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SWP? JHA? FLHA? PSI? WTF??? Navigating the confusing world of safety terminology


Every industry is full of its own unique terminology—words, phrases, and acronyms that are familiar to the group that operates in it, but mostly a foreign language to everyone else.

Safety terms, on the other hand, have the potential to confuse EVERYONE. They’re a completely different ballgame. A very confusing ballgame, in fact, where every inning the announcer describes the plays in a different way, and you’re left trying to decipher what’s actually happening down on the field.

That would be a frustrating way to experience a game, and it’s a frustrating thing to deal with in your business, too. Not only are many current safety terms interchangeable, they can also change over time, making it a total headache to keep up with them all.

Some Confusing Terms

Time for a pop quiz! (Don’t worry, it’s not being graded.)

Question 1: Which of these terms sounds most right to you?

  1. Pre-job safety instruction (PSI)
  2. Field-level hazard assessment (FLHA)
  3. Field-level risk assessment (FLRA)

Question 2: What is the difference in these two phrases?

  1. Safe work practice (SWP)
  2. Safe job procedure (SJP)

Question 3: When should you do a job hazard assessment (JHA)/analysis, and when should you do a formal hazard assessment?

Got your answers? Okay, one last question:

What do any of these really have to do with a safe work procedure?

What Really Matters

When you get down to it, none of the answers in the quiz are more “right” than the others. A lot of this terminology comes from certifying partners, and different ones can use different phrases to mean essentially the same thing.

And ultimately, knowing which term to use when doesn’t make you any safer on the job site.

So what does make you safer?

  1. Your company’s expertise. We know you’ve got this covered!
  2. Your company’s safety culture. Safe work procedures should be part of the fabric of your company, with everyone on the team understanding the importance of safety and working together to make it happen.
  3. Your company’s commitment to safety. A commitment to safety needs to start at the top and be instilled at every level of the company.

Safety isn’t about terminology—it’s about the knowledge, skills, and practices required to maintain a safe work environment.

 And yes, it seems obvious when put that way! But it’s so easy to get caught up in the terminology. After all, the safety practices themselves are essential, so you have to call them something. And regardless of which term may be the “correct” one, you still need to stay compliant.

So how do you make sure you keep up with what the terms represent, without getting bogged down in the various phrases used?

Let us help!

We know how frustrating the shifting terminology in the safety world can be. Boreal Services Group can work with you to you navigate this bumpy terrain.

We’ll provide the support, tools, and resources to help you be safer — and help you stay on top of all this confusing, changing terminology. We understand the terms and what they mean for you, so let us worry about them! Focus on your core business, and leave the vocabulary quizzes to us.


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