What It Is and How to Do It

Deborah K. Vick

Job safety analysis worker in a harness closeup photo

Safety is a contractor’s number one priority. In order to keep workers safe, contractors must first identify potential hazards, then determine how to control or prevent them. A job safety analysis, also called a JSA, identifies potentially hazardous tasks and provides controls to mitigate or eliminate those hazards.

What is a job safety analysis (JSA)?

A job safety analysis (JSA) — or job hazard analysis (JHA) — is an analysis of job tasks that seeks to identify hazards before they occur. The analysis focuses on the workers performing the task, the task itself, the tools used, and the environment, to improve safety. If the analysis reveals uncontrolled hazards, the team must take steps to eliminate them or reduce their impact. This is done through control measures.

A JSA should be completed for hazardous tasks on a construction project. And since construction work is fluid and the tasks change as the work progresses, JSAs are required more frequently. The general contractor should work with each of their subcontractors to analyze potentially hazardous tasks before they come on the job and as their work progresses.

Benefits of JSAs in construction

JSAs mitigate the risk of loss or injury on a construction jobsite. Almost every job on a site comes with some risk, and analyzing those risks allows project teams to proactively address those risks before they come up. Injuries and illnesses can cause lost time and reduced productivity, which can delay projects and increase costs.

They also increase safety awareness and help facilitate communication among project team members. They encourage teamwork, as supervisors, safety coordinators, and on-site teams work together to develop the controls necessary to keep workers safe.

By addressing potential hazards, JSAs can help contractors avoid penalties and fines. OSHA inspections can happen at any time, and penalties and fines can be expensive. The maximum federal OSHA penalty for violations can be up to $14,502 per violation.

By improving safety on the job site, JSAs also reduce workers compensation insurance premiums, saving contractors money and increasing profits.

Who is responsible for completing a JSA form?

General contractor and subcontractor teams work together to develop and complete JSA forms. Supervisors and on-site workers have different assignments when it comes to completing a JSA.

Supervisors work to identify the tasks with potential risks. These are usually the most complicated tasks or ones that have caused accidents or near misses previously. They also watch, review, and document the specific steps needed to complete a task. Looking at the overall task and the steps required, they then identify potential hazards and recommend control measures to mitigate those hazards. Looking at lists like OSHA’s top 10 violations in construction can help supervisors brainstorm hazards that need to be addressed.

On-site workers that perform a task provide supervisors with the list of steps to complete the task and perform it in front of the supervisors to help them identify potential hazards. Supervisors rely on employees to help them determine the potential hazards and the best way to control them without interfering with the work.

How to complete a JSA

1. Identify the task

The first step to completing a job safety analysis is to identify a specific task that exposes workers to potential hazards. A task consists of several steps that a worker takes to complete it.

2. List the steps necessary to complete the task

Supervisors work with employees who perform the task on a regular basis to detail the steps needed to complete it. Supervisors may want to photograph or video employees performing the task so they can use it to analyze the task steps.

3. Identify potential hazards

For each step in the task, supervisors and workers identify potential obvious and hidden hazards. Hazards may come from the worker’s behavior, the tools being used, the environment the task is performed in, or the task itself. Keeping in mind the most common job hazards can help teams identify potential problems.

4. Determine the proper preventative measures

Once the potential hazards have been identified, supervisors and workers should work together to determine the proper preventative measures that will keep workers safe. Control measures come in three options: engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Engineering controls seek to reduce the effects of the hazard by physically altering the workspace or tools to improve safety. Administrative controls reduce a worker’s exposure to a hazard by reducing the time they spend on the task. And personal protective equipment (PPE) acts as a last resort to protect workers when engineering or administrative controls are not enough.

5. Review regularly and adjust as needed

JSAs should be reviewed regularly to determine if any changes need to be made to the list of potential hazards or controls. Any adjustments should be made as quickly as possible to keep workers safe.

See: OSHA’s Job Safety Analysis form

How to identify potential hazards on a construction site

The goal in performing a job safety analysis is to discover the following:

  • What can go wrong?
  • What are the consequences?
  • How could it arise?
  • What are other contributing factors?
  • How likely is it that the hazard will occur?

Document the answers to these questions as you analyze each job task.

Good hazard descriptions include:

  • Where it is happening (environment)
  • Who or what it is happening to (exposure)
  • What precipitates the hazard (trigger)
  • The outcome that would occur should it happen (consequence)
  • Any other contributing factors

JSA example

To help you understand the complexities of a job safety analysis, here is an example provided by OSHA.

In the metal shop (environment), while clearing a snag (trigger), a worker’s hand (exposure) comes into contact with a rotating pulley. It pulls his hand into the machine and severs his fingers (consequences) quickly.

What you would ask to perform a job hazard analysis

What can go wrong? The worker’s hand could come into contact with a rotating object that “catches” it and pulls it into the machine.

What are the consequences? The worker could receive a severe injury and lose fingers and hands.

How could it happen? The accident could happen as a result of the worker trying to clear a snag during operations or as part of a maintenance activity while the pulley is operating. Obviously, this hazard scenario could not occur if the pulley is not rotating.

What are other contributing factors? This hazard occurs very quickly. It does not give the worker much opportunity to recover or prevent it once his hand comes into contact with the pulley. This is an important factor, because it helps you determine the severity and likelihood of an accident when selecting appropriate hazard controls. Unfortunately, experience has shown that training is not very effective in hazard control when triggering events happen quickly because humans can react only so quickly.

How likely is it that the hazard will occur? This determination requires some judgment. If there have been “near-misses” or actual cases, then the likelihood of a recurrence would be considered high. If the pulley is exposed and easily accessible, that also is a consideration. In the example, the likelihood that the hazard will occur is high because there is no guard preventing contact, and the operation is performed while the machine is running. By following the steps in this example, you can organize your hazard analysis activities.

The examples that follow show how a job hazard analysis can be used to identify the existing or potential hazards for each basic step involved in grinding iron castings.

Job steps: Grinding iron castings

Step 1 – Reach into the metal box to the right of the machine, grasp the casing, and carry to the wheel.

Step 2 – Push casting against the wheel to grind off burr.

Step 3 – Place finished casting in the box to the left of the machine.

Job Safety Analysis Form Examples: 

Job Location: Metal Shop Job Analyst: Joe Safety  Date: 
Task Description: Worker reaches into metal box to the right of the machine, grasps a 15-pound casting and carries it to grinding wheel. Worker grinds 20 to 30 castings per hour.
Hazard Description: Picking up a casting, the employee could drop it onto his foot. The casting’s weight and height could seriously injure the worker’s foot or toes.
Hazard Controls: Remove castings from the box and place them on a table next to the grinder. Wear steel-toe shoes with arch protection. Change protective gloves that allow a better grip. Use a device to pick up castings.
Job Location: Metal Shop  Job Analyst: Joe Safety Date: 
Task Description: Worker reaches into a metal box to the right of the machine, grasps a 15-pound casting and carries it to the grinding wheel. Worker grinds 20 to 30 castings per hour.
Hazard description: Castings have sharp burrs and edges that can cause severe lacerations.
Hazard controls: Use a device such as a clamp to pick up castings. Wear cut-resistant gloves that allow a good grip and fit tightly to minimize the chance that they will get caught in the grinding wheel.

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