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Quality Creates...Perspective

Using Risk to Inform Job Safety Analysis

Rachel Beavins Tracy
by Rachel Beavins Tracy on Thu, Dec 15, 2016

Thomas Edison famously said, “Being busy idea-002_14.jpgdoes not always mean real work.” It’s true in many aspects of life, and it’s especially applicable to safety management.

You can spend all day putting out one fire after another, filing incident report after incident report, and still be stuck with lackluster safety performance. Rather than just fixing problems, you have to be strategic about preventing them, and one key tool in the aviation safety manager’s toolkit is Job Safety Analysis (JSA).

But instead of just looking at it as another box to check, this post will look at how to make JSAs more effective—specifically, by incorporating the critical element of risk.

What is a JSA?

Before we get into how you can use risk to create a stronger JSA, it’s worth explaining what a JSA is in the first place.

A JSA takes a job procedure and breaks it down into individual steps, identifying potential hazards as well as steps to mitigate the risk of a safety incident. This could include wearing required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), performing the task a certain way or following established protocols such as Lock Out/Tag Out (LOTO).

Ultimately, workers should review the relevant JSA before performing the procedure so they are aware of what can go wrong and how to prevent problems. Compiling a library of JSAs puts critical safety information at employees’ fingertips, helping them perform hazardous procedures with less risk to themselves and others.

Incorporating Risk

While many companies use JSAs as part of their safety program, it’s not as common to leverage risk assessment within the document itself. Automated software now allows safety personnel to create JSAs that quantify the risk at each job step, as well as for the job procedure as a whole.

The tool behind the process is the risk matrix. A risk matrix works by plotting the severity of an event on the x-axis and the likelihood of it occurring on the y-axis. Breaking probability and severity into numerical scales, you can then quantify the risk (defined as probability multiplied by impact) of the hazard.

Why is this so important within the context of a JSA? Several reasons:

  • It allows you to see which steps carry the most risk and therefore require the most careful evaluation.
  • A quantified risk ranking for the entire procedure lets you see whether the proposed controls actually reduce risk to acceptable levels.
  • It gives you a clear-cut way to determine which processes or individual steps need to be reworked.

Making Adjustments

Reducing risk isn’t about creating a JSA and then filing it away in some dusty corner of the company intranet. If you want people to use them consistently, they have to be easy to access, up-to-date and linked with other areas of your safety program.

A few key examples of how JSAs relate to other areas of the safety process:

  • A safety incident might reveal gaps in a JSA for a particular procedure.
  • A change management initiative might require reworking specific JSAs based on new equipment configurations or processes.
  • An audit could reveal a risky procedure that’s currently missing a JSA.

An integrated aviation Safety Management System (SMS) makes it easy to trigger JSA updates from Incident Reporting, Change Management and Audit Management applications so the updates don’t fall by the wayside. Making these kinds of adjustments is critical to risk management, the final step in the plan-do-check-act cycle of continuous improvement.

When all is said and done, JSAs should be living documents that incorporate knowledge from internal safety experts and employees familiar with the practical considerations of the procedure. Using risk as your guidepost is what takes JSAs from just another safety document to a tool that actually protects workers.

EHS Risk Management Guidebook

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Rachel Beavins Tracy
Rachel Tracy is a writer for ETQ with expertise in environmental, healthcare and technology topics. She has a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and has been writing for businesses since 2008.
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