Effective shop safety programs minimize job-related injuries and lost time; improve job efficiency, productivity and morale; and save money. Such programs take into account technician training, shop layout and design, worker negligence and poor housekeeping among other elements.
A good starting point for establishing a successful shop safety program is to perform a job hazard or job safety analysis (JHA/JSA). As that old management adage states: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."
A JHA/JSA is a technique that concentrates on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur. It focuses on the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools and the work environment. The overall objective is to identify uncontrolled hazards in order to take steps to eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable risk level.
The majority of injuries that occur today are due to unsafe behaviors, not unsafe conditions. Hazardous conditions only account for about three percent of workplace injuries.
"The key to a successful JHA process is the effective implementation of solutions to reduce the risk of employee injury," maintains Cheryl Sunshine, Ryder System's director of safety and loss prevention, fleet management solutions, west region. "To identify the optimal solution, there is a hierarchy of effectiveness to control the hazard, which is as follows:
• Eliminate the hazard.
• Substitute the hazard.
• Implement engineering controls.
• Implement administrative controls.
• Require personal protective equipment."
Elimination is the most effective approach to control a hazard, but it is not always possible, she explains. For example, in a shop setting, many processes that are necessary to maintain a vehicle will have inherent risks, such as handling toxic materials like diesel fluid or other chemicals. While the safest action would be to eliminate the toxic material altogether, this is not always possible because of the vehicle's requirements.
"The hierarchy of a hazard analysis is therefore used to assess how best to reduce the hazard to protect the employee from injury," says Sunshine.
The first part of the JHA/JSA process is to break down the job into its smaller steps, says Travis Rhoden, workplace safety editor, at J.J. Keller & Associates, the nation's leader in risk and regulatory management solutions. This is usually done by observing the worker performing the job and listing each step in order of occurrence.
The documented steps need to cover each step, but they should not be overly detailed to the point that the document is unnecessarily long, he cautions. "When listing the steps, pay attention to location of objects and position of workers, as well as characteristics of objects, for example the weight of parts being used or carried. These may seem like insignificant details, but when it comes to identifying hazards later in the JHA/JSA, particularly ergonomic related hazards, these details are critical.
"Once all steps in a job have been identified, next examine each step to determine the hazards that exist or that might occur," continues Rhoden. "Some hazards will be more obvious than others. For example, it may be easy to identify the moving parts on a grinding wheel as being hazardous, but what about the burrs on the casting that is being ground? Could these pose laceration hazards to the employee's hands?
"What about the weight of the casting? If the employee dropped it, could it cause a foot injury? And, what about all of the twisting and turning the employee does to move the part over to the grinder? Is this an ergonomic hazard?"
These are the types of details a good JSA/JHA process will uncover," he notes.
It can be difficult to identify all steps in a job and all potential hazards. That's why it is important to involve the employees who will be performing the job in the JHA/JSA process, says Rhoden. Employees often have the most insight in order to have an accurate and complete list of steps and hazards; this is particularly true of the non-routine elements of the job.