The steps employers take when it comes to creating safe a safe workplace are essential to employee health and safety, and to avoiding what can be severe and far-reaching repercussions for safety lapses, preventable accidents, and OSHA citations. Though unique aspects of industry, work environment, and job duties demand a personalized approach, all compliance plans should be clear and comprehensive, consistently executed, and continually assessed to ensure compliance and workplace safety.
As a firm with an established practice in OSHA law, our team at Hendershot Cowart P.C. represents employers in two core areas: responsive representation to defend against OSHA violations, and proactive counsel to prevent, avoid, and mitigate violations and their adverse consequences.
One important tool which can be of benefit in both areas is the job hazard analysis.
What is a Job Hazard Analysis?
A job hazard analysis, also called a job hazard assessment or job safety analysis, is a technique which allows employers to identify and address hazards in the workplace, and implement strategies to effectively eliminate or manage the risks they pose.
Job hazard assessments may look different from company to company, but generally consist of steps to evaluate potential safety risks related to workers, job duties, equipment and tools, and the overall work environment.
All types of employers and jobs can benefit from a detailed hazard analysis, and some may be required by OSHA for certain types of jobs (i.e. those using certain materials). Employers can perform hazard assessments at many different “times” in their growth and development, and for a number of reasons.
As both sword and shield, there are many reasons why job hazard assessments are valuable for employers:
- Worker Safety – The core focus of a job hazard analysis is to prevent accidents before they happen. This is made possible by identifying any workplace hazard that poses the potential for harm – whether it’s a duty- or industry-specific hazard, a serious and imminent danger, or a major catastrophe. Protecting workers is and always will be OSHA’s primary focus.
- Preparing for Inspections – OSHA conducts inspections for various reasons; after accidents, injuries, and prior citations, following complaints from workers or former employees, in accordance to plans in high-hazard industries, and as random compliance check-ins. Because these visits can put serious consequences on the table, it’s important to adequately prepare for OSHA inspections, whether that means taking calculated steps to deal with specific hazards or a comprehensive approach to assess and control hazards revealed through careful review.
- Preparing for the Unexpected – No one wants to think of the worst that can happen, but “planning for the best and preparing for the worst” is precisely why safety regulations exist, and why problems can be contained before they become catastrophes Taking a proactive and practical approach to safety begins with proper job hazard assessments and custom-tailored compliance plans. Should accidents occur, having a job safety analysis and other policies in place can better position employers to reduce risks of citations, including those under the general duty clause, and defend against citations.
- Broader evaluations – OSHA lists explicit hazards it wants employers to address on job sites, but just because there’s no regulation about a specific hazard does not mean an “un-listed” hazard can’t be grounds for a citation. By performing hazard assessments that break down job duties and meticulously evaluate risks, employers can better identify any potential for accidents, regulatory blowback, and liability. That can be crucial when such risks are commonly missed by incomplete or tunnel-vision approaches which focus only on high-profile hazards.
- Minimizing Liability – Workplace accidents can make employers liable for not only OSHA violations, but also other regulatory, civil, and sometimes criminal repercussions. This may include potential civil injury lawsuits, workers’ comp claims, monetary or punitive damages, referrals to other agencies with power to enforce penalties, criminal charges, and more.
- Avoiding additional penalties – Regulatory failures and citations can have a far-reaching impact on businesses, and create exposure to a number of collateral consequences. Though every case is different, failures to perform proper job hazard assessments can open the door to fines and expenses, punitive actions for failures to abate or repeat violations, enrollment in OSHA’s infamous Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), multi-agency liability, lost contracts, insurance disputes and denials, reputational harm, and more. Job hazard analyses allow employers to circumvent what can be serious repercussions before they’re put on the table, and can potentially be used after regulatory actions as a representation of actionable good faith efforts which can go a long way in mitigating or avoiding some of the most severe penalties.
Let Experienced OSHA Attorneys Guide You Through Compliance
Performing a job hazard analysis, just as with having a compliance plan on your shelf, does not alone prevent workplace accidents or the potential for citations and penalties. These assessments require meticulous, insight-driven, and customized approaches, as well as the support of proven OSHA lawyers who know what to look for, how to best protect employer’s interests, and how to help clients bolster their commitment to safety and compliance with a comprehensive strategy.
Whether you’re looking to take a front-footed approach to OSHA compliance or are currently facing an enforcement action, Hendershot Cowart P.C. is available to help you understand your available options and what we can do to help. Our Houston-based firm serves employers in a range of industries across Texas and beyond. Call (713) 909-7323 or contact us online to speak with an attorney.