There is a universal language among safety professionals when talking about how we manage our safety rules: job hazard analysis, job safety analysis, standard operating procedures, and policies & procedures.  Let’s take a moment to clarify what they are, what the difference is, and how/when to use each one.

In my personal practice, I use all of these, and they are all linked together.  The way I will lay them out here is what I have been using for over a decade and have found to be the most thorough for addressing hazards, safe work practices, and regulatory requirements.

JOB HAZARD ANALYSIS

Also called the Job Safety Analysis, both are usually shortened to JHA or JSA; these terms a synomous. It is your preference what you use.  I like JHA.

Are you in the JHA or JSA camp?

A JHA is a method of identifying hazards associated with a job task.  When done correctly, each task is broken down into its fundamental steps, including quality and efficiency of the operations.

Each step is then examined to identify hazards associated with the step, and safe work practices are created.

I have seen JHAs for an entire department as opposed to a job task.  This method is not as effective as when you examine the details of a job task.  To identify EVERY hazard, keeping the JHA to a task makes it manageable.  A JHA for an entire department is too big to be useful.

Essentially and JSA or JHA is the step by step instructions for a specific task at a granular level, including all aspects of the job task such as safety, training, equipment, quality, efficiency, and productivity.

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES

Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs are very similar to JHAs, but they cover the entire job.

An SOP is an entire book, where a JHA is just a chapter in that book.

SOPs are usually in the form of a numbered or bulleted list.  Because they cover the entire job, SOPs tend to be a lengthy document, as big as a giant binder in some cases, or multiple binders.

It is best to organize the SOP into similar activities.  For example, an SOP for a delivery driver may include sections for delivering the product, operating the vehicle, and general job tasks.

SOPs can become the most referenced document in your operations.  It is always changing with the operations and is an excellent resource for your workers and management team, as well as an ideal training tool.

POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

You might be thinking that JHAs and SOPs cover everything, why do you need policies and procedures? Policies hold a unique position, and they fill a gap that the other two don’t cover.

Policies and procedures focus on a TOPIC, not necessarily a task or job.  A topic that applies to a task or job, but may have a broader scope.

Policies also cover regulations; in fact, some regulation requires that you have a written policy or procedure for the regulation.

But, the most significant difference is that policies allow for explaining why the safe work practices are in place, who and what activities the policy applies to, and lists all the related activities associated with the policy, such as responsibilities, recordkeeping, training, inspections, and management of change.

These documents allow you to go deeper into a specific procedure.

HOW DO THE THREE OF THEM WORK TOGETHER

This is what I think is interesting.  You really need all three to have a comprehensive safety program.

And, all three are entwined together and derived from each other.

When you are first starting out, you conduct a hazard assessment.  This will help you identify what policies and procedures are necessary for your operations.

At the same time, you can make a list of the different job tasks that are being performed. 

**Pro Tip**

During your hazard assessment, look at a 12-month to 3-year claims review and list all the job tasks that were involved when the accident happened.  This will bring non-routine tasks to your attention.

The first documents you want to put together are the policies and procedures.  Mainly because some regulations require them, but also as a reference when creating the other two.

Next, work on the JHAs. I won’t lie to you; when you are creating JHAs for every job task in your operation, it is a daunting mission. It will take a long time.

As you are creating the JHA, reference back the policy to make sure any requirements of the policy are included in the JHA.  And vice versa, the JHA may bring up items that you realize need to be included in the policy.

As each JHA is completed, you want to take all the steps of the task and all the safe work practices listed and combine them into one cohesive Standard Operating Procedure.

You see, the JHA references the policy; the policy references the JHA; the SOP is derived from the JHA.  That is how they all work together.

WHY DO I EVEN NEED A JHA?

When looking at this process, you may be thinking that the JHA is redundant.  You can just put all that information into the SOP and skip the JHA part.

The reason you want the separate JHA is that it tends to be more detailed.  It allows you to show how you came up with safe work practices. And it relates the safe work practice to a particular hazard.  It is kind of like a justification for working safely.

Also, when an incident does happen, it is much easier to grab the short and specific JHA to determine what went wrong then searching for it in the longer SOP.

THEY ARE LIVING DOCUMENTS

All three of these are regularly being reviewed and updated.  Every time there is a change in process or a new product or procedure, they get updated.

Here are two examples of how this works.

Example #1

  1. Accident happens
  2. JHA is pulled and reviewed as part of the investigation
  3. Changes are made as part of the corrective action.
  4. JHA review date is updated (you’re good for a while)
  5. SOP updated to reflect the change to the JHA – review the entire SOP while you’re at it
  6. The policy is updated to reflect the change – update that review date

Example #2

  1. New process or product
  2. Policies are reviewed and updated following their management of change sections
  3. Change the review date of the policy
  4. JHAs are created for the new process
  5. The SOP is updated to reflect the new JHA – change that review date and you are good for a while

If, for some reason, nothing happens that causes an update, then you need to do a periodic review.  I suggest every two years.

There you have it. Now you see how the three documents are all different but essential to a safety program.

TAKE ACTION

What do you currently have in place, what can you add, and what could use an update?

This week, start with your policies and procedures.  Make a list of all of them and their last review dates.  Create a plan to get them all up to date within the next few weeks.

From there, move onto JHAs and SOPs.  Remember, it is a process, and it is time-consuming at first.

But, once you have it in place, you create a routine for every job.  Routines reduce incidents, creating a smooth-running operation.

Now It’s Your Turn

Take a moment to share how, and if, you use these three types of documents.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment below and continue this conversation.

Hi, I’m Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  I train and coach new safety managers on how to effectively do their jobs in the real world.  I specialize in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture.  I would love to help you do the same.

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