Safetip #99: Break Down a Job into Steps by Observing a Worker

October 11, 2017
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

This week’s Safetip is about Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) / Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and breaking down a job into steps by observing a worker.

Break Down a Job into Steps After Selecting It

As part of an occupational safety and health program, a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) or Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is an effective way to: 1) identify workplace hazards that can lead to risks of injuries and illnesses, 2) assess the risks, 3) eliminate hazards or put control measures in place to mitigate risks.

JHA and JSA are used interchangeably by many, but there are slight differences. According to a definition in a Safety+Health magazine article, JSAs cover only the following three items: job steps, hazards associated with each step, and safety measures for avoiding hazards. But JHAs add risk assessment to JSAs with an evaluation of risk for each step and determination of likelihood and severity.

The very first step of a JHA/JSA is to select the job to be analyzed. The second step consists of breaking down the job into basic steps.

Observe a Worker, Don’t Just Rely on Knowledge

When breaking down a job into basic steps, it could be tempting to save time by simply relying on knowledge, i.e. by listing all job steps based on your understanding of the job, or by asking the worker involved to describe the job steps while you record them. But this is not enough because job steps must be recorded in their correct sequence and potential hazards can be missed if a worker is not observed performing the steps in their actual working environment.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS), the observer is normally the immediate supervisor, but there should also be another person (e.g. a member of the safety committee) to make sure that the analysis is more thorough and that key points are not missed. The job observer should have experienced all parts of the job, CCOHS says. Also, the reason for the exercise must be clearly explained to the worker, to avoid the misconception that the worker is being monitored for other reasons.

In addition, the job should be observed during normal times and situations (e.g. observing at night for a job done only at night). Finally, once completed, the breakdown of steps should be discussed by all the participants, including the worker, to make sure that all steps are noted and in the correct order, CCOHS says.

With the breakdown of a job into steps completed, you can then proceed to the next steps of a JHA/JSA: Identify potential hazards for each step; assess risks at each step; and determine measures to eliminate hazards or mitigate risks.

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