In a wide range of labor-dependent industries, frontline managers routinely meet with employees at the start of the day to discuss workflow priorities and to highlight matters of importance. Often, when activities involve unusual or non-routine tasks, safety planning is an essential part of these pre-shift meetings. In this episode, AEU LEAD's Joe White outlines steps used to conduct a job safety analysis (JSA) and highlights the importance of focusing on risks associated with identified hazards.
If you'd like to make safety planning a part of your daily pre-shift meetings, you'll want to stick around for today's discussion.
Hello, and thank you for joining us today. My name is Joe White. I'm the host of Supervisor Skills, Secrets of Success. The SOS Podcast Series is produced to create ongoing development opportunities for mid and front-line managers. With each episode, we take on topics of interest and share insights and perspectives for the benefit of our listeners. And today's SOS short episode, we're talking about safety planning. More specifically, we're going to be discussing how to conduct a job safety analysis, or as some people refer to them, JSAs. The topic was selected based on feedback received from listeners, and hopefully, you'll find the discussion of value and be able to benefit from it.
So JSAs: what are they, how do you use them and how do you benefit from them? We often work with clients that ask these questions, and, again, this is one of the primary reasons we decided to bring this discussion to you today. A JSA is a planning tool, and as the name implies, it's more specifically a safety planning tool. The primary purpose of a JSA is to help you identify and deal with risks associated with or involving a job. More specifically, it's about identifying hazards, and somehow or another, reducing the risk associated with them. That's a challenge, but it's certainly something that's within reach and something we should all be trying to do as we start planning jobs. The key with JSAs is they take place prior to or before the fact. They're proactive in nature, and because of that, they're something that we should be doing as often as we can.
In practice, a JSA begins with the defined scope of work. Once you have the scope of work in hand, once you fully processed it, once you've mapped out the steps involved in the job, you really want to focus on breaking it down into major tasks. And with those tasks, your next step is to identify hazards. Does the job involve elevated risk? Are there opportunities for employees or will the employees be required to manually handle material? Whether it be mechanical material handling? Is there store energy involved? Rigging? Overhead lifting? All of those things, all those items that bring about unique hazards are things that should be brought out in the JSA planning process.
Now, once you've got the hazards identified, you're only halfway there. The key in doing this, and the key in running a successful JSA is that you want to assign values involving the level of risk with the hazards. And a technique that we've used in the past and one that we strongly encourage and recommend is that you use numerical values. And I like using a scale of one to nine, one being remote or insignificant level of risk and nine being an eminent or life-threatening level of risk. And obviously you can scale that between. The point being is that with this process, you recognize the hazard, and then with that hazard recognized, you're going to take an additional step and assign a value involving the level of risk that the employees are going to face in performing the job. And when we talk about risk, it's uniformly accepted that there are several ways that you can deal with risk. Where you can, the attempt or the effort is to try and eliminate the risk.
Well, in most labor-intensive industries, that's not always something we're able to do. Where you can't eliminate the risk, the next step is to control it. And there are various ways that you can do that. The last line of defense is to protect the worker, and that's through using personal protective equipment. And there are many cases, whether it be in construction, mining or any number of labor-intensive industries, there's a number of cases where we're forced to use that last line of defense or to protect the worker. A case in point would be using respiratory protection. Several important points that I'd like to make about JSAs that I think will help you as you deal with them, as you start preparing them. One is that a hazard and risk are not the same thing. They're not one and the same.
A hazard involves the potential of something to cause harm. Risk involves the probability or the likelihood of its occurrence. Now if you think about this in the context of going to the beach, you go to the beach, you look out in the water and you see a shark out there swimming. Whether you're in the water or whether you're standing on the beach, the hazard involving that shark doesn't change. The risk, however, is significantly different as to whether there's sand beneath your feet or water beneath your feet. So in this case, the risk goes up significantly when you get in the water with a shark. And that's the point that I want to make about this. Again, hazards and risks are not one and the same. When we talk about identifying hazards by running a JSA, hazards involve unique, innate characteristics that you cannot change.
Let me give you a couple of examples. If you're dealing with steam, high-pressure steam, or you're dealing with sulfuric acid or a fall exposure, it doesn't matter where you're using that product or you have that level of exposure. You face that hazard. The unique characteristics associated with sulfuric acid are the same no matter where you go, and you cannot change them. Those forces that are existing, the forces that are there, the harmful forces that is, you cannot change them.
What you can change and what you're really seeking to do with a JSA is to reduce the level of exposure or the level of risk. And that's really the primary purpose of the JSA is to drive the risk down. And as I'd mentioned earlier, assigning values is a great way to do that. And one of the things that I've done in the past is I would go into meetings, and I would talk about the level of risk, and, for example, if we collectively say this is a seven or an eight level of risk, the challenge would be: well, how do we make it a three or four? If we can't eliminate it, how do we at least reduce it?
And that's where you're really going to find value in running JSAs. JSAs are great tools by their very nature. They're proactive. They take place on the front end. Again, I can't reiterate that enough. They involve employees in the process, which really helps promote engagement. You're getting your employees involved and engaged is very important. And they promote a culture of continuous improvement. And again, that's a significant part of the JSA process, and one of the primary reasons why I would encourage you to use them.
That's it. I really hope you've been able to benefit from this. Thank you for joining us today.
We look forward to sharing additional podcasts with you in the months ahead and welcome any suggestions you might have for topics you would like to see us cover. We're always looking for guests and enjoy sharing insights and success stories from the field. If that's something that you would like to be a part of, please let us know.
The SOS Podcast Series is brought to you by AEU LEAD, a consultancy dedicated to the needs of mid and front-line managers. We value and appreciate any feedback. We would encourage you to review and rate your experience with this show, wherever you access your podcasts. For additional information about AEU LEAD or to follow us on social media, please use the links in the show notes accompanying this episode. That's it for now. Stay safe and thanks for listening.
About Joe White
As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.