Thomas Carson
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By: Thomas Carson, CEO

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By: Ann Lindsey, CSP, CIT, Contributor
Decision Point

The Critical Role of Hazard Recognition

Over the last few months, we have written about safety incident reduction in the frame work of two distinct processes. The first is the proactive implementation of processes for encouraging close call and observation reporting and then addressing those inputs to resolve conditions that could result in more serious incidents – the activities around the bottom of Heinrich’s triangle. The second is the importance of conducting thorough root cause investigations prompted by actual incidents which often identify conditions and processes that have not surfaced from close call or observation reporting – a reactive measure that hopefully and pro-actively avoids repeat occurrences.

Job Hazard Analysis is a separate category of decidedly pro-active safety management. When I first started working in the EHS environment a decade ago, I didn’t have an appreciation for the value of Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). The first time I saw JHAs in the wild, they were sheets of paper in a binder that described the tasks, in order, for how to perform maintenance operations in a warehouse. Few of the actual workers knew they existed. Sometime later I made my first visit to an open pit mine where the sheer scale of the equipment and operations was daunting. The operations manager was giving us a tour and at one point had us stop at a location where a team was replacing a pump. Now I have replaced a fuel pump on my car. I have changed out the sump pump in my basement. But he was talking about a PUMP. Everything was big: the pump volume was big, the pump pressure was big, the voltage on the drive motor was big – in short, lots of hazards creating lots of risks. Their JHA outlined the tasks the same as the earlier example, but the team was actually using the form as a checklist to ensure they carefully followed the steps in order.

The next time I saw a JHA in regular use was at a safety training at the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, where the JHA was treated as an interactive process in which workers proactively investigate and document their surroundings and plan each job taking into account identified hazards. When linemen are sent out to perform maintenance in the field, they encounter an extremely variable environment with obvious risks from working at height, sometimes in poor weather with high voltage – they take the process seriously and it is reflected in one of the best safety records of any electric utility.

Not every job requires a detailed JHA. There are many levels of job planning and many routine tasks seen as low-risk and performed without a job plan. Yet, without proper understanding and managing of the risk – each task performed has the potential to result in a serious incident. The remarkable track record our colleagues at Decision Point Associates have established through their disciplined approach to hazard recognition and mitigation world-wide is simply irrefutable. Meaningful job hazard analysis should be a key part of any effective safety management system and should be explicitly documented for all non-routine and routine tasks that involve energy of any kind. After all, every element of safety and incident prevention begins with identifying the risk – workers can’t manage the risk of what they don’t first recognize as a danger to their safety or the safety of those around them.

I hope that you will reach out to talk to us about this or any element of safety systems on your mind. Let’s keep getting better together!

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