“Why am I being asked to submit a Job Hazard Assessment (JHA) before the job even starts?”
I hear that question more and more from subcontractors who are being asked to send in complete hazard assessments as part of their prejob submittals. This is a common request on jobs that involve public owners, or when working with a general contractor that uses an active safety and health management system. So what do they want? Is this one more hoop that we have to jump through?
Absolutely not — it is a beneficial exercise to go through on any project, whether the GC asks for it or not.
Think of the JHA as a planning tool. If you incorporate it into your preconstruction planning, it will help ensure that you consider all three of the critical construction management elements: safety, productivity, and quality.
A prejob JHA differs from your daily hazard assessment because it forces management to walk through the sequence of events and analyze how your crews perform each major task. As you evaluate each task, you should ask: How will they get this done in the field? What tools and equipment will they need to get it done right and be productive? And will this be safe?
Is the training correct?
This should be project-specific, and may require input from your field management or other crew members. This is the time to figure things out, to run through cost comparisons, and to ask yourself if the people you will send to perform these tasks have the right training. If you can’t figure out a safe, effective, and productive method of getting it done without the pressure of crews and equipment standing by, what chance does your foreman have with eight crew members wanting to know what to do, 50 yards of concrete on the road, and the GC screaming about the schedule?
Consider all the tasks you will perform and be realistic. For example, examine patching an 8-foot-high, cast-in-place wall. You typically send your patching truck that includes one worker and the hand tools, patching materials, and a couple of ladders. While this seems hardly worth the effort of filling out a written JHA, conditions change from job to job. Consider a project with 300 feet of this 8-foot-tall wall. Is a ladder really the correct tool? Do you want your employee constantly climbing down and moving the ladder every couple of feet, or worse, leaning way over to reach that one spot?
Performing this prejob analysis may lead you to conclude that a small rolling scaffold would be more productive, while providing the employee with a much safer work platform. Or you notice that the wall terminates at an edge with a 10-foot drop off. Will the GC have adequate guardrails in place, or must the employee be tied off for protection? These questions are better answered in advance, from your office, before crews are in the field.
As a project manager, I want to see that you have taken the time to perform this analysis on my project. It tells me that you have taken steps and planned ahead to ensure safety, productivity, and quality on my job. This does not replace the morning tool box talks and daily site hazard assessments. Rather, it supplements them and provides the site personnel with a blueprint on how you expect them to perform. When combined with the JHAs from other trades, it may also highlight potential safety and production problems that could occur between subcontractors working on the site.
Jim Rogers is a safety consultant based in Phoenix and former head of the OSHA training center at Arizona State University.