writing a job safety analysis

A critical process in managing risk in your workplace is writing a Job Safety Analysis. Some organisations have detailed and lengthy documents; others ask their workers to write a new Job Safety Analysis before they begin work every day.

What to include and how much information you need when writing a Job Safety Analysis remains a question. The answer depends on your company’s requirements; however, if your JSAs form part of your risk management documentation, they must reflect the way work is done and how it should be done.

So many times the way work is done varies with the way the Job Safety Analysis prescribes, particularly when it comes to the risk control measures and the steps to complete work.

For this article, we provide a six-step process for writing a Job Safety Analysis to guide you when managing high-risk tasks.

Decide Which Tasks Require a JSA

The determining factor when deciding to write a Job Safety Analysis for a process is the level of risk that is present while completing the tasks that need to be done. The first step is to prioritise the tasks and to focus on the highest risk ones first. Areas to consider are:

  • Accident frequency and severity: The frequency or severity of past injuries can suggest where to begin writing a Job Safety Analysis.
  • Newly established jobs or new machinery: New tasks may present more risk because your workers are not yet familiar with these jobs.
  • Potential for severe injuries or illnesses: Jobs that involve hazardous materials or dangerous conditions may have more significant potential for a workplace injury.
  • Infrequently performed jobs: Like new tasks, jobs that are performed occasionally may present a higher risk because workers don’t know which hazards to anticipate.

Break the Job into Specific Tasks

Once you’ve decided which job you want to write a JSA for, you need to list the steps that you need to take to complete the work. List from beginning to end, step, by step, similar to writing a recipe.

For example, when excavating a trench using powered mobile equipment, you would begin with performing a vehicle pre-start on the machine. From there, you would start the machine and note the steps in safely operating the piece of machinery. The next step will likely be preparing the ground, commencing the dig, followed by ensuring the sides are supported to prevent wall collapse, removing the soil, dumping the dirt or placing onto a truck, and so on to complete the task. Finally, the JSA would end with shutting down the machine and completing any necessary pack-away and clean-up.

Try not to use convoluted language and be precise and clear. After all, a JSA is a step-by-step process that anyone should be able to follow to complete the task.

Breaking down a job into every single step will take time and effort, but it is critical for properly analysing the overall risk associated with the job. It is also vital to ensure when writing a Job Safety Analysis that you ask your employees to review your work to ensure that you capture everything and in the correct order.

Determine the Hazards and Risks Present in Each Task

The next step is to identify any hazards that may be present as you complete the task. It would be best if you thought about the entire environment to determine any possible hazards that might exist while you perform the job. For example, is the task more hazardous if the weather changes?

From here, you need to assess the risk of injury each hazard presents. Using a risk matrix can help you to assess the probability and severity of the hazard to determine an overall risk rating. Check that you are using your employer’s Risk Ranking Matrix as it may differ from the one linked to in this document. You need to determine the level of risk that the hazard presents before you apply the control measures so that you have your Initial Risk Rating. Each step in the JSA should have an Initial Risk Rating applied.

See our article, 8 Workplace Hazards That Can Kill.

How Do You Identify Workplace Hazards?

Unfortunately, identifying hazards doesn’t come naturally to all employees, and you can’t hide behind the notion that it’s just “common sense”.

The Tap into Safety Platform offers interactive and engaging hazard perception training online and on smart devices. We focus on critical risk and the common workplace hazards that can lead to a fatality or serious injury within industry-specific scenarios. The Platform has substantial out of the box training modules across a range of industry settings. If we don’t have what you need, we also build custom training content. If you’d like to know more, please contact us or click through to try a free online demo.

See our article, Can Employees Recognise, Recall and Report Workplace Hazards?

Identify Control Measures

The next step in writing a job safety analysis is to identify the controls measures that you practically can use to prevent the hazards from causing potential workplace injuries. Your guide here is to draw on the Hierarchy of Hazard Controls and use the highest level of control that is practicable to get the job done.

The Hierarchy of Hazard Controls is a risk management tool used around the world to manage workplace hazards. From the highest to the lowest level of controls, the hierarchy is as follows:

  • Elimination – Physically remove the hazard
  • Substitution – Replace the hazard
  • Isolation – Isolate the hazard from people
  • Engineering controls – Physical control measure, including a mechanical device or process
  • Administrative controls – Change the way people work
  • Personal protective equipment– Protect the worker with PPE.

It is not unusual to use a range of control measures and only use PPE as a last resort when all other measures are impractical. However, PPE is often used together with other higher-level control measures.

See our article, Workplace Hazards and the Hierarchy of Controls.

Determine the Residual Risk

Once you apply the control measures, you are able to determine the level of risk that remains, known as the Residual Risk, to complete the task.  Calculate the level of Residual Risk using the same risk matrix, and you should have a lower probability and severity rating. If not, you need to determine how to perform the task more safely by introducing additional control measures.

Each step in the task should now have a Residual Risk Rating applied.

Once all controls and residual risk is calculated, you will determine the overall final risk of the job. You can use this information to identify which jobs present the highest risk to your employees.

You should have a completed draft that is ready for review.

Communicate Your Job Safety Analysis

It’s critical to circulate your drafted Job Safety Analyses with your workers and supervisors to ensure that you have covered all you need to make the job safe. You also need feedback about the control measures you select to determine if they are practicable and don’t create additional hazards.

After you complete writing a Job Safety Analysis and you gain approval from your workers and supervisors, make the documents easily accessible. Too often, JSAs are rarely seen as they gather dust on bookshelves or are forgotten as they are filed onto a computer hard drive. JSAs should be living documents that capture information about risks, document controls and inform your employees about both the hazards in their job tasks and the safest system of work.

Maintaining a good JSA programme is an ongoing and evolving process. If a workplace injury occurs, a review of the relevant JSA should occur to see if it had a shortcoming that may have contributed to the incident. Regular reviews offer insight into the hazards workers face with their jobs and tasks to produce effective risk management. By facilitating communication, participation and engagement among everyone involved in your worksite, JSAs provide an opportunity to identify unforeseen hazards and increase support for a more robust, more inclusive safety culture.

To Conclude

Writing a Job Safety Analysis is not always a simple task because it relies on your intimate knowledge of how the job is done. You must take a step-by-step approach and work through each component of the job. You need to determine the initial risk of all steps in the task and apply the highest level of control that is practicable to complete the task.

The next step is to determine if the control measures that you select sufficiently reduce the risk of getting the work done. The Residual Risk Rating should be low enough to ensure there is a minimal risk to your worker’s safety; if not, you may need to apply additional control measures.

Once you have drafted your JSA, it’s a good idea to ask for feedback from your workers and supervisors to ensure that what you have written is workable and practical and to determine that you haven’t introduced additional risk. Maintaining a good JSA programme is an ongoing and evolving process and an effective means of managing risk in your organisation.

This article is also available on the Tap into Safety Podcast.

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