Over the last few months I have been using my iPad to take photographs of good and bad workplace practices. These photos are usually shown to a site or business manager after a visit so that control measures can be identified. The advantage of an iPad is that no one has to squint at a small screen to try to see the hazard. I have kept my eyes open for potentially useful OHS apps for the iPad. One app recommended to me is iJSA.
iJSA, designed for the iPhone initially, is packed with features that could assist the tech-savvy OHS professional in developing Job Safety Analyses (JSA) (Job Hazard Analysis in the United States). However any app must prove to be better, more convenient and more effective than existing measures and I am not sure that iJSA does this.
JSAs are most commonly applied in construction and manufacturing activities. They are usually based on a templates (often provided by OHS regulators) and include a basic risk assessment of a work activity just prior to the work commencing. Workers usually sign the JSA to signify they have understood the safe operating procedure, if not having been directly involved in the JSA’s preparation. (WorkSafe Victoria’s JSA template states that:
“Each JSA must be site specific. Include all workers in the development of this JSA.”)
iJSA includes a risk calculator of Low-Medium-High-Acute risk ratings. Many companies already have a risk matrix and many of these are simply three categories of Low-Medium-High. It would have been useful to be able to reconfigure the iJSA risk matrix to one that is compatible with the existing criteria and, more importantly, familiar to the workers.
OHS regulators in Australia provide some of the most practical JSAs (sometimes referred to as Safe Work Method Statements or SWMS, pronounced swims) often in documents commonly called Subby Packs, designed for subcontractors. A substantial advantage with Subby Packs is the provision of extensive information to better explain the safety context of the JSA.
A more important practical application is that a paper-based system allows for direct involvement of the people undertaking the tasks and undertaking the risks. It is in the workers’ own best interest to participate in this most basic, and most significant, of OHS consultations. The use of an electronic JSA tool, such as iJSA, runs counter to the direct involvement of the workers.
iJSA tries to deal with the paper “evidence” of a completed JSA by being able to export the completed JSA to a PDF format. This is a sensible measure in a technological workplace but many of the high-risk workplaces where JSAs are required are not well resourced on internet or printers or, even, electricity. Some of the most effective safety management occurs in remote sheds with a pad of JSAs and a piece of carbon paper.
This is the biggest criticism I have of any online OHS tool, such as the iJSA. Will the use of this tool or app increase safety in a worksite more effectively than the existing risk assessment practices?
I don’t think so, not at the moment.