Improve Workplace Safety for Sewer Workers with a Job Hazard Analysis

A Job Hazard Analysis can be used to identify and mitigate safety and health risks in a workplace. Learn how to develop one for your crew.

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Improve Workplace Safety for Sewer Workers with a Job Hazard Analysis

Image courtesy of U.S. Air Force by Kaylee Dubois

Sewer workers face risks daily, whether it’s a confined-space work environment or exposure to fumes, debris and bacteria. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,250 fatal work injuries were recorded in the U.S. in 2018, which is a 2% increase from the previous year. But protecting sewer industry workers from hazards they may encounter on the job goes beyond requiring goggles and gloves.

Taking a step back to look at operations in the workplace and then establishing proper job procedures should be a part of every company’s efforts to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.

What is JHA?

A job hazard analysis is an in-depth technique for identifying safety and health risks in a workplace. The analysis takes a look at the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools and the work environment, according to OSHA. Job hazard analyses can be performed a number of different ways, and can even include outside help for a more objective view.

With a job hazard analysis, the goal is for employers, supervisors and employees to implement better practices to prevent workplace injury and illness risks. The analysis can also be used as a training tool for new hires. 

Developing JHA for wastewater operators

To begin conducting a thorough analysis, there are a number of steps that should be taken, according to OSHA. One of the most important elements is ensuring employees have a voice in the process, as they see the ins and outs of the job daily. Sewer inspection workers, for example, may have a better sense of traffic hazards than office-based administrators.

As a collective, the organization’s history of accidents and illnesses should be reviewed, and employees should share the hazards they are already aware of. These hazards may be related to inadequately marked work sites, trenching and excavation, issues with personal protective equipment or any other challenges. For further review, jobs should be broken down into individual steps or tasks. An employee can perform the job while a supervisor takes notes of each step being taken. Photos or videos can also be helpful for a more detailed observation. 

According to OSHA, successfully completing a job hazard analysis includes asking yourself questions like, “What can go wrong? What are the consequences? How could they arise? What are other contributing factors? How likely is it that the hazard will occur?” 

Implementing JHA for sewer workers

The hazards should be listed and then ranked based on their level of risk. Those most likely to occur or have severe consequences should be addressed first.

The group should collaborate to brainstorm methods for eliminating or reducing the identified hazards, whether it’s simply reinforcing hygiene practices or completely changing the way a job is performed, e.g., moving away from visual inspections to CCTV. 

Finally, the updated protocol should be implemented by the entire team and maintained as new employees are hired. 

While it may not be possible to eradicate every risk sewer professionals face, taking steps to develop better protocol can successfully reduce the number of injuries and illnesses happening annually during wastewater inspections, repairs and maintenance. 

Developing a job hazard analysis prompts sewer industry professionals to think about their operations strategically to improve safety and overall success. To continue on the path of building a wastewater system to last, download WinCan’s free white paper, Building a Case for Water and Wastewater Resiliency. 

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