Some say “to-may-toe” and some say “to-mah-toe.” Is the difference between “job hazard analysis” (JHA) and “job safety analysis” (JSA) simply semantics, or something more?

JHA and JSA: The Same Thing? Different? Does it Matter?

Dec. 9, 2014
Recently, I’ve noticed something similar in the EHS world. There’s no common understanding of what the terms “job hazard analysis” (JHA) and “job safety analysis” (JSA) mean.

Some say “to-may-toe” and some say “to-mah-toe.” That great divide has given us a catchy tune and an even-greater dance duet with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire – on roller skates, no less! But the different pronunciations haven’t caused major negative consequences for our society. No matter how you say it, we all know what you’re talking about.

Recently, I’ve noticed something similar in the EHS world. There’s no common understanding of what the terms “job hazard analysis” (JHA) and “job safety analysis” (JSA) mean. Let’s take a look at a few of more-common opinions about how these terms are related, give some thought to the consequences and ask for your thoughts in the comments section below.

Different Names for the Same Thing

Many people believe that JHA and JSA are two different names for the same thing. If you’re up on safety issues, you can probably guess this means:

  1. Breaking a job down into the smaller tasks that make up the job.
  2. Identifying hazards associated with each task.
  3. Ranking the hazards in order of the ones that must be addressed first to ones that can be addressed later (or maybe even not at all).
  4. Designing and implementing controls for the hazards.

For people in this camp, the JHA/JSA issue isn’t that big of a deal. There’s a pretty close analogy between this understanding of JHA/JSA and the “to-may-to/to-mah-to” issue we mentioned earlier.

Different Phases of the Same Process

On the other hand, there’s also a large group of people who believe that the JHA and the JSA are not the same thing. In my own entirely unscientific poll, it seems there’s a 50/50 split between the “it’s the same thing” camp and those who think they’re different.

Of those who think they’re different, a good number of them believe they’re essentially step 1 and step 2 of a 2-step process. These people believe that the JHA is used to identify hazards, and that the JSA is then used to control those hazards.

Different Time Sequences for Similar Processes of Different Scales

There’s also a second group of people who believe that the JHA and the JSA are different things. These people will tell you that the JHA and the JSA are similar activities, both including the identification and control of hazards, which occur at different time intervals.

According to this view, the JHA occurs less frequently – maybe every year or at a similar time interval – and the JSA is something that happens at the beginning of every day or every work shift. So, the JHA is the “macro” view and the JSA is the “micro” view of the same basic hazard identification and control issues.

Other Dissenting Opinions

There are still others who have opinions on this issue that I haven’t summarized above. I can’t do justice to all their views here, though, so if your opinion isn’t captured in the three views above, it would be great if you’d use the comments section below to fill us all in.

What Difference Does it Make, or Does It Matter?

There we have it – at least three commonly held, yet different, opinions about how the JHA and the JSA are related to one another. Some believe they’re the exact same thing. Others think they’re step 1 and step 2 of the same process. And still others think they’re similar processes that happen at a “macro” and “micro” level.

The obvious next question to ask is, what does it matter? Do the different uses for these terms have a negative effect on safety? Or, does the lack of a consensus understanding of the terms mean we lose some potential positive effect?

I’m not sure I know that answer. It seems logical enough that if the people who work in any given career or industry (such as safety, in this case) use the same terms and define them in the same way, there would be some benefit from increased clarity and a lack of confusion.

On the other hand, I can’t give an anecdote or point to statistical evidence that shows the different uses of these terms has a negative effect on safety.

So, here’s my final request to you, reader. Do you have an opinion to share about this JHA/JSA issue? Would be it better if we all shared a common understanding and use of these terms, or are things just fine as they are? And, do you know another term in safety that’s also used in different ways?

About the author: Jeff Dalto is the customer education specialist at Convergence Training, a company that provides safety training solutions and other training solutions for industrial and manufacturing companies. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. He also writes the Convergence Training blog, where you can find helpful articles on topics related to safety, training and more.

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