Whether the term used is job hazard analysis, activity hazard analysis or job safety analysis, the goal remains the same: to mitigate work-related hazards in order to reduce risk to workers. Through implementation of JHA, worker safety relies less upon a work supervisor’s individual knowledge of hazard recognition and control development, and more upon a well-defined JHA process.

In 2014, nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers occurred at a rate of 3.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, according to estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the same reporting period, nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by waste management employers occurred at a rate of 5.1 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, and at a rate of 8.4 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers in materials recovery facilities. Clearly, the industry can do better. Transportation and material moving occupations, which are essential to recycling, collection and transfer, compost, landfill and waste conversion operations, accounted for the largest share (28 percent) of fatal occupational injuries in 2014 of any occupational group. Clearly, the industry must do better. Beyond the need to meet the ethical responsibilities of leaders in waste management, occupational injuries and illnesses and fatalities undermine the stability, resilience and performance of business.

Establishing Prevention Strategies

Prevention of occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities requires that waste management leaders establish an expectation of zero-accident performance during all operations. Next, prevention requires that essential safety expertise is had by, or available to, waste management leaders and supervisors with responsibility for safe work performance. The myth that safety is simply “common sense” has been dispelled over the years. While much of safe work performance does require what most would consider “common sense”, the challenge lies in the subjectivity of “common sense”. Our “common sense” is shaped by our individual life experiences and biases, and rarely are they the same from one individual to the next. Consequently, “common sense” varies from one individual to the next, which underpins why it cannot be solely relied upon to deliver zero accident performance. While the value of workers’ know-how about how to get the job done cannot be overestimated, it is essential that safe work planning be augmented by safety expertise skilled in hazard recognition and control, and compliance.

Implementation of a systematic approach to hazard recognition and control can contribute significantly to the prevention of adverse outcomes. One commonly used process for implementing a systematic approach is job hazard analysis (JHA)—sometimes referred to as activity hazard analysis or job safety analysis. In general, a JHA is a systematic process for:

  • Clarifying the scope of the job to be performed
  • Analyzing each work step necessary to successfully complete the job
  • Identifying potential hazards associated with each work step
  • Prescribing hazard controls to mitigate the identified hazards in order to reduce risk to the worker

Whether the term used is JHA, activity hazard analysis or job safety analysis, the goal remains the same: to mitigate work-related hazards in order to reduce risk to workers. Through implementation of JHA, worker safety relies less upon a work supervisor’s individual knowledge of hazard recognition and control development, and more upon a well-defined JHA process.

Job hazard analysis also contributes to the maturation of a learning organization. The waste management industry is process driven, and many of those processes are the same or similar regardless of the location of the plant within a region, across the U.S. or across the globe. As process or activity-specific job hazard analyses are developed within a company, the hazards identified and the controls selected can be shared with others who may be responsible for those same or similar operational processes performed elsewhere. As job hazard analyses are shared within a company, and as they are improved upon over time, the organization’s understanding of the hazards encountered by workers improves, and hazard control techniques improve similarly. The result is that a learning organization is better prepared to heighten worker safety performance, reduce the risk to workers and drive toward the goal of zero accident performance.

Collaboration and Standardization

Safe work planning is enhanced through the collaboration of stakeholders. For the simplest of jobs, stakeholders will include at least the waste management workers performing the work and the supervisor responsible for the work. Depending upon the complexity of the job being performed, there may be others, such as safety representatives, facility managers where work will be performed, supervisors of co-located work, etc. Each stakeholder offers a unique perspective to safe work planning, and they deliver different value. Job hazard analysis is a process through which collaboration can be leveraged to more strongly position waste management companies to reduce occupational risks to workers, reduce the rate of occupational injuries and illnesses, and contribute to successful business performance.

A military truth is that soldiers fight as they were trained. If you have any doubt, just ask one of our nation’s active military members or veterans who have experienced armed conflict. When the balloon goes up, instinct kicks in, and instinct is shaped by the standardized training they received. An adaptation in the waste management industry is that  workers will work as they are trained. Two essential ingredients of zero-accident performance are ensuring standardized safe work practices are in place and training workers how to deal with hazards. An effectively implemented JHA process contributes to the standardization of safe work practices within a company. The sharing of well-prepared job hazard analyses and safe work practices promotes the standardization of these important work practices.

Job hazard analysis offers a unique opportunity to quantify risk associated with each scope of work that is analyzed. For example, a company can prepare a standard set of risk factor-based questions (“risk matrix”) that are answered during every JHA process (see Sample Risk Questions sidebar). The risk matrix is company-specific and it is based upon the most common risk factors to which the company’s employees are exposed. The available responses to each question are pre-defined and are numerically weighted based upon the degree of risk represented by each response. As the risk matrix is completed for more JHAs, waste management companies are better able to rank those risk factors from most common to least common. With that information, companies are better equipped to use scarce resources to mitigate risk factors having the greatest potential to harm workers.

Cloud-Based Job Hazard Analysis Tools

The value proposition offered by the systematic approach of JHA, coupled with access to safety expertise, collaboration, standardization and risk assessment is not difficult to appreciate. However, as with many things, the challenge lies in the logistics needed to make value-added tools efficiently deliver on their promise. The solution is found in the evermore reliable and mainstream technologies that nowadays are no further away than our mobile device. Cloud-based JHA tools are gaining ground in helping waste management companies collaborate, standardize, and leverage safety resources across geographically dispersed and simultaneously operational waste management facilities. For example, in 2011 EnergySolutions, an international nuclear services company headquartered in Salt Lake City with waste management logistics, processing and disposal facilities across the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries around the world, deployed Job Hazard Analytics®—a cloud-based solution for JHA. Through the use of today’s readily available wireless smart devices, subscribers to Cloud-based JHA tools are able to develop, create and manage a company’s entire library of JHAs from the plant floor, the hood of a truck or from their desk anywhere in the world. Such systems enable those responsible for safety management within a waste management company to monitor the quality and consistency of JHAs developed and implemented for company operations. Cloud-based JHA systems enable developers of JHAs to collaborate on a common platform with their company peers regardless of their location.And immediate Cloud-based access to a company’s library of JHAs enables authors of new JHAs to take advantage of existing company JHA content that has already been developed for same or similar jobs anywhere in the company’s regional, national or global operations.

Terence Douglas, CIH, CSP is President of Alliant Corporation (Knoxville, TN), creators of Job Hazard Analytics®. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit www.jobhazardanalytics.com.