a pipe in a tight area realizes that he’ll have to extend his arms all the way to tighten some bolts.

That kind of arm-reaching puts a lot of stress on his shoulders. He may get away it with a couple of times. But if he has to do it repeatedly, he can suffer an injury from repetitive motion. In this case, the solution is an extension tool.

Bottom line: Make sure JHA forms include an ergonomics section. You can include line items such as, “Is there an awkward posture required?”

Solutions can include:

  • “Is there a tool to prevent the posture?”
  • “Is there another way to do this work?”
  • “Can the work be redesigned?”

2. Missing the second hazard
During a JHA, workers first break down a job into discrete steps, then look for specific hazards connected to each step. At this point, it’s easy to fall into a one-step, one-hazard, way of thinking.

Problem: What if there are two or three hazards present within one step? As you know, job tasks don’t always neatly match the lines on a form.

Example: One maintenance worker approached a bandsaw and immediately saw it wasn’t guarded properly. But he kept looking, and also noticed it wasn’t bolted to the floor, making it potentially unstable during maintenance.

Fortunately, no one in this case got injured, and a supervisor spotted the hazard during the JHA.

Suggestion: Whenever workers spot a hazard, remind them not to skip ahead. Have them keep looking for a second (or third) hazard before assuming the JHA has been conducted thoroughly.

3. Not looking at near misses
OSHA recommends JHAs for high-hazard tasks and jobs that result in high injury rates. That’s well and good, but it doesn’t go far enough. Near-misses often get overlooked.

Example: A worker’s repairing a leaking machine. The containment vessels frequently end up getting a lot of grease on them, which leaves slippery spots on the floor. Workers slip, but don’t fall.

In this case, awareness of near misses might show the need to revisit a JHA to see how to mitigate potential slip-and-fall hazards.

4. Forgetting who the JHA is for
It’s easy to think either a specific task needs a JHA or not. JHA-required tasks might include those with a potential for catastrophic failure, severe injury potential or those tasks where you have the highest-rates of injuries.

But there’s a trap lurking in there: the JHA is really designed more for a specific worker.

Example: A worker is re-assigned to a punch press. He used to work on that machine, but it was six months ago. He doesn’t do a new JHA.

Halfway through the shift, he has to adjust the machine, forgets how to do it, and cuts his hand on a blade. A new JHA would have better prepared him for adjustments and refreshed his memory before the shift.

Suggestion: Workers assigned to new jobs, transferred to different jobs (even if they’ve done it before) and jobs where a worker has already suffered an injury are excellent opportunities for a new JHA. JHAs can also become an excellent way to conduct refresher training.

5. Missing ‘rare’ jobs
Finally, rare jobs often need new JHAs. Workers may have forgotten how to do them safely.

Example: Workers clean out a mud pit containing excess industrial processes every few months. They may have forgotten what the hazards are and the correct PPE to use with cleaning chemicals.

Suggestion: Require new JHAs for any task that no one has done for more than 90 days.

That will refresh memories, and also help everyone involved spot new hazards that may have cropped up.

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