What Is a JHA (Job Hazard Analysis)?

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Not that long ago, I read an extended discussion in a LinkedIn group titled “What is a JHA?” The discussion included safety experts from all over the world and lots of interesting thoughts.

What it DIDN’T include was a common understanding of what a JHA is. So, leaning on some materials from our friends at OSHA as our primary source, we thought we’d introduce the concept here and provide an explanation that is acceptable and based on OSHA’s definitions and requirements. If you’ve got differing opinions about JHAs and JSAs and similar concepts, feel free to leave ’em at the bottom in the Comments section.

Also, know that you can download a FREE GUIDE TO CONDUCTING JHAs at the link you just passed or by clicking a button at the bottom of this article.

What Is a JHA (Job Hazard Analysis)?

According to OSHA’s definition, a JHA is “a technique that focuses on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur.” So, the basic idea is that you:

  • break a job down into the various tasks it involves
  • identify hazards associated with each task

According to OSHA again, the JHA “focuses on the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment.”

Note: In the Comments section below, blog reader “Paul” notes that OSHA could have written their description of the JHA a little more smoothly, and we agree. The goal of the JHA isn’t to identify hazards before they occur–a better way to say it is that the purpose of the JHA is to identify (and then control) hazards before they do cause harm. We’re sure that’s what OSHA meant above, but of course one can’t identify a hazard if it doesn’t first occur.

Well Then, What’s a Hazard?

A hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm. Typically, this means something that can cause an injury or illness.

OSHA’s JHA document has an excellent appendix that lists various categories of hazards. We’ve duplicated that information for you below.

Hazards Hazard Descriptions
Chemical (toxic) A chemical that exposes a person by absorption through the skin, inhalation, or through the bloodstream that causes illness, disease, or death. The amount of chemical exposure is critical in determining hazardous effects. Check Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and/or OSHA 1910.1000 for chemical hazard information.
Chemical (flammable) A chemical that, when exposed to a heat ignition source, results in combustion. Typically, the lower a chemical’s flash point and boiling point, the more flammable the chemical.Check SDS for flammability information.
Chemical (corrosive) A chemical that, when it comes into contact with skin, metal, or other materials, damages the materials. Acids and bases are examples of corrosives.
Explosion(chemical reaction) Explosions caused by chemical reactions.
Explosion (over pressurization) Sudden and violent release of a large amount of gas/energy due to a significant pressure difference, such as rupture in a boiler or compressed gas cylinder.
Electrical (shock/short circuit) Contact with exposed conductors or a device that is incorrectly or inadvertently grounded, such as when a metal ladder comes into contact with power lines.60Hz alternating current (common house current) is very dangerous because it can stop the heart.
Electrical (fire) Use of electrical power that results in electrical overheating or arcing to the point of combustion or ignition of flammables, or electrical component damage.
Electrical [static/electrostatic discharge (ESD)] The moving or rubbing of wool, nylon, other synthetic fibers, and even flowing liquids can generate static electricity. This creates an excess or deficiency of electrons on the surface of material that discharges (spark) to the ground resulting in the ignition of flammables or damage to electronics or the body’s nervous system.
Electrical (loss of power) Safety-critical equipment failure as a result of loss of power.
Ergonomics (strain) Damage of tissue due to overexertion (strains and sprains) or repetitive motion.
Ergonomics (human error) A system design, procedure, or equipment that is tends to lead to human error.(For example, a switch that goes up to turn something off instead of down).
Excavation (collapse) Soil collapse in a trench or excavation as a result of improper or inadequate shoring. Soil type is critical in determining the hazard likelihood.
Fall (slips and trips) Conditions that result in falls (impacts) from height or traditional walking surfaces (such as slippery floors, poor housekeeping, uneven walking surfaces, exposed ledges, etc.)
Fire/heat Temperatures that can cause burns to the skin or damage to other organs.Fires require a heat source, fuel, and oxygen.
Mechanical/vibration (chaffing/fatigue) Vibration that can cause damage to nerve endings, or material fatigue that results in a safety-critical failure. (Examples are abraded slings and ropes, weakened hoses and belts.)
Mechanical failure Self explanatory; typically occurs when devices exceed designed capacity or are inadequately maintained.
Mechanical Skin, muscle, or body part exposed to crushing, caught-between, cutting, tearing, shearing items or equipment.
Noise Noise levels (>85 dBA 8 hr TWA) that result in hearing damage or inability to communicate safety-critical information.
Radiation (ionizing) Alpha, Beta, Gamma, neutral particles, and X-rays that cause injury (tissue damage) by ionization of cellular components.
Radiation (non-ionizing) Ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, and microwaves that cause injury to tissue by thermal or
photochemical means.
Struck-by (mass acceleration) Accelerated mass that strikes the body causing injury or death. (Examples are falling objects and projectiles.)
Struck against Injury to a body part as a result of coming into contact of a surface in which action was initiated by the person. (An example is when a screwdriver slips.)
Extreme temperatures (heat/cold) Temperatures that result in heat stress, exhaustion, or metabolic slow down such as hypothermia.
Visibility Lack of lighting or obstructed vision that results in an error or other hazard.
Weather conditions (snow/rain/wind/ice) Self-explanatory.

What Are the Benefits of Performing a JHA?

Performing JHAs at the workplace should lead to:

  • Safer work procedures
  • Fewer injuries and illnesses
  • Lower injury- and illness-related expenses
  • Increased worker productivity
  • An increased awareness of how to train employees to perform their jobs safely

For Which Jobs Should I Perform a JHA?

It’s a good idea to perform a JHA for any job. However, it’s also a good idea to prioritize some jobs ahead of others.

Considering performing JHAs first for jobs that:

  • Have a high injury and illness rate–at your location or in the industry in general
  • Have the potential to cause severe injuries and illnesses, even if that’s never happened at your location so far
  • Could lead to a severe injury or illness if only one human error occurred
  • Are new to your location
  • Have recently changed
  • Are complex

Is a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) the Same Thing as a Job Safety Analysis (JSA)?

This was the biggest issue of contention in that LinkedIn discussion I mentioned earlier.

Some said that the JHA and the JSA were different terms for the same thing. I was in this camp.

Others said the JHA and the JSA were different things. But these people didn’t necessarily agree how the JHA and the JSA were different. Some basically believed that the JHA was the process of identifying hazards and the JSA was the process of controlling hazards once they were identified. Others had other various explanations.

If I had to make a decision based purely on the way that OSHA defines the JHA in their document, I’d have to say that I (and those who agreed with me that the JHA and the JSA are the same thing) were wrong. And I’d now say that those who said the JHA was the process of identifying hazards and the JSA was the process of controlling hazards were right.

Although, even if I was technically wrong, if you backed me into a corner, I’d say I was right in spirit. Because while OSHA says the JHA is “a technique that focuses on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur,” they also go on to say “Supervisors can use the findings of a job hazard analysis to eliminate and prevent hazards in their workplaces” and “Ideally, after you identify uncontrolled hazards, you will take steps to eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable risk level.” So I’d argue that the JHA concept includes at least an implicit assumption that you’ll work to control hazards after you recognize them. And, although I’m not a lawyer, if I played one on TV, I’d suggest that identifying a hazard and not controlling it may well put you in some legal hot water, not to mention the harm it could lead to.

But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what you call this stuff, as long as you have a procedure for identifying and controlling hazards at work.

How Can You Get Started with a JHA?

We’ve written another in-depth post about how to perform a job hazard analysis. Check that out here. We’ve also put together a handy-dandy job hazard analysis form and guide, which you can download from the bottom of this article. These two resources should go a long way toward helping you conduct your own successful job hazard analysis.

Additional JHA Resources

After reading this article on LinkedIn, Samuella Sigmann, a lecturer and chemical hygiene officer at Appalachian State University (go Mountaineers!) told me about this document created by the American Chemical Society: Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories.

Although it’s specific to research labs, it’s got a lot of stuff of general interest as well. Thanks to Samuella for the tip.

Please also feel free to DOWNLOAD OUR FREE JOB HAZARD ANALYSIS GUIDE, below.

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Job Hazard Analysis Guide

Learn how to perform a job hazard analysis on the job with our free step-by-step guide.

Download Free Guide

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Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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